December 10, 2016

Second Look: Patriots at Buffalo

A very good performance by the Patriots last Sunday, overall, in their trip to Buffalo. A look back at the film reveals it wasn’t quite the blowout, at least in the first half, competitively as the score suggests. But, nevertheless, a fine win and one in which the Patriots became more and more in control as the game wore on. Buffalo was a game opponent for awhile, but the Patriots were too much for them and imposed their will on Buffalo to cruise to victory. Lets break it down by units.

QUARTERBACK: Tom Brady had a pretty good game. But I’m not sure I agree with some of the commentary I heard he was more on than any other game this year. I just didn’t see that. He was certainly more on than against Miami, a team he usually struggles with. But he missed some throws. For example, on the fourth play of the game on offense, he missed a wide open Reche Caldwell streaking down the right sideline. That’s a throw he should hit. Later, he could have made a better throw on another play which could have been a score to Caldwell, though it did hit Caldwell in the hands. Overall, however, it was a solid performance. We’re just still waiting for the vintage performance we know Brady has in him. I’m sure its coming.

RUNNING BACK: Not an overly productive day. Corey Dillon ran hard and had two touchdowns. Laurence Maroney struggled a bit with dancing in the hole, though admittedly he wasn’t presented with much. Heath Evans had a good day, including a great block on Corey Dillon’s first TD run. Kevin Faulk made a heads up play jumping on a loose ball in the second half.

WIDE RECEIVER: A pretty good day. Reche Caldwell made some effective catches, including a big one for first downs on each of the first two drives on third down. He was open and could have had some other big plays with just a little bit more precision in the timing with Tom Brady. Troy Brown chipped in a couple catches and Doug Gabriel had a decent day, including scoring a touchdown. Chad Jackson showed up too, with a nice thirty-five yard touchdown which was a well-run route, as well as a 14 yard gain on a reverse on the first drive.

TIGHT END: A good day for Ben Watson with five catches. Some nice blocking from David Thomas as well, including a very smart decision to bypass Aaron Schobel on Jackson’s reverse where he recognized Schobel didn’t have an angle and Thomas moved down field to block someone else instead, even though he had Schobel lined up in his sites and could have leveled him.

OFFENSIVE LINE: Not a great day, but some outstanding play at times. Dan Koppen got some good push in the middle, as usual, on a number of plays. Stephen Neal got out and made some good blocks in space. But Matt Light struggled with Schobel, as he has always done and the line gave up some pressure, particularly in the first half. Buffalo’s quick defensive line isn’t the ideal for the Patriots in the passing game. But overall, not a bad day.

DEFENSIVE LINE: A pretty good job here too. They created pressure on Bills quarterback J.P. Losman. Although he had his moments, Bills running back Willis Magahee was held pretty much in check. Vince Wilfork dominated in the middle, which was the key to the inability of the Bills to really get a ground attack established all day.

LINEBACKER: Roosevelt Colvin had his best day since early in the season, both against the run and creating some pressure in the passing game. Junior Seau was active in the middle and Mike Vrabel had one of his best games of the season, including causing a fumble on a sack. This group appears to be coming together better.

DEFENSIVE BACK: A great day for cornerback Asante Samuel, who had blanket coverage most of the day and another interception. Chad Scott continued his hard hitting good play and Rodney Harrison gets better and better every week as he returns from injury. Eugene Wilson made a nice touchdown saving play by running down Magahee on a shovel pass early in the game on a drive that ended up only resulting in a Buffalo field goal.

SPECIAL TEAMS: Stephen Gostkowski’s kickoffs again were outstanding, a feature of his game that has been overlooked and has been among the best in the league this year. Josh Miller again quietly had a nice day and the coverage was good, save one return, against a tough Bills special teams unit.

A tough game in Minnesota awaits on Monday night next week. Minnesota is a loud venue and tough to play in and the Vikings are playing conservative, smart football. Their defense is really turning into one of the better defenses in the NFL, so the Patriots will have their hands full. Until then.

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