The New England Patriots may not have enjoyed the flashiest of victories against the Buffalo Bills on Monday, but at the end of the day they still defeated a division rival on the road by three scores. The 25-6 victory wrote plenty of stories – from the defense playing one of its best games of the year to Josh Gordon not seeing his snap count reduced for disciplinary reasons – what is arguably most encouraging is the team accomplishing some season firsts along the way.
The Patriots did not give the ball away
So far this season, the Patriots have been uncharacteristically sloppy when it comes to ball security: the team’s offense and special teams units turned the football over a combined 13 times through their first seven games – the most for a Bill Belichick-coached team since 2004. And while one game is not enough to proclaim that New England has officially turned the corner, it still is encouraging to see the team finally not give the ball away for a full game.
Buffalo failed to reach the end zone
Yes, the Bills have one of the worst offenses in the NFL. And yes, New England played against a third-string quarterback. But you can only play who you line up against, and versus the group Buffalo fielded yesterday, the Patriots defense did its job very well. While the home team was able to gain 333 yards of offense, it failed to reach the end zone even once and had to settle for two field goals – the first time all season that an opponent did not score a touchdown against Brian Flores’ unit. Furthermore, New England’s defense allowed just 4 of 14 third down attempts to be converted and also registered two takeaways.
Devin McCourty’s interception broke a 40-game streak
The second of the team’s defensive turnovers was a 84-yard pick-six: safety Devin McCourty read quarterback Derek Anderson perfectly, undercut the pass, and returned the interception to the end zone to ice the game in New England’s favor. Not only was it the Patriots’ first defensive score of the season, it also broke a 40-game drought – the longest in the NFL – and served as the icing on the cake that was yesterday’s performance.
While not all worked well yesterday – just look at the running game’s ineffectiveness, or the continued inconsistency on special teams – the Patriots are still trending in the right direction in some areas. All that needs to be done now and heading into the bye week a little further down the line is build on those developments. Monday night was a first step.