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Patriots vs. Bills: Fan Notes from the Game

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Notes, musings, and observations from the New England Patriots’ 25-6 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

NFL: New England Patriots at Buffalo Bills Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

There are a lot of folks who feel like professional sportswriter is a dream job. I get it; who wouldn’t want to talk about sports all day? Go to games live and write about them afterwards?

Well it’s games like last night’s between the Patriots and Bills that makes me glad that I don’t do this for a living. Writing about the Patriots is something I enjoy doing, so I do it. And if I don’t want to go too deep into a game, I don’t have to. And to be honest with all of you, there were numerous times during last night’s game where I seriously considered just turning the TV off and going to bed. You knew the Pats were going to win, and it was just a crapfest of a game. Zero flow. Poor play. Slow pacing. Lack of emotions. Just a lousy product all around, and a game I’m sure the NFL wishes it could have flexed out of the Monday spot and put it at the 1PM slot where it so very much belonged.

And seeing as how I’m under no obligation to ever watch this game again, do any real in-depth analysis, or remember that this game even happened, you’ll forgive me for kind of mailing it in this week for the Fan Notes. Not that any of my breakdowns are overly insightful anyway, but this week’s article skews way more opinion than usual, and I make no apologies about that. If the Patriots are going to take a night off, I will too.

  • First and foremost: congratulations to the Boston Red Sox, World Champions of baseball. While it’s not true all across the board, odds are that if you’re a Pats fan, you’re a Sox fan as well, so there’s plenty of reason to celebrate this week. The Sox will be snapping an embarrassing 631 day dry spell during which there was not a single Duckboat Parade through the streets of Boston. That’s almost two full calendar years. Thank Tebow the Sox did their part to bring us all off the cliff.
  • And while I expect no sympathy for what I’m about to say, nor do I deserve any...being a Boston sports fan is exhausting. It’s almost a second job at this point. If you watched the World Series in addition to last night’s game, you likely haven’t gone to bed before midnight in well over a week and your adrenal glands are only slightly less shriveled than Don Shula at this point. Whereas other fans get to tune in casually, go to bed if they’re tired and the game is on, or make plans well ahead of time because they know their team has no shot, we’re up at all hours of the night, sweating through our couches, digging our nails into the armrests. We don’t see our friends and families for months at a time. We need to keep every weekend open from September through February - and even into June if you want to loop the Celtics into the mix. Boston sports fandom is a commitment. So let’s all pat ourselves on the back for being such warriors about the support we give.
  • OK, enough of that. The other curse about being a Boston sports fan is that as soon as one championship is secured, you move right along to thinking about the next one.
  • This was the first MNF game I tuned into all season, so I had no clue what to expect from the announcing crew. I’m on record as a huge John Gruden fan and found his relentless enthusiasm contagious, even when the game was as lousy as last night’s was. This new crew, however, has all the chemistry of me and Megan, the girl who danced with me at my 8th grade formal out of what I can only guess was sheer pity. I loved Jason Witten as a player, but my guess is that ESPN saw how much everyone loves Tony Romo and snatched up the next Cowboy they could find. But he’s just awkward up there.
  • And don’t get me started on Booger McFarland. I’d be a lot harder on him...but I’ll just say that he has the exact level of insight, analysis, and intelligence you would expect from a guy named Booger.
  • As I haven’t really watched MNF this year, I have no clue if every game has been this unwatchable...but that was three hours of yuck that I can’t imagine anybody who wasn’t a Patriots or Bills fan tuned into for longer than a quarter. The Patriots looked like they didn’t want to be there and the Bills looked like the Bills. It’s was almost as if Brady is so sick of winning at Buffalo he decided to see how little effort he’d need to put in to make it happen.
  • I mean seriously...how many times did the announcers mention that Buffalo was an underdog in the first 10 minutes? I lost count at seven. And did everyone know that Derek Anderson was playing golf a few weeks ago? Everyone ran out of stuff to talk about midway through the first quarter and spent the next few hours making painful small talk like a group of spouses left alone at an office holiday party.
  • The Patriots last night looked a lot like the Patriots did against the Lions in Week 3. Just a dull, flat, lifeless performance with little to no emotion. The only time I saw Tommy B fired up was after the McCourty pick six, and I don’t think any member of the offense cracked a smile all night. I’m very much hoping that this was just one of those nights where it was very hard to get fired up to play such a lousy team and the Pats took the game for granted. i don’t want to be the Steelers who play to the level of their competition. With Green Bay coming up on Sunday, this kind of performance won’t fly.
  • I legit got nervous watching a CGI Tommy B crash through that table. I don’t even want my animated Bradys taking unnecessary hits.
  • I love Chris Ivory. One of the more underrated backs in the league, in my opinion.
  • I suppose for a guy who doesn’t play running back, Cordarrelle Patterson was fine. I have zero clue why they’d run a toss play - which requires the back to read the LBs and make one of three cuts based on blocking scheme - on 3rd and short, and since Patterson isn’t a blocker, it allowed the LBs to just crash the line when he was in. But he had that one run on New England’s sole decent drive of the night, so that’s something, I guess. But the Patriots need to go out and get an RB to provide early down duty until after the bye week. I worry they’re going to rush Michel back into the lineup before he’s fully healed.
  • Good for Buffalo going with a bunch of trick plays to start the game - I mean why the hell not.
  • As for New England’s offense...
  • Some of Tommy B’s throws last night were hideous. Straight up hideous. His attempt to Gronk on 3rd and Goal in the first quarter comes to mind. A throw into the ground at a double covered James Develin is another. There was a throw to White in the 4th that should have been a pick six for Buffalo. Two or three ended up in the dirt where he and the receiver weren’t quite on the same page. Just an off night for everyone all around.
  • He did throw the block of the year, though - so that’s something.
  • Not to discredit the Bills defense, who looked downright New Englandian in their decision to drop seven, leave the middle of the field wide open, give up yards at will between the 20s, and stiffen up in the red zone. Being on the other side of that strategy now, I can say with certainty that it’s just the most frustrating thing ever regardless of who has the ball.
  • That said...the Patriots aren’t as good a red zone team as they should be. James White, Chris Hogan, Josh Gordon, Rob Gronkowski, and Julian Edelman should represent enough different looks for the team to score every time. But they’ve been having trouble punching it in as of late and I don’t know why.
  • Tommy B’s childhood pictures, particularly the one of him in the tux, was in the tux was the highlight of this game for me and it wasn’t even close.
  • A close second, though, was listening to Jeff Triplette as he tried to explain why the Patriots got flagged for an illegal formation on a kickoff. I’ve been trying to find a clip of it somewhere online, but much like that explanation, I’m not getting anywhere.
  • Do QB kneeldowns count as negative rushing yards? If so, Tommy B making it to 1,000 is a significantly cooler achievement than it already is.
  • Whoever the Bills coach was who screamed at the refs for a penalty on every single positive Patriots play...you are the man. Just running out onto the field, screaming for holding, then when they didn’t listen immediately switching to demanding an OPI call. Just brilliant.
  • On further review, I’m pretty sure that was head coach Sean McDermott. That makes me love it even more. He’s definitely the kind of guy who calls fouls in pickup basketball games.
  • Speaking of OPI, though - very inconsistent calling of that penalty. Hogan got flagged for one, Benjamin got flagged for one, but Zay Jones and Josh Gordon didn’t. Maybe OPI has become like holding in that they could call it anytime they wanted.
  • If you were a non-Pats or Bills fan and you watched more than five minutes of this game, I have to ask: why?
  • The one decent line of the night from the announcing crew: Kelvin Benjamin is one Popeye’s biscuit away from being a tight end. Burn.
  • The highlight of Benjamin’s night was absolutely laying Devin McCourty out with what used to be a highlight reel block. I get the need to curtail plays like that, as McCourty hit the ground faster than Peter Griffin when he pushed the button...but man was that sweet.
  • I’d like to credit myself for the maturity and restraint I have shown by making it this far into the article without mentioning the Bills and their recent choice of...um...onto the field projectiles. Bills Mafia, never change.
  • I’m guessing there are already enough obligatory “I wonder how they smuggled them into the stadium” jokes circulating around the internet? Yes? Good. Moving on.
  • Here’s something I never thought I’d write regarding the Patriots: special teams has been sub-par this season. Other than a few flashes here and there, particularly last week, the kicking units have been a real liability for this team. Lousy punts. Poor coverage. Missed tackles. Bad field position. Penalties. Fumbles and muffed punts. Belichick prides himself on the kicking game, and coverage has been a problem for this team all year.
  • Thank Tebow for Ghost, though, and his reliable leg. He missed a 50 yarder, but that’s more than forgivable. Glad that somebody was able to put points on the board consistently.
  • If you’re the Bills, you have to be questioning why you consistently bit on the playaction late into the third quarter in a game in which a receiver and Tom Brady were the rushers for the Patriots.
  • I don’t envy ESPN today - A because they’re terrible, and B because they have to cobble together highlights from that game. I can think of a strip sack, a pick six, a Brady block, and a Gronk catch, which is good for maybe 30 seconds of footage.
  • Everyone was talking about how loud it was at Ralph Wilson Stadium (or whatever it’s called now). I’ll take their word for, it but I didn’t hear a thing. Maybe they purposely lowered the volume on the sideline mics to prevent the onslaught of profanity that was undoubtedly streaming forth from the stands at all times.
  • The play of the game, obviously, was the Devin McCourty interception to ice it. The Patriots switched from inside contain to outside contain, funneling the receivers towards the middle of the field. Derek Anderson stared Charles Clay down right from the snap, which allowed McCourty to step in front of it and take it to the house. I’m just amazed that that was DMac’s first touchdown of his career; I guess the rest of his interceptions have just gotten close to the goal line. Thank Tebow.
  • Congratulations to Derek Anderson for finally throwing a touchdown pass.
  • Anybody else see that bag floating around in the end zone after the McCourty pick? What’s worse is that I didn’t know if it was a flag or a sex toy.
  • The Bills defense didn’t give up a single passing TD against a team that had scored 38, 38, 43, and 38 in each of the past four weeks, and still had 25 points hung on them. The Bills offense is literally a negative.
  • I really hope that Marcus Cannon is OK for Sunday night’s game. LaAdrian Waddle was fine, but he got banged up at some point in the second quarter and it showed. He lost all inside leverage and was pushed back for most of the second half. Shaq Mason also went out with a calf injury and didn’t return.
  • If I was going to give out a game ball for a guy who isn’t on the stat sheet this morning, it’s going to Adrian Clayborn. He was in the backfield all night and made Derek Anderson even more uncomfortable than he already was as the latest Bills quarterback to suck it up on national television. He kept contain at the same time and limited the Bills rushing attack to 46 total yards.
  • As for game balls to guys who are all over the stat sheet - it’s split between James White and Try Flowers. White continues to show each and every week how crucial he is to this offense, and Flowers was an animal out there all night.

Green Bay at home next week in the (thankfully) last prime time game of the season. The Packers would have DESTROYED the Patriots if they play they way they did last night, so here’s hoping they get back to work and start the second half of the season strong.