December 5, 2016

Pats Pregame Points: Game Three At Bills

by Chris Warner, Patriots Daily Staff

So, when New England led San Diego 20-7 at the half, how did you feel?

We ask because back in the good old days, when the Patriots had a halftime advantage, fans knew their offense would sustain clock-killing drives and their defense would hold fast. Now, a third-quarter lead means a strong comeback attempt by opponents.

You’d think a 35-21 win at Foxboro over a solid team like the Chargers would warrant a peppier intro, but New England’s defense has given us cause for concern.

Tom Tom Club: The offense, however, continues in harmony, with quarterback Tom Brady as bandleader. If you get open, you get a pass reception (even Chad Ochocinco got into the act with two – count ’em – two catches). Brady’s 423 yards passing at home didn’t match up to the 517 in Miami, which is like saying this month’s vacation in Fiji didn’t meet the level of last month’s vacation in Monaco.

We’ll take either, but why choose when you can have both?

Put On Your Tights: Remember back before the 2010 draft how the Patriots had no tight ends? Remember how teams passed on Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez because of certain issues (a neck injury and failed drug test, respectively)?

For those of us who felt a little iffy about picking Gronkowski in the second round, we apologize. It’s been said here before, but he projects as the best all-around tight end in Foxboro since Ben Coates. This week, he and his brother Dan Gronkowski return home to Buffalo. Could be fun.

Aaron On The Side Of Caution: Too bad Hernandez has been declared out for an unspecified number weeks with a strained knee ligament. Will we see the other Gronkowski go out for passes? Does second-year receiver Taylor Price figure into this as another, bigger pass-catcher?

Shutting Down Gates: As for San Diego’s tight end, Antonio Gates put up more zeroes than a Japanese aircraft carrier. New England’s defense deserves some credit for taking away one powerful offensive weapon.

Ras-on For Concern: Rookie cornerback Ras-I Dowling left the game with a leg injury (we think). It seems the Pats could use a bigger defensive back against Bills receivers Steve Johnson (6-2, 210) and Dave Nelson (6-5, 215), especially after Chargers Malcolm Floyd and Vincent Jackson had their way with them.

The Rushin’ Is Coming, The Rushin’ Is Coming: Okay, but when? New England’s pass rush was supposed to improve with the signings of Albert Haynesworth, Andre Carter, Mark Anderson and about 600 other defenders (Note: figure may be exaggerated). San Diego QB Phillip Rivers had time not only to scan the field but also to wait for a coach on the sideline to tell him via a round of charades whom to pass to before delivering the ball.

We know the Patriots didn’t blitz much. But shouldn’t some of the above players win one-on-one battles to pressure the QB, at least a little? Do we have to spend this season watching opposing passers hang out for several seconds before converting third-and-longs?

Man, we hope not.

Go Fourth And Prosper? Nope. Not really. The whole “go for it on fourth down” thing didn’t work all that well against the Chargers, who seemed well prepared for the possibility. An injury to punter Zoltan Mesko must have figured into the decision, and the possibility of not having him in the hinterland of Buffalo seems ominous.

Your Old Pat Fitzy: In honor of Boston superfan character Paul “Fitzy” Fitzgerald (blog here), we must mention Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has been slinging the ball around like he’s back at Harvard playing against the JVs. It almost makes you want to like Harvard. Almost.

It’s been eight years since Buffalo beat New England. Maybe they can wait a little longer.

Email Chris Warner at [email protected]

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