NEPD Staff Writer: Matthew Jones
This week, the New England Patriots rebounded from their previous two losses by defeating the Buffalo Bills 52-28 thanks to 45 second-half points. The Patriots racked up 580 yards of total offense and dominated Buffalo through the air as well as on the ground. They forced six turnovers on defense while committing just one penalty.
Tom Brady looked sharp, throwing for 340 yards and scoring four total touchdowns (including one on the ground.) All of New England’s major receiving targets found roles, and running backs Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley punished Buffalo’s run defense. Read on for some of the major storylines behind New England’s victory.
Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden drive the offense
Shane Vereen was active for the first time this season, but was only lightly integrated into the offense; he ran the ball one time for no gain and caught a five-yard pass as well on two targets, although he was nowhere to be found later in the matchup. Danny Woodhead caught two passes as well (including a 17-yard touchdown grab on a Tom Brady scramble), but the majority of New England’s running game came via Stevan Ridley (22 carries, 106 yards, and two touchdowns) and rookie Brandon Bolden (16 carries for 137 yards and a touchdown.)
Bolden’s power was on display when he lowered his shoulder and carried Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore four yards into the end zone. He added an 11-yard reception as well, and broke off a 27-yard run at one point. Moving forwards, look for Bolden to be even more heavily integrated into New England’s offense. Even Tom Brady got involved on the ground, running in a four-yard touchdown of his own.
Welker, Gronkowski far more integrated into the offense than last week
Wes Welker had another impressive performance, easily accounting for the absence of Julian Edelman by catching nine passes for 129 yards on 11 targets. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was thrown only three passes last week, but against Buffalo he saw ten targets and caught five of those passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. Gronkowski made a 41-yard grab to begin the game and followed that up with a 28-yard touchdown pass.
Buffalo had trouble defending Gronkowski all day, although he did fail to bring in two catchable balls (one a would-be touchdown) and fumbled the ball away early in the game. At the other wide receiver spot, Brandon Lloyd had trouble separating from Bills rookie Stephon Gilmore early in the game but ended up catching three passes for 50 yards, including an incredible diving touchdown grab in the fourth quarter. The three players accounted for 283 of Tom Brady’s 340 passing yards.
Patriots’ offensive line has their best game of the season
Logan Mankins’ hip injury was a major storyline entering this week’s contest, but left guard Donald Thomas did an admirable job as Mankins’ replacement and his performance was supplemented by strong games from Nate Solder, Ryan Wendell, Dan Connolly, and Sebastian Vollmer.
Both the pass protection and the run blocking were outstanding considering the strength of Buffalo’s defensive line. Buffalo’s three defensive ends – Mario Williams, Mark Anderson, and Chris Kelsay – were unsuccessful in their attempts to disrupt New England’s passing game; in particular, Buffalo’s major offseason investment, Mario Williams, was invisible for almost the entire game. Tom Brady was sacked once by the combination of Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus early in the game, but he had more than enough time to throw the ball on the play and remained upright for the rest of the contest. As mentioned before, the Patriots were also incredibly successful on the ground, rushing 40 times for 247 yards and four touchdowns.
Run defense gets the job done against Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller
Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller had been nursing injuries this week, but both players were active today against New England. Unfortunately for Buffalo, neither player played well, allowing New England to rebound from last week’s disappointing performance against Ravens running back Ray Rice.
Fred Jackson added 50 receiving yards, but rushed for just 29 yards on 13 attempts and fumbled the ball away. C.J. Spiller fumbled as well and added just 33 yards rushing on eight attempts. New England allowed a pair of long runs (14 and 11 yards) but settled down after that and made the Bills a one-dimensional team which had to pass in order to win.
New England’s defense forces six Bills turnovers
Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns against an inconsistent Patriots secondary (three passes went for over 30 yards), but his performance was tempered by his four interceptions. Devin McCourty picked off an underthrown pass downfield, and in the fourth quarter McCourty stepped in front of another lackluster pass for his second interception of the game.
Vince Wilfork batted a Fitzpatrick throw into the air which was intercepted by weakside linebacker Jerod Mayo, and Wilfork additionally recovered one of Brandon Spikes’ two forced fumbles; the second was recovered by rookie Tavon Wilson, who also intercepted a very poor throw from Ryan Fitzpatrick late in the fourth quarter. Wilson has four turnovers on the year despite functioning as New England’s third safety.