Patriots @ Bills REPORT CARD
posted at 12/20/2009 7:10 PM EST
Can't get too excited about this one. Sure, the Pats finally won a road game...and losses by the Jets and Dolphins all but clinch the AFC East for the good guys. But, big deal. Its' SB or bust for the Pats.
Wasn't this game eerily similar to the road losses to the Jets, Miami and Denver? In those games, as was the case today, the Pats went off with half-time leads. Then, in the second half of those games, the Patriots' offense was inept, which which allowed the offensively challenged Jets, Dolphins, and Broncos to pull off close wins.
This brand of football is not going to get it done in the playoffs. Here are my less than enthusiatic grades:
This unit was held to just three (3) points by a defense that hasn't been able to stop the run all season long. The poor second half performance allowed the (5-9) Bills to hang around, and nearly send this game into OT.1.) QB:
Maybe Tom Brady is injured...maybe he's distracted by becoming a father for the second time...maybe the cold and wind in Buffalo affected him. But, for the second week in a row, he turned in a rather mechanical, listless performance. Awful interception thrown to Bills' LB Paul Posluszny killed a promising 1st quarter drive. Tom finished with just 11 completions for 115 yards, one TD, the above mentioned pick, and a passer rating of 59.1. Hardly the stuff you expect from a legendary QB:GRADE: D;
Workman like performance from Laurence Maroney, who carried 23 times for 81 yards, and a TD. But, thats' only an average of 3.5 yards per carry. Not much from Kevin Faulk or Sammy Morris, who chipped in with 20 yards more, on 5 carries. Its' hard to run to daylight, when there is no daylight:GRADE: B;
Couldn't get much of a push against one of the worst defenses in the NFL against the run. Too many times, the RBs were hit behind the line of scrimmage. This group has got to get more physical at the point to attack! But, they did do a respectable job in pass protection, as no sacks were allowed. But, there were five QB hits.GRADE: C+;
4.) WRs and TEs:
Lack of a competent #3 WR reared its' ugly head once again. The way that the Pats use their TEs...why not just bring in another offensive lineman? Zero receptions at that position. Randy Moss somewhat silenced his critics with five receptions for 70, including gathering in a 13 yard TD pass. Moss was also interfered with...which constituted a 41 yard penalty, and resulted in the Pats' final TD. Wes Welker was held to just four catches for 40. But his last reception sealed the game. GRADE: GRADE: B-;
Considering that the Pats played this game without their two best defensive linemen, Ty Warren and Vince Wilfolk...and without their offense, which seemingly chose to take the second half off, this group turned in a very good, gutsy performance. 1.) DL:
Mike Wright was outstanding in relief of Vince Wilfolk...finishing with six tackles, five of which were solos, and a sack. Jarvis Green also helped out with five tackles, including two solos. There was a Ron Brace sighting! The big guy chipped in with four tackles, three of which were solos. Though the Bills do not have an explosive offense, they can run the ball effectively, with RBs Fred Jackson (15 carries for 81 yards), and Marshawn Lynch. Nice job by the big guys who, after the Bills initial drive, held these guys in check:GRADE: B+;
As usual, the inside tandem of Jerod Mayo and Gary Guyton was solid. Mayo led the team in tackles with nine including five solos. OLBs Tully Banta-Cain and Derrick Burgess both had big games...combining for twelve tackles (eight solos), and four sacks:GRADE: A;
Had some problems with journeyman QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, who completed 17 passes for 178 yards...and slot receiver Josh Reed, who caught 4 passes for 63 yards. Allowed a completion to Reed on a 4th and 8 late in the fourth quarter, when a break-up would have ended the game. Credit the much maligned Jonathan Wilhite with a pick to end a Bills' first quarter drive, at the Pats 36. His play seemed to swing the momentum the Pats' way.GRADE: B;
C.) SPECIAL TEAMS:
Shanked punt (his second of the day) midway in the 4th quarter by Hanson gave the Bills a chance to come back. Though the Pats' defense stood firm, it put the Pats in horrible field position. After a three and out, Hanson had his next punt returned for 20 yards by Roscoe Parrish. The fine return led to the Bills only TD, two plays later...and cut the Pats' lead to just 17-10.
The Pats have struggled throughout the season returning kickoffs. Same story today, as they had to start their drives in relatively poor field position. Wes Welker did his usual good job returning punts:GRADE: C-;
For whatever reason, the Pats seemed to start out this game a bit flat. After the Wilhite interception, the team seemed to pick up speed, and shot out to a 14-3 half-time lead. But, as they have done in road games throughout the season, the Pats' offense went into hibernation in the second half. Where were the adjustments? Where was the urgency?
I would like to see the Pats become a more physical team...and establish their running attack. That would enable Tom Brady to get out of the shotgun, and run the offense more over center. It might also open up the play-action passing game, which, at one time, Tom was so good at. My guess is that BB would like that too...but doesn't have the personnel to accomplish it.
Laying eggs on the road in the second half will land the Pats on the Florida golf courses come February...rather than in Miami for the SB.GRADE: D;
E.) PLAY OF THE GAME:
The Wilhite pick;
F.) GAME BALLS:
Wright, Tully Banta-Cain, Derrick Burgess, and Jonathan Wilhite.
Here are the game stats: http://espn.go.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=291220002