Week Four Review: Patriots struggle big time against Bills

In a complete turnaround from their performance in week three against the Houston Texans, the Patriots were shut out at home for the first time in 25 years. For those keeping score at home, that was even before Bill Belichick came to town. The Patriots struggled mightily against the 1-2 Buffalo Bills at home right from the get-go and it didn’t get any better as the game progressed.

Starting with the offense, they managed 277 yards total on 52 plays. They managed to control the ball for only 23:49 out of 60 possible minutes, something the Patriots focused on having more than their opponents in the previous games. They lost to Buffalo in both passing yardage total (244 to 187) and rushing yardage total (134 to 90) as well. For Jacoby Brissett, he had 205 yards passing (he lost 18 yards on three sacks) with no touchdowns or interceptions but with two fumbles (one lost, one recovered). He didn’t necessarily have the worst game possible, but he didn’t help generate much offense. He only managed 23 yards rushing on four attempts. Brissett is dealing with a thumb injury on his throwing hand, so he may deserve some slack being cut.

For the run game besides Brissett’s contributions, starting running back LeGarrette Blount managed 54 yards on 13 attempts for 4.2 yards on average. It is his worst game of the season in every aspect, as he had the fewest amount of running attempts and rushing yards of any game he had this season along with no touchdowns (he had four touchdowns in three games coming in). Part of it can be led to the Patriots losing the possession clock battle, but it was clear New England struggled against the Bills defense. James White and Julian Edelman combined for the remaining rushing yards, 13 yards on five attempts.

Martellus Bennett proved to be the lone bright spot for the Patriots, reeling in 109 yards on five receptions. Bennett proved to be a focal point of the offense despite Rob Gronkowski being active. Bennett saw a team-high six targets while James White (five receptions of 50 yards) was the only other player with more than 16 yards receiving. Edelman, Brandon Bolden, Gronkowski and Blount combined for seven receptions and 46 yards. Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola both had two targets yet but did not record a reception. In the fumble category (besides Brissett’s two fumbles), Edelman also had a fumble after one of his receptions. It was a down game for the entire offense besides Bennett.

The Patriots offensive line have up three sacks and five quarterback hits against the Bills defense. They also had multiple false start and holding penalties called against them, partially in part due to Brissett’s inability to get the ball out of his hands quick enough and scrambling so much around the pocket. It wasn’t necessarily a bad showing for the offensive line against a tough front seven, but it certainly did not have a good game as a unit.

For the defense, they actually did not perform as poorly as perhaps it’s been led on to believe. They only gave up 16 points to a Bills offense with a mobile quarterback that also had the ball for over 60% of the game. The defense as a whole gave up 378 yards but only 5.3 yards per play (73), which just barely beats the Patriots offense who had 5.2 yards per play. The team did manage to have two sacks (Jabaal Sheard and Alan Branch both had one apiece) and three quarterback hits (Sheard, Branch and Logan Ryan had one each). Speaking of Ryan, he had 17 total tackles, which is an extremely high number for a cornerback. But it also speaks to how much the Bills targeted him in the passing game.

Besides Robert Woods (seven receptions for 89 yards), no other Bills player had more than 47 yards receiving, which isn’t necessarily a bad accomplishment for the Patriots defense. LeSean McCoy gained 70 yards rushing but it was on 19 attempts for a 3.7 yards per attempt and his longest attempt was for only nine yards, which is a pretty solid job for New England’s defense against one of the better running backs in the league. So the Patriots did a decent job at keeping the Bills from having one player truly “control” the game on their offense.

On special teams, Cyrus Jones had a rough day as he brought a kick return out of the end-zone but only to the 14 yard line. From then on, he took a knee every other kick return except for one so it appears as if the Patriots made sure they took no more shots for the rest of the game unless they needed to. For Stephen Gostkowski, he missed his only field goal attempt (which was from over 50 yards away) but saw no other action as the Patriots offense struggled to move downfield. But both Jones and Amendola both had a fumble on special teams, so that didn’t help the team either.

All in all, the Patriots struggled mightily on offense when it came to moving the ball downfield and actually scoring. For their defense, their problem was keeping the Bills off the field as they allowed 24 first downs and let them have the ball for over 36 minutes. Their special teams had two fumbles, 34 total return yards and a missed field goal. Not a good game for the Patriots. But they will face off against the only winless team in the NFL in week five, the Browns. And not only that, but the team will also have back Tom Brady, which will be a treat as well.

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