Patriots Hold Off the Bills
As predicted last week, the Bills provided the Patriots their first challenge of the season. In a true defensive battle, the Patriots outlasted the Bills in a 16-10. It wasn’t pretty, but the Bills are a legitimately good team so this should be a heralded victory.
My initial takeaway from that game was just how good that Bills defense was. A lot of people are already criticizing the Patriots offense for looking sluggish, but they had a stout opponent. Guys like Tremaine Edwards were flying all over the field wreaking havoc. There are not many teams in the NFL that could go into Buffalo and thrive against a defense like that.
With that said, the Patriots hold themselves to a higher standard than the rest of the league. Yes, they played a tremendous defense, but they need to be more effective on offense.
It all starts with the offensive line. We really saw how much those injuries are hurting them. Tom Brady was under constant pressure and was off all day as a result.
Rewatching the Film
The defense carried the team on Sunday. Devin McCourty picked off a pass from Josh Allen in the first quarter to set up the Patriots’ first touchdown. Then, stop me if you’ve heard this before, Stephen Gostowski missed another extra point.
On the next drive, the Bills were unable to get a first down. When they tried to punt it away, however, JC Jackson broke through and blocked it. Mathew Slater scooped the ball up and returned it for a touchdown.
Allen would throw another pick before the first quarter ended. Leading 13-0 with two picks already and a blocked punt, the Patriots were rolling towards another easy win. Nonetheless, the Bills refused to roll over.
In the second quarter, Brady and the offense pushed all the way to Bills’ goal line, looking for a knockout punch. However, a pass intended for Julian Edelman was picked off by Micah Hyde. The Bills capitalized on the momentum and got their first points of the game with a field goal.
Three straight incompletions from Brady gave the ball right back to Bills. They were able to get into field goal range right before the half, but a costly miss kept the score at 13-3.
The second half started with the Patriots giving up their first defensive touchdown of the year after a long drive by Allen and the Bills offense.
After a series of punts, the action picked up when Jackson picked off Allen for the second time of the day. Brady would find Josh Gordon for a 31-yard gain to set the Pats up with goal to go. Yet the Bills made another goal-line stand and the Patriots settled for a field goal.
The Patriots offense continued to flounder in the fourth quarter, producing nothing but punts. Ultimately, the Bills had their final chance with three minutes left and no timeouts. They began marching into Patriots territory when Kyle Van Noy came off the edge and disrupted Barkley’s pass. The ball flew vertically and fell straight into Jamie Collins’s hands, sealing the win for the Patriots.
First one goes to JC Jackson, and for good reason. With two interceptions and a blocked punt that went back for a touchdown, he had a dominant effect on this game. He’s come a long way from being an undrafted rookie just last year. Jackson is also a key cog in what makes that secondary so dangerous.
Next game ball goes to Devin McCourty. Four games, four interceptions. It’s a pretty unprecedented stretch and deserves to be highlighted.
This next game ball carries some extra significance. It goes to Jamie Collins, along with my formal nomination for early front-runner for Defensive Player of the Year. He affects the game in every way: racking up tackles, pressuring the quarterback, and forcing turnovers. He’s been the best player on the best defense, and it’s time to start building the hype.
A last and special game ball goes to Mathew Slater. Any New England fan knows him, but he’s widely unheralded throughout the league. But year after year he’s an integral special teams player and leader. This week he scored his first career touchdown and I can’t think of anyone more deserving.
Updates from Outside the Uprights
Jonathan Jones came under fire for his hit on Josh Allen. Allen left the game and is currently in the league’s concussion protocol. Despite outcry’s on Twitter, Jones will not face repercussions for his hit. This is the right call by the league. Allen was falling forward for a first down and Jones stopped him. He didn’t lead with his head and, unfortunately, Allen got hurt, but it’s not a dirty play.
Stephen Gostowski, who’s been uncharacteristically struggling all year, has been put on season-ending IR. It explains why he’s struggled, but it comes as a surprise. The Patriots have signed Mike Nugent and Younghoe Koo as replacements.
The Patriots have signed a familiar face, safety Jordan Richards. Many people are skeptical of Richard’s ability after previous struggles with the Patriots. However, it adds depth to an already deep secondary. It is unclear what his exact role will be.
Next Man Up: @ Washington Redskins
As much as I’d like to say this will be an easy game, there are things to be wary about. Yes, the Redskins are winless, but that makes them more desperate. And road wins are never a sure thing in this league. It also has the set up of a trap game with the Patriots upcoming Thursday night game against the Giants.
With that said, it’s hard to imagine Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins, or whoever plays quarterback for the ‘Skins having any success against the Patriots’ defense. The focus should be on the offense getting back on track and building momentum for their games going forward.
Top Photo: Brett Carlsen/Getty Images