Beginning with an embarrassingly unforgiveable turnover that was returned for an easy touchdown on the game’s first play, the Patriots have laid the worst kind of rotten egg in the first 30 minutes of the 2006 season. They’re one more score from being blown off their home field by a team that finished 5-11 just eight months ago.
It all begins inside. Though the offensive line has opened holes in the running game, it can’t block the Bills pash rush. Blitzers have gone unblocked (like the comebacking Takeo Spikes, who slammed into Brady and caused the fumble that had the home team down 7-0 in a matter of seconds), and down pass rushers have bullied the Pats pocket. The Patriots are working uphill as far as their receivers go anyway, and the offensive line is making it impossible. The Bills front seven has thoroughly controlled the game, and Tom Brady cannot get anything going. The team has THREE passing yards. It has been a shameful performance.
Defensively, the Patriots have been pathetic. The Bills have twice held the ball for more than five minutes, grinding upfield with a mix of run and pass, for scoring drives. JP Losman looks entirely too comfortable, and thanks to a pillow soft performance by the Patriots defensive line, both Willis McGahee and Anthony Thomas have found room to run, and when they didn’t, the Patriots couldn’t tackle them anyway.
This is how bad it is. Three times the Bills have fumbled, completely unforced, and not once has a Patriots player seriously contended for the ball. Weak, weak, weak. What happened to the team that was going to be on a mission after last year’s mistake-filled playoff loss to Denver? When does that start?
The lone bright spot for the Patriots has been 1st round pick Laurence Maroney, who ran for 27 and 22 yards the first two times he touched the ball as a pro. His remarkable shifting runs set up the only Patriots score, which came immediately after the opening fumble. At that point, you had to figure the team was righting itself after a opening day hiccup. Since then, Brady hasn’t completed a pass while a rebuilding Buffalo squad has enjoyed a clear advantage.
30 minutes to make this right, or eat this for a week, or longer.