Patriots Turn It On In 2nd Half, Blow By Bills
After struggling to find a groove on offense in the first half, the New England Patriots pulled away over the last two quarters of their Week 13 road game against the Buffalo Bills, to win 23-3 Sunday.
Here are some initial post-game thoughts:
Gronk Gets It Going- After a slow first half for the Patriot offense, in which tight end Rob Gronkowski had just two catches for 28 yards, both the Patriots and Gronk took off in the Third quarter. On the team's opening drive of the half, Tom Brady connected with Gronkowski three times for 50 yards, as the Pats powered their way into the end zone for the first time on the day. By the end of the team's second drive of the half, the All-Pro tight end had six total catches for 108 yards, including an impressive, ball stealing catching that he picked right over the head of Buffalo defender Micah Hyde for 30 yards. On the day, Gronk was nearly unstoppable, catching nine of 11 balls thrown his way for 147, for team-highs in both categories.
Possible Suspension- All game long, Gronk was getting held, grabbed, fouled and interfered with, despite receiving no flags in his favor. Though the big tight end has dealt with similar situations throughout his career and seemingly kept his cool, Gronkowski lost it late in the fourth quarter on a sure fire defensive pass interference that went uncalled and led to an interception. After watching cornerback Tre'Davious White, who rode him down the field and pushed off to make the pick, laying on the field with the ball, Gronk inexplicably lined the defensive back up and dropped flopped right on top of him with his elbow leading the way. Gronk was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play and will likely get a suspension for going at White's head and leading him to enter concussion protocol. The decision was one that is completely uncharacteristic of the typically fun-loving, goofy Gronkowski and one that doesn't fly even if he was frustrated with continuous holding and grabbing he had endured throughout the day. While there is no excuse of Gronk's actions, the refs should also be held accountable for allowing the defensive backs to continually get away with hitting the over-sized tight end. No matter who the person is, if he keeps getting assaulted on his routes throughout a game, he's probably going to lash out at some point.
27 Wins- The win marks another milestone for Tom Brady as he notched his 27th career victory over the Buffalo Bills. Coming into the game, Brady was tied with Brett Favre, who beat the Detroit Lions 26 times over his career, for the most wins by a quarterback against a single opponent all-time. Brady now stands alone atop the list, with a 27-3 overall record against Buffalo.
14 Straight- New England has now won 14 straight road games, dating back to last season. The Pats were a perfect 8-0 away from Gillette last year and have gone 6-0 so far this season. They have road games against the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers remaining this regular season.
Dion's Dominance- There might be no brighter spot among the Patriot offense, since the bye week, than dynamic running back Dion Lewis. Over the past few weeks, Lewis has clearly emerged as the team's top back, handling a bulk of the workload out of the backfield. Lewis was dominant Sunday, following up his first career 100-yard effort last week with nearly his second in as many weeks. On the day, Lewis carried the ball 15 times for 92 yards, including a long run of 44 yards. His initial burst of speed combined with both strength and elusiveness made him near impossible for the Bills to contain, all day long, and have him looking like the center point of the offense. While his teammate Rex Burkhead, who is a bit bigger and plays as the power back near the goal line, got the ball into the end zone on both of New England's two scores, Lewis did most of the dirty work getting the team into those scoring opportunities.
O-Line Bounce Back- After a rough first half of play, the Patriot offensive line bounced back nicely in the last two quarters. The New England line allowed Brady to be sacked three times and hit four over the first two quarters, but tightened up in the second half, yielding just one quarterback hit. Brady did use his impressive mobility in the pocket to side step defenders a couple of times, but overall the line was much better at holding their position.
Stingy Defense- The Patriot defense has done maybe the greatest 360 flip in the history of the league, within a season, after starting the season off as a bottom of the barrel unit. Over the past eight games, the Patriots have held opposing offenses to no more than 17 points in any of those contests. While they still typically give up their fair share of yards, they are limiting teams on the scoreboard, which is really all that matters at the end of the day. Sunday, they gave up a measly three points and only 268 total offensive yards.
Gilmore On The Rise- Coming back to his old stomping grounds, many people were interested to see how Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore would fare Sunday, against a team that the Pats would likely utilize a zone defense against. Gilmore, who is on record saying he prefers to play man coverage on one guy during games, showed no ill effects in the zone, however. Instead, the defensive back was making plays all day long, including a pair of pass break ups in the end zone. After a truly tough start to his patriot tenure, Gilmore has started to transform into the guy Pats nation thought they were getting this summer.
Trash or Treasure- The Patriots, for years now, have been turning the trash of other teams into treasures in all phases of their team. There could be no better or more aggresively displayed example of that than defensive end Eric Lee's performance on Sunday. Lee, who was on Buffalo's practice squad until two weeks ago, was picked up off the scrap heap by New England, who needed another guy to work into the mix along the edge. After getting his first game action and recording a sack late in last week's win over Miami, Lee got the start in place of injured starting end Trey Flowers against his former employer. The end proceeded to put on a clinic against Buffalo, recording four total tackles, 1.5 sacks, three QB hits, two passes defensed, a tackle for loss and a red zone interception on the day. Quite the way to show up his former team.
All in all, it was another dominant win for the pats, even though they didn't play a a quality game throughout. Heading into Miami next week, they may be without Gronkowski, but they should be able to fair well without him. This team is just rolling right now. 10-2 and getting better.