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Bills Blank Patriots, 16-0

Monday, October 3, 2016 4:28
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The Patriots fell behind early and never recovered, falling to the Bills 16-0. The loss puts them at 3-1, a full-game ahead of the Bills and two games up on the Jets and Dolphins. Up next is the return of Tom Brady for a game in Cleveland against the 0-4 Browns.

You know it’s a rough day at the stadium when the best part of the experience was the popovers you had during the pregame meal at Davio’s. Buffalo scored on its first three drives of the game, and their defense completely shut down the Patriots offense, so those points pretty much stood up.

This game wasn’t exactly the opposite of the 27-0 victory over Houston — that is to say, whereas the other game was all positives, this game was not all negatives. But you don’t get shut out and have much to crow about.

The defense really wasted a half figuring out that Buffalo wanted to target cornerback Logan Ryan. Ryan ended up the undisputed leader in tackles with 17, mostly because he gave up completion after completion after completion in the first half. And most of those passes went for first downs and/or big gains.

But I put this mostly on the defensive coaches. Once they made their halftime adjustments, the Pats held Buffalo to just 3 points. But they took way to long to get help for Ryan and/or have him jam the receivers so he didn’t get spun around as much on double-moves.

Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor had the following breakdowns by half:
1st half, 17 of 22 (77.3%), 165 yards, 1 touchdown, 112.9 QB rating
2nd half, 10 of 17 (58.8%), 81 yards, 0 touchdowns, 71.0 QB rating

Earlier adjustments could have kept the game closer. But of course, a better offensive performance, could have done that, too. Problem was, the offense was anemic and self-destructive all day long.

A good example is near the end of the second quarter. The Patriots had a 3rd-and-1 at the Buffalo eight yard-line, looking for sure like they’d score their first points of the game. But a referee screw up cost them one play, they had a hold on the next play, and on 3rd-and-11, quarterback Jacoby Brissett tried too hard for the first down and fumbled it away to the Bills

Combine that with a missed field goal by Stephen Gostkowski, and a game that should have been a one-score affair (13-6) with 25 minutes left to play was 13-0 instead. And at that point, they had to try longer QB drops and passes, and that just played into the Bills’ hands.

Here are six things that are difficult to believe, but that were the keys to the why the Patriots lost:

1. The first three Buffalo possessions all ended in scores and all were at least 10 plays each. Time of possession in the first half was 19:49 to 10:11 in favor of Buffalo — yikes!

2. Third-down conversion rate for the game: Bills 7-of-15 (47%), Patriots 1-of-12 (8%). Double-yikes!

3. Penalties for the game: Bills 6 for 66 yards, Patriots 9 for 74 yards, and 6 for 40 yards of declined penalties. (Note: yes, the Patriots had as many penalties declined as the Bills had total penalties in the game!)

4. The Patriots actually averaged more yards per play than the Bills (5.3 to 5.2), but they ran only 52 offensive plays to Buffalo’s 73.

5. Two words: missed tackles. The Patriots defensive tackling was atrocious in this game, whether trying to keep the QB in the pocket or attempting to stop a running back from getting a first down. Disappointing.

6. Three of the Patriots top four receivers were running backs (James White, Brandon Bolden, and LeGarrette Blount). That’s not usually a good sign.

The few bright spots in the game:

1. Linebacker Dont’a Hightower returned and saw a decent amount of action. He didn’t look great, but he’s been out for a few weeks and probably needs time to work his way back into the lineup.

2. Same for tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was his old self blocking but needs time to work his way back into game shape for the passing game.

3. The defensive adjustments in the second half worked out very well; they just need to make them quicker next time.

So where does that leave us? 3-1 is where I thought they’d be after the first four games, so it’s not all bad. Some guy named Brady is coming back from suspension next week; maybe that will help right the ship.

Statistical Oddity of the Week: Patriots were shut out at Gillette Stadium for the first time ever. (Trivia question: Name the two other times the Patriots have been shut out under Bill Belichick; answer below.)

Non-Brissett MVP of the Week: not awarded this week.

Weekly Water-cooler Wisdom: “Just glad to get through the suspension at 3-1. Time for Tom Terrific!”

Keep the faith,

- Scott

PS. 3-1!

PPS. Trivia answer:
These same Bills shut out the Patriots 31-0 opening day of the 2003 season (the Lawyer Milloy Bowl). Another division opponent, the Miami Dolphins, shut out the Patriots 21-0 on December 10, 2006.

PPPS. Any thoughts on when the Jets will finally step up and shut out the Patriots?


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