In a re-match of week four, where the Bills shut out the Patriots at home for the first time in 23 years, Tom Brady and the Patriots were out for blood it seems. They were in control of this game after Buffalo had a field goal in the first quarter. The passing game from Brady and his play-makers overwhelmed the Bills defense all day and helped lead the way to the blowout victory. Despite the score of 41-25, the Bills never really had much of a shot in this game and were lucky to score as many points as they did.
On the offense, Tom Brady had 315 yards passing on 22 of 33 passing with four touchdowns. He distributed the ball well, including one touchdown to Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman (yes, Edelman scored his elusive first touchdown of the season). He made terrific throws all day despite dealing with constant pressure from the Bills pass rush and stayed calm in the face of the Bills multiple blitz packages. He did have five sacks and did see a lot of pressure from the Bills throughout the game, but still able to have a terrific game despite the adversity.
The Patriots offensive line struggled all game against the front seven of the Bills, giving up five sacks and nine tackles for loss. They also allowed nine quarterback hits as Brady took a beating all game. The Bills came into this game with 21 sacks, good for third in the NFL. Not to mention, they had Marcell Dareus returning as well, who anchors their defensive line. His presence was felt as he had a sack and two tackles for a loss as David Andrews and company struggled against the Bills front seven, including Zach Brown, Jerry Hughes, Preston Brown and Shaq Lawson. This will be an area of focus to improve upon with the Patriots on bye this week now.
Gronkowski once again led the Patriots in receiving with 109 yards and a touchdown on five receptions. Hogan, in his “revenge game”, caught four passes for 91 yards and a touchdown against his former team. Edelman, Amendola, Martellus Bennett and James White combined for 13 receptions, 115 yards and two touchdowns to round out the day on the passing end. What’s interesting is for the second week in a row, Gronkowski had his touchdown reception on single coverage with a defensive back covering him, which is a huge mismatch. The Steelers had it last week with Robert Golden and the Bills this weekend with Nickell Robey-Coleman. That will be something to monitor going forward if other teams make that mistake.
On the defensive side of the ball, this was actually the most points the Patriots have given up all season (gave up 21 to Arizona and 24 to Miami) and the third highest yardage total with 376 (gave up 457 to Miami and 378 to Buffalo in week four). They did give up only 209 yards passing between Tyrod Taylor and E.J. Manuel but 167 yards rushing. Most of the yardage came from Mike Gillislee (12 rushes, 85 yards and a touchdown) and Taylor (five rushes, 48 yards and a touchdown) along with 14 to Brandon Tate, 12 to Jonathan Williams and -8 to Reggie Bush. Punter Colton Schmidt did have 16 yards rushing, but that was on a broken down punt that he was able to scramble for a first down on.
The Patriots run defense did not perform on paper, with 167 yards total but also three touchdowns (Gillislee, Taylor and Williams each had one). Buffalo came in with the 2nd best rushing attack in the league (152.3 yards per game) and tied for the league lead with 11 rushing touchdowns. Keep in mind, the team was without top running LeSean McCoy due to a hamstring injury as well, which doesn’t help when looking at the stat sheet. New England came in allowing only 93.2 yards per game, good for 11th in the league. They had only allowed three rushing touchdowns in seven games before coming into today, so the Bills were able to double that amount in one game. Considering the Patriots had been able limit other teams such as the Browns and Bengals to low rushing yard totals, this is probably more of an outlier than something to see happen often.
The Patriots pass coverage did much better against the Bills, giving up only 218 yards passing and no touchdowns. The Bills came into this game however with the second lowest passing yards per game average with 175 and only nine touchdowns in seven games. The team isn’t known for their passing attack, but the Patriots did a good job nonetheless in preventing the Bills passing offense from doing much damage. Taylor finished with 183 yards on only 50% completion percentage (19/38). Only two Bills receivers finished with 50 or more receiving yards (Walter Powell with 59 and Robert Woods with 50) while no other player finished with more than 34 yards receiving. The Patriots cornerback group had a terrific day limiting any big plays from happen.
The Patriots managed only to garner two sacks, both courtesy of Trey Flowers. Dont’a Hightower, Jamie Collins and Malcom Brown also had at least one QB hit on Taylor, with a total of six on the day. Devin McCourty and Malcolm Butler were especially good in this game, making plays all over the field while preventing several Bills receivers from having any impact on the game. The Patriots didn’t fill up the stat sheet on defense, but a lot of the Bills points and yardage came in the second half, especially during garbage time. This game was a lot better for the Patriots than the stats show.
Lastly, Stephen Gostkowski had a “bounce-back” game as he hit both of his field goal attempts of 51 and 32 yards while converting all five of his PAT attempts as well. He had struggled a bit coming into this game, with three missed field goals and two missed PAT attempts. It was a good showing for the All-Pro kicker and should be the start of him being back to normal going forward.
Overall, this was another strong showing for the Patriots and it even got Bills head coach Rex Ryan to secede that the Patriots have likely already won the AFC East by saying “Within winning the division I think you’re pretty much shot if you really think we can run the table and still win it. I don’t think so”. The Patriots have established themselves even further as the best team in the AFC, if not the NFL. They will now be on bye and have a chance to rest up before facing the Seahawks in Foxboro on Sunday Night Football in two weeks. It’s a well deserved break at the mid-point of the season.