Patriots vs Bills: Keys to Defeat

Vince Wilform

Even this witty sign wasn't able to propel the Patriots to victory.

NEPD Staff Writer Doug Kyed takes a look at what led the Patriots to a defeat in Buffalo this Sunday.

1. QUARTERBACK PLAY
Much was made after the Bill Belichick: A Football Life documentary about one quote, the part where Belichick said that if Randy Moss and Wes Welker were shut down, the offense shut down. Didn’t you kind of get that feeling again yesterday?

Without Aaron Hernandez, Brady was forcing passes to Julian Edelman and Danny Woodhead. He seemed to have less confidence in his receivers. On Brady’s four interceptions, I’d say that two were his fault: the deep pass to Rob Gronkowski and the ball that Marcel Dareus defended.

What really killed the Patriots on Brady’s interceptions was that two came on the first play of drives. Brady’s interceptions early in the third and fourth quarters eliminated any possibility that the Patriots could run the ball and kill the clock. Right after Brady was picked off by Drayton Florence for the touchdown, I wrote in my notes, “bail out Brady.” Sure, it’s not a familiar job for the Patriots to do. Brady is usually perfect, but yesterday he wasn’t. The play immediately after I wrote that in my notes? The Ochocinco drop. Ocho wasn’t able to bail out Brady and neither was the New England defense.

Overall, this is nothing to panic about. Hernandez will be back, the no huddle will be back (only 13 plays were run no huddle for New England this week, down from 16 last week and 28 in week 1) and hopefully our defense can improve without so many key injuries. Brady will dominate once again.

2. INJURIES
I touched on Hernandez briefly in no. 1, but it’s easy to see how much the Patriots missed their two TE set. Hernandez brings so many different looks to the offense that teams can never be comfortable with how they’re lined up and Brady can take advantage of any mismatches with players like Hernandez, Gronkowski and Woodhead. The simplest way to put it is two TEs like Gronk are better than one.

As far as the injuries in our secondary, they were a killer as well. Chung is a great last line of defense for New England. He’s by far the best tackler in the secondary and he’s the only safety that seems to know how to square up and tackle a running back. Against Miami, you often saw him cheat up at safety, so on running plays, he was getting Bush 5 yards down the field rather than 10. Without him, Fred Jackson was able to run wild for 160 total yards.

Ras-I Dowling probably would have been covering Donald Jones, who went off for 101 yards off 5 receptions. A lot has been made that the Patriots should be going back to a zone defense. I don’t think that’s necessary if Dowling is on the field. Dowling gives the Pats three corners that teams should not be able to key in on.

Frankly, I doubt that the Patriots would have generated much of a pass rush regardless, but Haynesworth, Pryor and Wright certainly could have helped get to Fitzpatrick.

The Patriots basically had to activate Mallett and Vereen due to all the injuries, though it’s pretty clear neither were going to be used in this game. That’s how depleted we are early in the season.

3. LACK OF A PASS RUSH
When the Patriots signed Shaun Ellis, I was expecting to see him in alignments with three down linemen as an end and possibly as a 4-3 DT. I never anticipated seeing Ellis playing as a 4-3 7 technique DE. Ellis lacks the speed and athleticism to get around the corner at this point in his career and it’s shown so far. I think it’s time to see more Jermaine Cunningham and more Mark Anderson. Last season, the Pats got a spark in their pass rush after they signed Eric Moore from the UFL. Moore is still available and it might be time to take another look at him. Like I said earlier, getting Haynesworth and Wright back will help, but at some point we’re going to have to rush more than four. I’d love to see some of the looks we saw in preseason with Mayo rushing up the middle.

I got hopeful early in the fourth quarter after the Patriots pinned Buffalo inside their own 10 yard line. The Patriots pass rush came and disrupted Fitzpatrick into a three and out. The same thing happened on the Bills first play of their next drive, but Kyle Love got called for roughing the passer. The referee said Love went high on Fitzpatrick, which I did not see. There were many costly penalties on the Patriots, but that was a game changer.

4. COSTLY PENALTIES
I just touched on Love’s penalty, but that wasn’t the only mistake made by either the Patriots or the refs. A third quarter hold by Logan Mankins lead to a punt by the Patriots and the fourth quarter pass interference by Sergio Brown on the Josh Barrett interception was huge. I’ve only seen the replay a couple times, but the Fox announcers looked like they were right in saying that David Nelson came back to force the pass interference call by grasping Brown. Brown should be smarter than that and turn back to the ball to realize how poor of a pass Fitzpatrick had thrown.

The last penalty that cost the Patriots some time was Wilfork’s unsportsmanlike conduct on Fitzpatrick at the end of the game. The Patriots should have had time at the end of the game, but that penalty gave the Bills the first down (instead of 3rd down) and the game. You can blame Brown and Love’s penalties on inexperience, but Mankins and Wilfork have to be held accountable as veteran players. They should not be making those errors in key situations as the team is falling apart around them.

5. PATRIOTS SECONDARY
After watching Brown and Barrett play three games for the Patriots now, I truly believe it was a mistake to release both James Sanders and Brandon Meriweather. I can understand cutting one of them, but both? After Chung, the Patriots are incredibly thin at safety and if Chung is out, that’s very clear. Obviously I’m playing Monday morning GM here, but Brandon McGowan is still available and I think he could be better than what we have. Barrett and Brown have had trouble tackling, they have trouble in coverage, they really look lost out there.

Obviously the Chung and Dowling injuries hurt the Patriots, but even the remaining players have been having trouble. I expected the defense to improve drastically from last year with the addition of a healthy Leigh Bodden, I’m not sure anyone expected the regression we’ve seen from McCourty. Three weeks in a row now he’s had to go up against a stud WR, but as an upcoming CB, he shouldn’t be allowing the plays he is. If he’s going to be a press corner, he needs to be much more physical at the line of scrimmage.

At their current pace, the Patriots will let up the most yards in NFL history this season. I do not expect that to happen obviously, but it’s a scary stat. I have confidence in McCourty, Bodden, Dowling and Chung and I think that Arrington is a quality backup (though he tends to get very lucky with his big plays). If Josh Barrett and Sergio Brown are playing entire games though, the Patriots will not have a good defense. Unfortunately, we’re going to need to count on at least one of them for the rest of the season.

6. FAILURE TO ESTABLISH A RUNNING GAME
When the Patriots drafted two running backs in the first three rounds of the NFL draft, I think we expected to see a lot more of them, even early in the season. Stevan Ridley has looked very impressive so far running the ball and he even had a nice blitz pickup in the second half. It’s been a surprise that we haven’t seen Vereen at all.

It almost feels like the Patriots aren’t using all of their weapons to their greatest potential. We have so many RBs and such great run blockers, if Brady doesn’t seem to have it on a given day, we should be pounding the ball. Green-Ellis wasn’t effective early in the game, as Kyle Williams had a great day for Buffalo, but at that point it’s time to turn to Woodhead and Ridley.

Obviously this article leans negative since it’s the 6 keys to defeat, but I really don’t think one loss is reason to panic. Hernandez, Chung and Dowling will be back. Hopefully all of our new defenders will “get it” and our defense will begin to mesh. I’m not surprised that we’re not getting a pass rush with so many new defensive linemen, but they looked much better in preseason. It’s likely we won’t see Tom Brady have a game like this for the rest of the season, and if he was even a little bit better, we would have won this game.

The Patriots offensive line looked good again and we know how many weapons Brady has, the offense is clearly not a problem. On defense there’s cause for concern, but they will get better. The Patriots have a ton of talented players and at some point, they’re going to mesh together better.

Tags: Game Recap

20 Responses to “Patriots vs Bills: Keys to Defeat”

  1. AFL says:

    When your defense cannot make a stop, the offense feels the pressure to score every time out & starts to press-that when mistakes are made. We’ve seen this pattern in recent years with the Pats in the playoffs. Some of the off season moves have been great, ie. drafting Solder & Dowling, others monumentally stupid, ie. cutting 5 DB’s, signing Ochocinco & drafting Ryan Mallett when we really needed a rush end. Now the price is being paid for that. The DB’s we had last year were physical & made room for a finesse player like McCourty to shine. At least if BB had kept Sanders there would have been some experience back there & it wouldn’t look like a bad high school defence. They should be bringing in McGowan & my grandmother before they let Barrett & Brown suit up again.

  2. TD says:

    I think BB realizes that he is looking to the playoffs, not improving on that 14-2 record from last year. This team is going to be a major work in progress, however, we have become accustomed to winning playoff games and SB’s.

    He let the above DB’s go because they would not/could not play the way he wanted them to. Now he has even younger/newer guys that need reps and experience, even if the fans think they should win every game.

    It’s a tribute to #12 and the Off. that we win a lot of games still while BB is rebuilding the Def.

    • Ryan Buske says:

      I agree with you 100%. But my quam is this, we all knew that BMW was going to get cut or traded. It wasn’t a problem that presented itself over night. I feel that the situation could have been handled better. Either through drafting or keeping other players. Maybe these players are what he wants, I hope that they can play to that level.

      • TD says:

        With the meager safety class in this past draft and league-wide shortage, he has to rely on who we have. The lack of talent in NFL at this position is why Brandon & Sanders got signed so quickly as well as Page early on.

        Next year’s draft is supposed to have some quality safeties in it, a couple from ‘Bama.

  3. Jon L. says:

    I was not impressed with the way the safeties played at all. Without Chung back there, you don’t have very many viable options.

  4. qwerty says:

    they actually cut five DB’s

    Meriweather
    Butler
    Sanders
    Page
    McGowan

    YIKES!!!!!

    Patriots came into the season with a very deep roster of solid experienced DBs and top in NFL. If someone got injured, they would have had no problem filling in people. I was puzzled by all the moves because depth is important. They went with more raw DBs and even brought in Molden who is again still not getting much playing time in worst pass defense in nfl. Playing 1 down pretty much sums up his status

    I wanted to see them keep Page who I thought was decent. He is starting for Eagles now.

    As long as Dowling and Chung are healthy, i think the patriots can make critical stops. If McCourty comes out of his slump, the patriots can manage and play respectably but it is critical that all three of these players remain healthy coming down stretch.

  5. Bill says:

    It will be interesting to witness how well BB responds to the obvious concerns Pat’s fans have for the 2011 season.

    I suspect he will not respond well to the NE media who no longer have the Red Sox as a talking point.

    That’s just my(Bill) stupid, humble opinion.

  6. Phil says:

    I think they key play of the game was the pass interference call on Brown in the end zone. They only seemed to show the replay once and from that angle it looks to be a terrible call that may have decided the outcome of the game. I can’t believe here we are in 2011 and it’s still possible for refs to fix a game like that. I’m glad at least one other person is discussing this topic!

  7. Ryan says:

    My biggest issue right now is the safety position and how it was completely unthought out.

    1. Failure to draft for the position in the draft. (granted weak draft at the position). Remember Aaron Williams from TX was picked right after Dowling.

    2. Cut Sanders (for to high of price tag)

    3. Cut McGowen

    4. Failed to resign Jarred Page (immediately signs and play for the eagles)

    5. CUT BMW – Not even a trade for a former first round pick.

    6. Dashon Gold…turns us down for the 49ers.

    7. Darren Sharper tells us to get lost.

    8. Now we are stuck with Barrett who was formerly hurt, and Brown a former practice squad player. Neither of whom can tackle, and with zero experience its going to hurt all year. Especially trying to play man so that we don’t get beat deep.

    I’m not sure where ANY thought went into this. Maybe these players shine…But I’ll be waiting. Very very important position.

    • Ryan says:

      My only thought, is that maybe Tarpinian can play safety. I still wouldn’t feel good about it.

      • John says:

        when i watched tarpinian at iowa i thought he was kind of a tweener betweener linebacker and strong safety because he is good in coverage yet poor at filling holes however i don’t know if he has the range and he showed well at linebacker in the preseason but its at least worth a shot at practice to see if it works and safety gets alot better with chung and i think the corners have been worse than the safeties lets just hope t.j mcdonald is there when the pats pick this year

    • Doug Kyed says:

      to be fair, dowling and aaron williams were both projected as cbs/safeties and both are currently playing cornerback. dowling is the much better player. i know belichick said earlier that his cornerbacks don’t play safety, but if dowling can get healthy, it might not be the worst idea. i think arrington as a cb has shown more than brown or barrett have shown as safeties.

    • qwerty says:

      Who knew that BB was going to demolish so much of his secondary before season started. One or two but not all 5.

  8. TD says:

    I would put the order,

    1 Turnovers,
    2 Penalties,
    3 Injuries.

    I wouldn’t say Bills shut down the offense, the turnovers and penalties did that.

    I’m sure BB hoped/hopes that #12 can carry the team until the D comes around. I’ve seen D’s come together before, but this bunch is a disaster right now.

    • Doug Kyed says:

      I guess the numbered system would be confusing. The six keys aren’t in order. That’s a good idea to do in the future though.

  9. Bill says:

    This Patriot’s season now has the potential to get ugly real fast.

    Belichick’s tirade on the sidelines must have resembled Napoleons reaction near Moscow when he realized he had outpaced his supply lines. The winter retreat was really ugly.

    The Pat’s offense(Brady) needs to control the time clock(Chad Pennington, without the injuries) instead of being focused on Brady’s QB rating.

    RUN THE DAMN BALL( That’s my counter to BB’s demand that Brady “THROW THE DAMN BALL” during the most recent playoff loss).

    Ridley and Dowling will have to be to the Pat’s season…What Seymour and Brady were to the 2001/2 season. Because, otherwise the season will get ugly, real fast.

    • qwerty says:

      I agree, Dowling is the most critical. Without him and McCourty still slumping, season could get ugly very fast.

      Maybe Ridley can eat up the clock if patriots are ahead.

  10. NEPD says:

    Eric Moore is an interesting thought. I’m sure he is on top of their emergency list.

  11. John says:

    its all fixable except #2






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