November 14, 2004
Bills vs. Patriots
At Gillette Stadium, Patriots WIN, 29-6
By Scott A. Benson
Like University of Pittsburgh freshman quarterback Tyler Palko, I知 just so bleeping proud of this team right now.
Yes, I知 awfully proud of these Patriots, and the way they wiped out the Buffalo Bills 29-6 at Gillette Stadium tonight. I知 especially proud considering the 途idiculous� (Boston Globe痴 word, not mine) personnel situation they致e got down there.
I saw some pretty ridiculous things on the field tonight but none of them had anything to do with the Patriots roster.
The 8-1 Pats dominated the until-recently-surging Bills on both sides of the ball from the opening kickoff. They shredded Buffalo痴 third-ranked defense on the ground and in the air, particularly during a game deciding 17 point 2nd quarter. Defensively, they immediately and emphatically took away Willis McGahee and the Bills running attack, forcing Buffalo痴 badly fading Drew Bledsoe to- once again – try to win the game through the air.
The victory ran their record over the last two dozen games to 23-1. It was also New England痴 16th straight win at Gillette Stadium. But most of all, it was another big divisional win for the Pats, as they stretched their AFC East record to 4-0. With a Jets loss to Baltimore earlier today, the Patriots lead the division by two games.
And with just seven weeks remaining, the Patriots trail only the likeable Pittsburgh Steelers for top playoff seed in the conference.
Let痴 close by talking a little more about this 途idiculous� personnel situation we致e got going on down there. Since losing badly in Pittsburgh three weeks ago, this 途idiculous� roster, including its 途idiculous� collection of defensive backs (sans Ty Law, but with Troy 糎illie� Brown), has slaughtered the Rams and then coldcocked the Bills. Two straight-up knockouts by a combined score of 69-28. Done, and done.
Yeah, I guess I壇 call that ridiculous too. But only in that ironic way the kids say it.
Patriots on Offense
Corey Dillon is once again the story here, rushing 26 times for 151 yards despite missing most of the 2nd quarter with yet another undetermined leg injury. Thankfully, he returned early in the 3rd quarter and was still in there to grind clock away in the fourth.
Dillon began the game by slicing the Bills for 30 yards off right end, bringing the Pats to midfield and keying an 80 yard drive that ended with an Adam Vinatieri field goal. All night, he pounded away at the middle of the Bills line (behind solid blocking by center Dan Koppen and guards Joe Andruzzi and Stephen Neal) and bested the perimeter of the Buffalo D, often for runs of 10 yards or longer.
Another tour de force performance by Dillon, who already has a season痴 worth of them. It was the first 100 yard game allowed by the Bills this year.
When Dillon was forced to the bench, Tom Brady started firing fastballs to David Givens and David Patten for first downs that drove the Pats deep into Buffalo territory. New England had been unable to convert on two early drives inside the Buffalo ten (settling for 6 instead of 14 points), but with Dillon cooling his heels (or his ankle, or his knee, or his thigh, or whatever part it was) on the bench, Brady found a wide open Patten and then Christian Fauria for two touchdown passes that essentially iced the Bills.
Fauria痴 TD came on a nice play fake with just 35 seconds remaining in the first half.
Though he had a slightly shaky second half that was marred by a Nate Clements interception that was eerily reminiscent of the pick he threw in Pittsburgh (Bethel Johnson fell down on this one too), Brady put up the points in this one when they counted the most.
Kevin Faulk ran 13 times for 61 yards in relief of Dillon, and Johnson had a leaping 47 yard catch of a Brady bomb that set up Vinatieri痴 second field goal.
Patriots on Defense
The Patriots defense totally overwhelmed the Bills from the moment Buffalo won the coin toss. The Bills ended the day with 125 total yards.
Willis McGahee had spurred the Bills recent upswing with three 100 yard games, but on the Gillette Stadium turf tonight, he was going nowhere. The Pats closed off McGahee痴 running lanes from the start, thanks to both a sturdy front (led first by Ty Warren, with five tackles) and a stout middle (Tedy Bruschi and Ted Johnson), and some solid run support from corners like Randall Gay. The Pats won the game the minute they won the line of scrimmage.
Because that put the ball, and the game, squarely in the hands of Drew Bledsoe.
The details of what followed are mostly unimportant. You致e seen it before. Passes straight into the hands of linebackers standing eight yards away. Forced passes that are just inaccurate enough to make for a spectacular interception. Confused, discouraged, lethargic play calling and time management. That sort of stuff.
Bledsoe threw three interceptions on the game, including Eugene Wilson痴 diving snag of a wayward bomb, Bruschi痴 29 yard return of a headscratching Bledsoe pitch and catch, and lastly, Troy Brown痴 first career pick. Brown snuck inside of Eric Moulds on a slant and, much to the delight of the partisan crowd, caught one from Drew for old time痴 sake.
Wilson and Bruschi痴 interceptions led to 10 early, yet crucial, points. Brown’s pick eventually drove Bledsoe to the bench.
Let痴 pause for a minute to say one thing about the defensive backs: Asante Samuel did not play today, leaving rookie Gay and taxi squader Earthwind Moreland to man the corners. They were joined again by slot man and sometime receiver Brown. These were the Pats first three cornerbacks. Yet for the second week in a row, the Patriots� opponents were unable to pass the ball worth a damn against them.
OLB Tully Banta-Cain was impressive once again for the Patriots, nailing one and a half sacks and then, in coverage, picking off a bunny from Buffalo rookie JP Losman in the game痴 closing minutes. Banta-Cain is athletic and fast, and he痴 seemed to turn a corner in the last two weeks. He looks more and more like a full-time contributor.
A beautiful evening was nearly ruined � horribly � when Bruschi went down late in the fourth. Replays showed a frightening leg injury (trapped under a pile, Bruschi was nearly bent in two backwards) yet, unbelievably, he jogged off the field and was seen on the sidelines grinning and looking relieved. From my living room, I let out a little cheer. It was truly a happy ending.
Patriots on Special Teams
Vinatieri had five field goals in all (and his 1000th career point), but these guys get a big fat 詮� this week because for the second freaking time this year, the Buffalo Bills ran a kick return right down the throats of the New England Patriots special teams FOR A TOUCHDOWN.
I swear, something is really wrong with these guys. Every week they kill me. They池e the kings of Sloppy Tackling, Out of Position football. Kickoff coverage that almost NEVER stops the opponent inside the 30 is one thing. But kind sir, punt returns up the gut (with every Patriot seemingly grabbing air) are quite another.
I知 sick of it. I don稚 know what the problem is. They致e got starters out there now. Still, this leg of the three-legged stool is friggin� wobbly. Thank God Josh Miller only had to punt three times.
Patriots on the Sidelines
Aside from special teams, you got to hand it to these guys again, especially the two coordinators. This game will do nothing but buff those resumes to a fine shine. You壇 have to say they both started with exactly the right plan to beat the Bills, they obviously prepared their team well, and to their credit, when it was time to play the players all executed. I壇 say unless you池e the Boston Globe, you壇 have to look far and wide to find something to complain about it in this category.
Aside from special teams, I mean.
Patriots Next Week
Monday Night Football. Arrrgh. I know this is the golden age of Patriots football, and none of us would change that, but come on, throw me a one o団lock game once in awhile, will ya?
The Pats travel to Arrowhead Stadium for a conference match up with the Constantly Collapsing Chiefs.