The New England Patriots entered their Week 4 game versus the Buffalo Bills having averaged 35.3 points per game. Against their division rivals, however, the Patriots were able to put just 16 on the board; only nine of the points were coming via the team’s offense. Needless to say that the unit had a challenging day against one of the better defenses that the NFL currently has to offer, and in one of the league’s toughest environments.
While plenty needs to be improved upon offensively moving forward — from Tom Brady’s head-scratching end zone interception in the second quarter to the offensive line’s inconsistency — the Patriots were not focused on the negatives immediately after the game. Instead, they acknowledged that they had to compete against a tough defense and a team that was heading into the game with a perfect 3-0 record.
In the end, the Patriots still made enough plays in all three phases to come away victoriously as wide receiver Phillip Dorsett pointed out: “We’re happy that we got a win, it doesn’t matter how we got it. That team is a really good team and they were 3-0 for a reason. They’re one of the best defenses in the league for a reason; they played excellent together, all in the right space at the right time and they knew how to play.”
“I give all credit to the Bills,” continued Dorsett, who finished the day with just two receptions for 10 yards — despite being targeted nine times. However, there were no signs of him being down after the game: “It was definitely good, we were in a dog fight. Not all these games are going to be blowouts in the NFL and we know that. We were in a dog fight, we were resilient and we were able to pull it out.”
“Offensively, we struggled,” added the aforementioned Tom Brady, who himself had one of the statistically worst games of his Hall of Fame career: the 42-year-old completed just 18 of 39 pass attempts for 150 yards and an interception. “They force a lot of teams to struggle, and if we’re going to score more points, then we have to do a lot better job than we did today. We didn’t, so that’s just the way it goes.”
New England’s offense had a tough time all game long. With neither the running game nor the passing attack finding any rhythm for much of the contest, the Patriots gained only 224 yards of total offense while going 5-of-18 on third down. Stringing plays together was difficult, even though the team’s defense gave the unit plenty of opportunities to build some momentum and pull away after jumping to a 13-0 lead.
“We just didn’t do a very good job of consistently doing the right thing against a really good defense, that certainly plays well at home,” said Brady. “But it’s good to win. Whether we win 45-40, or 45-3 or whatever it was — say 16-10 — they all count the same. We just have to figure out how to do a better job on offense. Defense, I know they’re going to play great. They’re playing great all season long, and try to score more points than we did today.”
“We’re good. We’ll be alright,” added Dorsett when talking about the offensive development following the game. “It’s football and we know not everything’s going to be perfect but we know we still have to fix a lot of things. Right now, it’s just about getting better and we got the win which is a step in the right direction. As an offense, though, we know we have to be better — we know that. Everybody knows that.”
The Patriots will have a chance to get their offense back on track next week, when the team plays in Washington against an 0-4 Redskins team that has had some major struggles this season on both sides of the ball. While the team will remain focused only on itself in the context of going up against the next opponent, Dorsett’s mindset — “we’ll be alright” — is one that his teammates also share with him.
“We’ll be fine. We just need to keep working, keep improving and learn from the mistakes that we had today. There’s always room for improvement,” said running back James White, for example. As opposed to Dorsett and Brady, White had himself a comparatively good game against the Bills: as the Patriots’ top receiving weapon, he caught a team-high eight passes for 57 yards. He also converted four of New England’s five third downs.
“We did the best we can do and [...] we can do better than that,” added Brady. “Try to do better next week, figure out all the things that they did well. They did a lot of things well, and I’m glad we won. Glad we’re 4-0.”