ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Five parting thoughts as I attempt to leave Buffalo at some point today:
- Wrote about the second-half offensive explosion for the paper. When a team plays that well, it usually starts with terrific execution – and the Patriots got that – but I thought there were a few slight adjustments. Namely, I liked how Josh McDaniels elected to put Tom Brady in shotgun to start the first five drives. He didn’t do that at all in the first half. I thought that started those drives on the right foot with Brady back in the familiar shotgun/empty sets, got the Patriots in an offensive mentality and put the Bills on their heels. A couple players told me Brady was in charge more in the second half. Not sure how that differs from the normal method of operation, because he has a lot of freedom built into the plays. I also like how the Patriots stayed committed to the run. If you can’t run against six defensive back packages, you’ve got problems. The Bills started the first play in their base defense, and then didn’t put MLB Kelvin Sheppard or SLB Alvin Moats on the field again until late in the fourth quarter. Make you also give it up for the offensive line, which was terrific in the run and pass game in a game some feared it would be exposed.
- The argument could be made that the goal-line forced fumble by Brandon Spikes before halftime was a season-changer, but I’m not sure that I fully agree. Even if the Patriots got down 28-7, I still think they could have exploded like they did and won going away. But, boy, that was some kind of play by Spikes. It woke everybody up. Not to mention his second forced fumble in the fourth quarter, which resulted in a touchdown. There’s no question that Spikes can be an impact player, but he can’t be considered a good player until he plays with more consistency. You can’t disappear for two-straight games like he did against Arizona and Baltimore (after a great game at Tennessee) and be considered a top-flight player. Does Spikes want to be a one-hit wonder, or does he want to be a good player? The Patriots need him to be a good player on a consistent basis.
- Thought the cornerbacks did a terrific job in this gave after some early shaky moments at playing the type of tight coverage needed to throw Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick off his game. Devin McCourty did a terrific job and continued his strong early-season showings (sorry, but this is true). The Patriots, with Tavon Wilson in his money role, really clamped down on TE Scott Chandler after his quick start. That affected Fitzpatrick. Stevie Johnson caught just two of his 10 targeted passes. That’s great work.
- That being said, the Patriots’ safety play was again atrocious in Buffalo (what is it about this place?). Bad angles, bad reads, bad tackling, bad coverage….just bad for far too long in his game. Thought Patrick Chung had a really rough game, but it was interesting that after Donald Jones’ 86-yard touchdown where Chung took a bad angle and Steve Gregory provided zero last-line defense, that it was Gregory that was sent to the bench for Tavon Wilson. It appeared like Gregory only played in the dime package after that. Wilson played 34 of 69 snaps while Gregory had 49. Not sure if Gregory had an injury that had to be managed – he had a quad issue in the preseason – but in my opinion, the coaches have been looking for an excuse to play Wilson more. He could be headed for a starters’ role.
- After a rough game in Baltimore, it appeared as if the run defense was back to doing a solid job with their gap assignments and they did a terrific job against Fred Jackson (13 carries, 29 yards). If Chan Gailey had to do it all over again, he probably would have played Tashard Choice (two carries, 14 yards late) more over injured C.J. Spiller (8 for 33). He seemed to play cautious with the shoulder injury.