Patriots @ Bills First Half Thoughts
As the New England Patriots head to the halftime break of their Week 13 divisional game in Buffalo, leading the Bills 9-3, here are some first half thoughts:
Creating A Turnover- The Pats entered the game with an impressive +9 turnover ratio and, while the Bills opened the afternoon with a long, ball-moving drive in which it looked like they'd open up the scoring, New England was able to add to the positive number. Following 12 plays in which Buffalo moved the ball 66 yards down the field and inside the New England 10-yard line, Patriot defensive tackle Alan Branch was able to bull rush his blocker right back into Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who awkwardly released the ball. The fluttering pass went right into the hands of a waiting Eric Lee, who was signed off of Buffalo's practice squad by the Pats just prior to last week's game, killing Buffalo's drive and keeping them off the scoreboard. Teams that win the turnover battle typically win the game.
Jekyll & Hyde- The New England offensive line has had a Jekyll & Hyde start to the game. As a run-blocking unit, they have had their way with the Buffalo defense, totaling 130 yards on 17 plays. They've continually opened holes for their running backs and have two rushing plays of 30+ yards, thanks to clearing space at the line of scrimmage. In the passing game, however, the line has struggled mightily against the Buffalo front. Their blocking has been unable to neutralize Buffalo's 4-man rush and not given Tom Brady much tim to get comfortable in the pocket. Already, Brady has been sacked three times, two coming off of left guard Joe Thuney who hadn't allowed a sack all season coming into the game, and been hit another four times. The team has only tallied 82 yards through the air on 14 passes and has averaged nearly a full yard less through the air than when the run the ball so far.
Defense Stepping Up- While Brady and the offense have struggled through the first two quarters, they still enter the break with a 6-point lead thanks to solid defensive play. New England has only 212 total yards of offense so far, but the Bills have an even worse 153 yards of offense. Aside from their opening drive, in which New England came away with a red zone interception, the Bills have been unable to gain momentum against the Patriot defense. New England has taken away the pass from somewhat-hobbled quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who hurt his ankle on the opening drive, and has done a good enough job at stopping the run game from breaking off any big plays.
Zero In The Red Zone- The Pats had seemingly broken out of their early season red area struggles, over the past few weeks, but the stingy Buffalo defense has apparently brought them back to light. New England is 0-2 in the red zone so far today, having to settle for field goals on both drives in which they got inside the Buffalo 20. They'll need to find a way in to the end zone in the second half to separate and get themselves another win.
Gostkowski Is Solid- Pats kicker Stephen Gostkowski was solid in the first half, going a perfect 3-3 on field goals opportunities. On a windy day in Buffalo, Gostkowski sent all three of his kicks straight through the uprights with relative ease, connecting from 50, 31 and 39 yards out.