FOXBORO — There are a number of methods to take a look at the Patriots’ AFC East clinching win over the Bills.
Minus Josh Gordon, this was an offense that clearly wanted to transition to a run-first strategy. And in that regard, the Patriots must be extremely inspired. They obliterated Buffalo at the line of scrimmage. The Bills knew precisely what was coming, however they couldn’t do a factor to cease it. Beating up the Bills in the trenches and utilizing athleticism to get to the edges, the Patriots totaled 273 dashing yards, the most they’ve had in a recreation since 2008.
However this was a bit excessive, wasn’t it?
Even the most optimistic Patriots followers should admit the workforce’s 24-12 win over the Bills was barely disconcerting. The Pats have the greatest quarterback of all-time, but they’ve nearly no passing assault.
Can this offense minimize it when the playoffs arrive? We’ll discover out quickly sufficient.
For now, we’ll dish out the grades from the Patriots’ 10th win of the season…
Tom Brady accomplished 13 passes on Sunday. None of them have been caught greater than 10 yards previous the line of scrimmage.
All however two of these passes have been caught inside 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. Almost half of Brady’s completions — six of the 13 — have been caught inside one yard of the line of scrimmage.
There’s dinking and dunking, after which there’s what the Patriots did Sunday.
Brady was inconsistent all through the recreation. He threw low into the floor for Cordarrelle Patterson on a third-and-Four comeback close to the finish of the second quarter. He threw behind James White when pressured to maneuver up in the pocket at the starting of the fourth. He was intercepted twice, however neither play was his fault.
Brady did a pleasant job sliding in the pocket to create time for a 10-yard reference to Edelman early in the fourth.
You’d hope the passing recreation may be a lot better when the Patriots really need it.
RUNNING BACK: B-plus
Sony Michel turned in his fourth 100-yard recreation of the season. Regardless of lacking time with two separate knee accidents, Michel can end with 1,000 yards if he rushes for 119 towards the Jets in the common season finale.
On a 19-yard carry in the first quarter, Michel shook off Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and gained 16 yards after contact. Michel drove his legs and pushed the pile ahead for a Four-yard landing later that drive.
James White darted by means of the Bills entrance seven and broke a 27-yard landing on a third-and-2.
Rex Burkhead had some strong moments, however he additionally was concerned in two turnovers. He fumbled late in the first quarter whereas making an attempt to select up yards after contact towards linebacker Corey Thompson and cornerback Tre’Davious White. In the second quarter, Burkhead broke his choice route outdoors and Tom Brady threw to the inside. The ball was intercepted by Alexander.
There have been some points in move safety. Michel couldn’t deal with blitz pickup towards Bills security Jordan Poyer, who hit Tom Brady for a 9-yard loss. James White additionally did not sluggish Alexander on a third-down throwaway by Brady.
WIDE RECEIVER: C-plus
Julian Edelman’s heads-up, extra-effort 34-yard landing broke the recreation open.
Edelman beat security Rafael Bush on a fourth-and-Four slant route, then by some means spun by way of simultaneous deal with makes an attempt by Bush and security Jordan Poyer with out taking place. Conscious that his knee by no means touched the floor, Edelman instantly sprinted towards the finish zone and was untouched for the remaining 15 yards.
He’s by far the greatest participant in New England’s passing assault.
Chris Hogan performed 62 snaps and was not focused. Ditto for Phillip Dorsett on his 27 snaps. That’s borderline unbelievable.
Earlier than exiting with a knee damage, Cordarrelle Patterson gained 66 yards on 4 carries. The Pats ran 5 end-arounds — three to Patterson and two to Dorsett — that totaled 67 yards. Their receivers gained extra dashing yards than the complete offenses of the Bills, Jets, and Dolphins in Week 17.
The pre-snap movement by Patterson appeared to place the Bills linebackers barely out of place on James White’s 27-yard landing run.
TIGHT END: C
Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen have been key to New England’s dominant dashing assault.
On Cordarrelle Patterson’s 27-yard end-around, Gronk acquired out in area and drove Bills security Jordan Poyer to the sideline. Patterson reduce upfield proper beneath Gronk’s block.
Dwayne Allen manhandled Bills rookie linebacker Corey Thompson on Sony Michel’s 19-yard run and on Rex Burkhead’s 10-yarder off proper deal with.
That was all nice.
Drawback was, Gronkowski posted a Dwayne Allen-like stat line: zero receptions and one drop on three targets.
Gronkowski let the ball slip via his palms on the opening play of the second half. It was intercepted by Poyer.
OFFENSIVE LINE: B-plus
A staff can’t rush for 273 yards and not using a terrific efficiency by the massive fellas up entrance.
On lots of Sony Michel’s carries, he didn’t want to interrupt tackles or make anybody miss in the gap. He simply needed to run straight.
Left deal with Trent Brown turned Bills defensive finish Eddie Yarbrough inside to spring Michel for a 17-yard run in the third quarter (it helped that Brown owned a 100-pound benefit over Yarbrough). Brown and tight finish Dwayne Allen teamed to clear a path for a 12-yard Michel run, as nicely.
Proper guard Shaq Mason pulled and threw the key block in the gap towards linebacker Lorenzo Alexander on James White’s 27-yard landing scamper.
Although Tom Brady not often seemed downfield, cross safety was an issue at occasions. On the first play of the second quarter, Brown was crushed by linebacker Jerry Hughes. Brady ducked beneath Hughes and prevented the sack, however was quickly taken down by security Jordan Poyer.
On a third-down throwaway in the fourth quarter, the left aspect of the line didn’t determine the rushers. Brown blocked down whereas linebacker Corey Thompson got here free. Brady needed to eliminate the ball virtually immediately.
DEFENSIVE LINE: A-minus
Trey Flowers set the tone by stuffing operating again Keith Ford on the opening snap.
Flowers was persistently disruptive. He and Lawrence Man almost had a security in the fourth quarter, however Bills quarterback Josh Allen removed the ball at the final potential second. Strain by Flowers, enjoying as the lone defensive lineman, on a 3rd down pressured an Allen throwaway and a Bills subject aim.
Ufomba Kamalu, lately promoted from the follow squad, got here crashing in from his proper defensive finish spot to drop LeSean McCoy for a four-yard loss on his first defensive snap.
The Pats gained up entrance, holding the Bills to 72 dashing yards on 18 makes an attempt.
There weren’t many splashy performs, however you possibly can’t argue with the outcomes.
Dealing with a third-and-6 in the second quarter, Bills quarterback Josh Allen stored the ball on a learn choice. Linebacker John Simon did an ideal job of retaining containment, funneling Allen again inside for a 2-yard achieve.
Later, Simon chased down Allen for a sack as the quarterback seemed to flee the pocket.
The Patriots knew there was just one means they’d lose this recreation: In the event that they have been undisciplined and allowed Allen to run wild like he did towards the Jaguars, Dolphins, and Jets (335 complete dashing yards). They made positive that didn’t occur.
DEFENSIVE BACK: A-minus
Patrick Chung was all over the area. He dropped LeSean McCoy for no achieve on a catch in the flat late in the first quarter, and blanketed tight finish Jason Croom on the ensuing third-down incompletion.
Stephon Gilmore allowed hardly something, though he did get a bit fortunate when Robert Foster couldn’t monitor a deep ball due to the solar. Foster beat Gilmore and the cross was thrown precisely. It might have been an 82-yard landing.
Gilmore responded with a pass-breakup on a fourth-and-Three deep ball to Foster in the second quarter. He additionally was in protection versus Zay Jones on a third-and-Three incompletion.
J.C. Jackson flashed spectacular instincts on a second-quarter interception. Jackson was assigned to the tight finish in the flat, however shortly realized that Josh Allen was going downfield. He drifted backward and anticipated the throw on a nook path to Deonte Thompson.
Late in the third quarter, Jason McCourty ripped the ball unfastened from Croom inside the New England 10-yard line, forcing the most crucial turnover of the recreation. If the Bills had scored a landing, they might have made it a one-possession recreation. Credit score Malcom Brown for hustling downfield to make the restoration.
McCourty additionally made a leaping interception alongside the sideline in the fourth quarter.
The lone miscue from this group was when McCourty and Jackson collided with one another whereas overlaying deep crossing routes, permitting Jones to get large open for a 31-yard landing in rubbish time.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A-minus
Ryan Allen’s first punt traveled 55 yards. He pinned one other at the Buffalo Eight-yard line.
Julian Edelman’s 25-yard punt return in the fourth quarter allowed the Patriots to start out a possession on the Buffalo 24.
For the third time in as many weeks, the Patriots obtained a bit of a punt. Longtime particular groups captain Matthew Slater will get the credit score for the newest deflection.
Filling in for Cordarrelle Patterson, Sony Michel muffed a kick return and was pressured to run it out. He was fortunate to get the ball to the 12-yard line.
The Pats did what was essential to win this recreation. And for all the considerations about their anemic passing assault, the Bills by no means got here near slowing down the operating recreation.
So why deviate from it?
Defensively, the Pats sought to restrict Allen’s scrambling alternatives, shut down the operating recreation, and put Allen in long-yardage conditions the place he’d be susceptible to creating a mistake.
Checks throughout the board.
HEAD OF THE CLASS
J.C. Jackson: Performed all 61 defensive snaps. Seems like one other undrafted gem.
Jason McCourty: It took McCourty 10 NFL seasons to qualify for the playoffs. He created two turnovers in the AFC East clincher.
Run recreation: Can’t pin down one participant, however the Patriots typically seem like one among the league’s greatest run-blocking models.
BACK OF THE PACK
Tom Brady: Simply doesn’t look snug. On his Monday morning WEEI interview, Brady stated, “I’m not getting into specifics with injuries. It doesn’t make any sense. Nothing benefits me talking about injuries and my injuries and so forth.”
Rob Gronkowski: A non-factor in a plummeting passing offense.
Chris Hogan: He’s been focused 3 times on 134 offensive snaps in his previous three video games.