Three weeks ago, I started this Patriots blog. And three weeks ago, I didn’t think I might have to write about a possible three game losing streak. Thankfully, however, I escaped such a writer’s misfortune.
Final score: Patriots 52 Buffalo 28.
Going into Sunday's matchup, many seemed on edge and possibly ready to uncrown the Patriots as the darlings of the AFC East—Yes, there was talk. In fact, doubters may have had some valid arguments as the Patriots went down 21-7 at the start of the third quarter.
Yet, New England put an end to the premature hot air by quickly deflating Buffalo in the second half with a 45-7 run.
First Half Recap
The Patriots had early opportunities to put pressure on the Bills, but failed to capitalize on Buffalo’s unsuccessful first 3 possessions (2 punts and a tipped interception to linebacker Jerod Mayo (6 tkles).The Patriots managed only 7 points by a Steven Ridley 6 yard touchdown run.
In the second quarter, Buffalo quickly turned New England’s continued miscues into points. Bill's quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (22/39 att, 350 yds, 4 tds, 4 int) and his offense fed off a rare fumble by tight end and New York native Rob Grownkowski (5 rec, 104 yds, 1 td) deep in Patriot territory and ignited the crowd by tossing a graceful 24-yard touchdown over safety Patrick Chung to tight end Scott Chandler.
Buffalo was on the move.
Another touchdown strike from Fitzpatrick to Chandler, a Wes Welker fumble deep in Patriot territory and a near-scoring plunge on the Patriots 1 yard line by Bill's running back C.J Spiller (8 car, 33 yds), had Buffalo eyeing a stunning, but possible 21-7 lead. However, a timely forced fumble by linebacker Brandon Spikes and recovery by lineman Vince Wilfork near the Patriot's goal line kept Buffalo’s lead at a manageable 14-7.
We can contribute Buffalo’s second quarter surge to a few factors:
- The Patriots could not convert the Bill's 2 interceptions into any kind of points. Nor could it take advantage of the Bill's lackluster offense.
- The Bills took control of field position because the Patriots missed 2 field goals and fumbled twice. Early in the game, the Bill's first 4 possessions started from their 20, 20, 6 and 2 yard line. Their next 3 possessions started at their 39, NE 24, their 32 and NE 21.
- The Bills capitalized on their better field position by scoring 14 unanswered points.
Or, as my father appropriately suggested: “The Patriots aren’t shooting themselves in the foot, they are dropping hand grenades by their feet.”
Second Half Recap
New England’s secondary is still a major concern (340 passing yards allowed today) a year after they were ranked last in the league. They continued their inconsistent play to begin the third quarter when Fitzpatrick threw a quick strike to receiver Donald Jones (2 rec, 90 yds, 1 td) that went for a 68-yard touchdown.
Down 21-7 early in the third quarter, the Patriots faced a pivotal possession—a possession that would cut the lead to 7, as well as keep the surging Bills from going up 3 scores. With 11 minutes left in the third, the Patriots used a heavy dose of running backs Steven Ridley (12 yds rushing on drive) and Brandon Bolden (40 yds rushing, 11 rec. yds on drive) to set up a 17-yard catch and run from Brady to running back Danny Woodhead for a touchdown.
Then, simply, New England did not look back, scoring touchdowns on their next 4 possessions from Brady, Gronkowski, Ridley and Bolden. A deep 25-yard touchdown pass to receiver Brandon Lloyd and 30-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski (1/3 field goals on the day) capped off a dominant second half performance by the Patriots.
The final score does not indicate how much the Patriots struggled to get out of their own way during the first half. It was not until the second half that they opened up the passing game and could finally rely on their running game to close out a win.
The Patriots, like the Patriots of old, tallied 33 total first downs and 580 total yards of offense. They also rushed for 247 yards and delivered a back breaking 6.2 yards per rush. Now that is supremacy.
The Patriots face a tough test in Peyton Manning’s Denver Broncos next week.Their secondary just never catches a break, do they?
What are your thoughts on the game? Are you convinced the Patriots have turned it around and are ready to get back to their winning ways?