Analysis from the first half, with the Patriots leading the Bills 10-3:
The Patriots opened decisively on offense, spreading the field with four receivers. They had only called on the four-receiver package 14 plays this season, but the spread-the-field approach indicates that the Patriots have increasing confidence in Matt Cassel and a feeling they can attack an undermanned Bills secondary. Cassel has also kept plays alive with his feet, which has helped the team’s attack.
Defensively, the Patriots are staying in the base 3-4 on early downs, and they’re mixing their sub packages – sometimes going with a 2 DL/5 LB/4 DB combination, and other times going the more standard route with 2 DL/4 LB/5 DBs. That’s given Trent Edwards some different looks, and the Bills’ quarterback — who entered completing 68 percent of his passes — has been uncharacteristically off the mark on some key throws today.
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski’s 49-yard field goal, missed wide to the left late in the second quarter, could have shifted momentum. But the Bills couldn’t move the chains against a Patriots nickel package. That was a big point in the game because the flow of the game could have tilted in the Bills’ favor.
There are health concerns for the Patriots with Adalius Thomas, who left the game in the second quarter with an arm injury. He’s played 99 percent of the team’s snaps this season, so the Patriots have a sizable void to fill he doesn’t return. That thrusts Pierre Woods into a full-time role in the base 3-4 defense today.
The Patriots get the ball to start the second half. If they avoid turnovers and continue to get off the field on critical third downs, they will have a good chance of coming out with the win. Offensively, they will need to convert more third downs (3 of 7).