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Patriots vs. Bills rookie review: First-year players instrumental in upset win

A look at how the Patriots’ rookies fared in Week 7 against the Bills.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at New England Patriots Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Patriots played their best game of the season in Week 7, beating the visiting Buffalo Bills with a final score of 29-25. The contest saw some promising performances across the board, and the Patriots’ rookie class was no exception.

In fact, it was instrumental in securing the team’s second win of the season. Let’s quickly go through all the first-year players on the Patriots’ active roster to find out how they performed. With first-round draft pick Christian Gonzalez on injured reserve, we will start with second-rounder Keion White and work our way down the list from there.

ED Keion White (2-46): The highest-drafted rookie on the Patriots’ active roster at the moment had to sit out the game against Buffalo due to a concussion. White went down early in the Week 6 game in Las Vegas and has been out since.

LB/S Marte Mapu (3-76): With the Bills’ Josh Allen a legitimate dual-threat quarterback, the pre-game belief was the Patriots might rely extensively on the hyper-athletic Mapu to serve as a spy. That did not happen: with the team seemingly trusting Ja’Whaun Bentley and Mack Wilson more to fill that role, Mapu played only 10 of 71 defensive snaps on the day. He did again see action on four special teams units, though (kickoff and punt coverage, kickoff and punt return).

C Jake Andrews (4-107): The Patriots continued shuffling their offensive line for the game against Buffalo, but Jake Andrews remained on the sidelines. The fourth-rounder again saw his lone snaps as a member of the field goal and extra point protection teams.

K Chad Ryland (4-112): Ryland had his best game in a Patriots uniform on Sunday. On a challenging day for the kicking game, the fourth-rounder did not just make all three of his field goal attempts — splitting the uprights from 30, 24 and 49 yards out — but also both of his point-after tries. In addition, he sent four of his seven kickoffs deep for touchbacks and allowed only 19.3 yards on three returns.

G Sidy Sow (4-117): The Patriots might have finally found an offensive line combination that works, and it features Sow at right guard. The Eastern Michigan product played all 60 snaps in that position and held his own. There were some ups and downs, but on the whole the fourth-round selection played a promising game as both a pass protector and a run blocker. With him at right guard and Michael Onwenu at right tackle, New England’s O-line looked the best it has all season.

G Atonio Mafi (5-144): After starting the previous there games, Mafi was relegated to backup duty against Buffalo: Cole Strange was back in the lineup, and the former first-round pick left no doubt that he is the best option available at left guard.

WR Kayshon Boutte (6-187): Boutte’s streak of inactivity has now stretched to six weeks. The young wideout was ruled out of the game against Buffalo due to a hamstring injury, but one has to wonder whether he would have been active even if he had been healthy.

P/H Bryce Baringer (6-192): With the Patriots offense playing its best game of the season, Baringer attempted only two punts all day. He made them count: his first went 64 yards and, after a short return, set the Bills up on their own 13-yard line; his second punt traveled 46 yards before sailing out of bounds at the Buffalo 3. It was an impressive display of directional punting from Baringer, who also did not have any issues with the windy conditions at Gillette Stadium.

WR Demario Douglas (6-210): Returning after a one-game absence, Douglas had the most active day of his career. The sixth-rounder played 37 of 60 offensive snaps and finished with four catches for 54 yards, while also adding a 20-yard carry and a 25-yard punt return. In addition, he drew three penalties. Besides his statistical impact, Douglas also was used as a pre-snap motion man on several plays — displaying his speed and quickness even when not getting the ball. It remains to be seen how his role will develop, but he made a strong case for more playing time against the Bills.

QB/WR Malik Cunningham (UDFA): After serving as the Patriots’ primary backup quarterback last Sunday, Cunningham was a healthy scratch for Week 7. In fact, he was not even designated as the third emergency QB — that role was held by Will Grier.

The Patriots’ rookie class extends beyond those 10 players. Undrafted rookie cornerback Azizi Hearn resides on the practice squad, for example, but was not elevated for the game versus the Bills.

In addition, two rookies are on injured reserve. The aforementioned Christian Gonzalez, who suffered a torn labrum in Week 4, as well as fellow cornerback Isaiah Bolden (concussion). While Gonzalez is theoretically eligible to return later during the year — a comeback is considered unlikely, though — Bolden’s season is over.

The Patriots also parted ways with two rookies this week: sixth-round draft pick Ameer Speed and UDFA T.J. Luther were both waived, with the former getting subsequently claimed off waivers by the Indianapolis Colts.