As opposed to their last two games, the New England Patriots’ contest against the Buffalo Bills was not decided on its final play. The 25-6 final score can be misleading as the game was a closer one than the initial look might make it seem, however, but it still one that produced plenty of memorable performances. So without the benefit of a film review, let’s take a look at some of them – for better or for worse:
Winner: DE Trey Flowers
While he did not register a sack, Trey Flowers was still arguably the most disruptive player on the Patriots defense. The 25-year old set a hard edge no matter on which side of the formation he lined up, and put constant pressure on quarterback Derek Anderson – finishing with two hits and a near-interception on a pass deflection. Furthermore, two of Flowers’ tackles came for a loss of yardage. An all-around good performance.
Winner: DT Lawrence Guy & DT Malcom Brown
The Patriots tried to force Buffalo – without starting quarterback Josh Allen – into throwing the football, a plan that would not have worked if not for the run stoppers up front doing their job. Lawrence Guy and Malcom Brown were therefore integral to New England’s defensive success, even though the duo finished with just one combined tackle. Nevertheless, their presence at the heart of the Patriots line allowed the team to hold Buffalo’s running backs to just 47 yards on 18 carries.
Loser: RB Cordarrelle Patterson
With Sony Michel out, New England turned to depth wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson as the de-facto early down running back. While he did have a big 22-yard run in the fourth quarter to set up the game’s first touchdown, the results were generally underwhelming. Patterson failed to get to the second level or generate a noticeable push – partly because of the offense line and the Buffalo defense, but partly because of his inability to hit holes with power.
Winner: LB Kyle Van Noy
With Dont’a Hightower out because of a knee injury, Kyle Van Noy was active as the team’s top linebacker and finished the game with a team-leading eight tackles – one of which for loss –, as well as a pair of sacks and a forced fumble. The third-year Patriot, who served as the on-field signal caller during Hightower’s absence, had a huge impact on the contest and led New England’s defense to an encouraging performance.
Loser: Red zone offense
New England reached Buffalo’s red zone three times but came away with just 13 of a possible 21 points, settling for a touchdown and two field goals. Had the Patriots been able to properly execute in the red area, the game might not have been as close as it was until the fourth period. However, the team allowed the Bills – who played tremendous red area defense – to hang around longer than was necessary.
Winner: WR Julian Edelman
On a day on which the Patriots offense failed to find a rhythm, Julian Edelman again proved his value to the unit as one of Tom Brady’s safety blankets. The veteran and number one wide receiver finished the day with nine catches for a team-high 104 yards – including a critical third down conversion on the team’s first touchdown drive of the day. Furthermore, Edelman gained 13 yards on two carries.
Winner: SS Patrick Chung
Buffalo’s passing offense is none to be afraid of, but it was still encouraging to see the Patriots limit the impact of the team’s best receiving options. One of them is tight end Charles Clay, who most of the time was matched up against Patrick Chung. Clay finished the day with just three catches for 36 yards, while Chung registered five tackles, a pass breakup, and a fumble recovery.
Loser: RB Kenjon Barner
As noted above, the Patriots were without starting running back Sony Michel. However, they did not turn to one of their two active backs to replace him: Kenjon Barner was on the field for just seven offensive snaps and finished the day with only four yards on two carries as the aforementioned Patterson took over as the de-facto lead back. Barner, meanwhile, appears to be little more than the team’s last emergency option at the position.
Loser: P Ryan Allen
New England’s special teams units did again not have a particularly strong day, and Ryan Allen’s performance is a perfect reflection for that. The veteran, who beat out current Bills punter Corey Bojorquez during the Patriots’ training camp, had a hard time flipping the field position in his team’s favor. While the wind may have had an impact on this, Allen’s 37.0 is still unimpressive no matter the factors at play.
Winner: RB James White
James White once again served as New England’s offensive motor. While the Patriots offense generally had a hard time when it came to moving the football against a stout Buffalo defense, the running back did his best to keep the unit moving one yard at a time. When all was said and done, White had amassed 79 of them on a team-high 10 catches and 15 more and the offense’s lone touchdown of the night non eight carries.
Winner: FS Devin McCourty
One of the Patriots’ defensive standouts was Devin McCourty, who had one of the biggest plays of the night: while the veteran had a relatively quiet day through the first three quarters, he blew the contest open in the fourth period with an interception return touchdown. McCourty read the quarterback perfectly, undercut the route, and took the pick 84-yards to the end zone to essentially ice the game for New England.