Patriots: undefeated no more
Most New England Patriots fans are probably asking, “What just happened?” What happened is that the Buffalo Bills outplayed the Pats on offense and defense and rode a befuddled Tom Brady to a 34-31 win on a last-minute chip-shot field goal by Ryan Lindell. Sometimes after a loss you can say that one team exposed some previously unseen flaw in the other. That was not what happened here.
When was the last time you could accurately describe a Patriots’ game by saying, “Brady sucked?” Because that is not that much of an overstatement for how this game went. Don’t pin this game on the defense, which did not play any worse or better than expected. The weight of this loss lies squarely on Tom Brady’s shoulders. 387 yards and four touchdowns sounds like a great stat line until you realize that he also threw four picks. Two were off tipped balls but Brady shares at least partial blame for two of the four. He under-threw Chad Ochocinco and Rob Gronkowski, leading to two of those INTs. Buffalo scored 24 points off of New England turnovers, and that includes a pick-six scored by Drayton Florence.
One of the only two bright spots on offense for the Patriots was Wes Welker, who caught a franchise record 16 balls for a career-high 217 yards and two touchdowns. Welker made a very loud statement for the MVP of the New England Patriots today, as he was the best player on the field every time he set foot between the sidelines. Despite missing his other half, Aaron Hernandez, Gronk had another good day, with seven catches for 109 yards and a pair of TDs.
The loss of Hernandez hurt the Pats’ offense even more than anticipated, not only in his lost production, but in the disappearance of Deion Branch, who was covered like a blanket every time the ball was thrown near him. After snagging 15 balls for 222 yards in the first two games, he was non-existent, zero catches and only thrown to a couple of times. The rush offense was decent. BenJarvus “The Law Firm” Green-Ellis, Danny Woodhead and Stevan Ridley combined for 87 yards on 23 touches. What was puzzling was only nine touches for The Law Firm despite his hard running and ability to make the defense concentrate on the rush.
Defensively, it was the same old story. The run defense was not bad, only allowing Fred Jackson, the NFL’s leading rusher, a mere 74 yards on 12 carries, but that was also a feature of Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing the ball 50 times. The blueprint on scoring against the Pats is throw, throw and throw some more. In all his drop-backs, Fitzpatrick was only hit a handful of times and was not sacked; this defense can not allow a QB that much time against its secondary when it’s healthy, much less when two starters, Patrick Chung and Ras-I Dowling, are out. Overall, another effort that left something to be desired by the defense, but this loss is not on them.
The Patriots will try to remember how to win next week against the Oakland Raiders in the “Black Hole.” If Brady thought Buffalo was loud, then he had better break out the earmuffs because those fans can get real rowdy. Oakland beat the Broncos at Mile High in week one and then lost a close game to the Bills in Buffalo before defeating a strong New York Jets team on Sunday. New England must get back on track on the West Coast before the return home to face the Jets, the villains of last year.