So ends the 15 game Patriots' winning streak over the Buffalo Bills, in a most nauseating fashion. This should have been a blow-out Patriots' win...but New England allowed the Bills to hang around. It cost the Pats big-time, as uncharacteristic mistakes, horrific play in the secondary, and some good old fashioned home-town officiating combined to do them in, 34-31.
Losing this game really hurts, in that it's a divisional loss...and it prevented the Pats from taking full advantage of the Jets losing to the Raiders. As frustrated and angry as I am, I can imagine how BB, his staff, and players feel. I can't wait for when the Pats see the Bills again, in Foxboro.
Here are my grades:I. OFFENSE:
Mistakes marred what would have otherwise been another great performance. When a team's QB throws four (4) interceptions, that's nearly impossible to overcome...especially when one results in a "pick-6".1.) QB:
I'm sure that Tom's Momma once warned her son that there would be days like this. Brady had turned in a virtuoso performance in the first 28 minutes and 55 seconds of the game. But, with the Patriots leading, 21-7 and driving for yet another score, Brady tossed a flat flat-pass to Danny Woodhead, at the Buffalo 13 yard line.. The pass was high and behind Danny...tipped off his hand, and was alertly intercepted by Bills' CB Bryan Scott. It would be the first of four Brady picks. The Bills would capitalize on the mistake, converting it into a FG, in the closing seconds of the first half. As a result, instead of the Pats heading to half-time with at least a 24-7 lead, the score was 21-10...and the Bills had hope.
In the second half, after the "D" had held the Bills to a "3 and out" on their opening drive, Tom threw his second pick. This one came when Brady tried to hit Chad Ochocinco on a mid-range crossing pattern. But, it appeared that Chad ran a "flat" route, which allowed Buffalo CB, Leodis McKelvin, to step in front of Chad, to make the pick. It gave the Bills a short field...as they went 39 yards for a TD, to cut the Pats' lead to 21-17.
To Brady's credit, he dusted himself off, and marched the Pats 83 yards down field, in less than 5 minutes. Unfortunately, this drive stalled at the Bills' 5 yard line. The Pats settled for a FG, and a 24-17 lead.
Following an exchange of punts, and two straight "3 and outs' registered by the "D" against the Bills offense, Brady threw his third pick of the day. This one short-circuited yet another scoring drive, as Buffalo safety George Wilson stepped in front of Rob Gronkowski near the goal-line...giving the Bills the ball at their own 5. There, with considerable assistance from the officials, the Bills marched 95 yards, to tie the game at 24.
This set the stage for pick #4, a Brady pass that deflected off the helmet of a Bills' lineman, into the arms of Buffalo CB Drayton Florence...who returned it 27 yards for the go-ahead TD. Though Tom would bring the Pats' back down the field to tie the game at 31, the Bills had the ball last...and Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to capitalize on the horrid Patriots' secondary, to lead the Bills to the game winning score.
Brady finished with 30 completions in 45 attempts, for 387 yards, and 4 TDs. But, all that was negated by those four (4) picks. Whenever a QB throws that many interceptions...he dooms his team to a loss. Tom threw as many picks today as he did throughout the entire 2010 season:GRADE: F;
There was a Stevan Ridley sighting...and the rookie ran well, finishing with 44 yards in 7 carries. But, Danny Woodhead and BJGE were awful. For whatever reason, Woodhead does not appear to be the same lightning quick guy that we saw last year:GRADE: D;
The "Big Uglies" might have had some trouble dealing with Bills' DTs Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams on running plays, they did an outstanding job of protecting Brady. None of his four interceptions can be labeled as a pressure pick. There were a couple of dubious holding calls, one on Nate Solder which negated a 35 yard Brady to Gronk hook-up...and one on Logan Mankins which killed a drive. But, you certainly can't lay the blame for this debacle at the huge feet of the collective members of this group:GRADE: A-
4.) WRs & TE:
First, the good. Another outstanding game for budding pro-bowl TE, Rob Gronkowski. Gronk hauled in 7 more passes for 109 yards, and two TDs. He also averaged a team high 15.6 yards per catch.
Wes Welker was immense, finishing with an unbelievable 16 catches for 217 yards, and two TDs. He was nearly good enough to salvage the Patriots' cause, despite the mistake ridden play of his QB.
What happened to Deion Branch? Was he hurt? Did he and Brady have a "lovers" quarrel? Why didn't he see any passes?
Chad Ochocincho was awful, again. As mentioned above, he ran what appeared to be a poor route, leading to Tom Brady's second interception. Then, with the Pats' driving for the tying score, a picture perfect Brady bomb clanged off his hands. Fortunately for him and the Patriots, Brady and Wes Welker later bailed him out.
Aaron Hernandez was sorely missed:GRADE: B (but an A+ for Welker and Gronk)
Though the Bills scored 34 points, the "D", considering all the injuries...wasn't all that bad. Two of Buffalo's TDs came directly as a result of two of the four Brady picks. A third TD, on a 95 yard drive, was considerably aided by yet another bogus roughing the passer call on Kyle Love, and an even worse PI call on Sergio Brown...which negated what should have been a drive stopping interception. The "D" was able to register several "3 and outs" in this game, and held the Bills to just four 3rd down conversions, on eleven attempts. 1.) DL:
Had some trouble containing RB Fred Jackson (12 carries, for 74 yards). But, was able to apply some moderate pressure on Ryan Fitzpatrick. Vince Wilfork and Andre Carter played fairly well...but it's clear that a healthy Albert Haynesworth and Greg Ellis are needed to make this unit better:GRADE: C;
: This group had it's share of difficulties in coverage, again. RB Fred Jackson had 5 catches on screens and swing passes for 87 yards. TE David Nelson tallied 6 catches for 84 yards. Jerod Mayo and Brandon Spikes combined for 10 tackles, including 6 solos. As for the OLBs?? Who are these guys?? GRADE: C;
While it's true that the Pats' secondary is riddled with injuries, their alleged top two CBs, Devin McCourty and Leigh Bodden, have got to start doing a better job. These guys were awful. It's one thing to get toasted by the likes of Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson. But, when Stevie Johnson (8 catches for 94 yards) and Donald Jones (5 catches for 101) are consistently getting behind them, beating them deep, that means big trouble.
Kyle Arrington had his moments, with two picks. Josh Brown should have had one, too...but for the aforementioned bogus PI call on Sergio Brown:GRADE: D+; III. SPECIAL TEAMS:
Nothing special...but nothing bad, either. Good job in coverage by the Pats. Great to see Zoltan "The Magnificent" back in action. Julian Edelman had a couple of decent punt returns:GRADE: B;
It's hard to get things going when so many players are out with injuries. As stated above, the defense wasn't as bad as the 34 points scored indicates. But, something needs to be done about the play of CBs Leigh Bodden and Devin McCourty. It's apparent that they can't play in man to man coverage. Too many opposing WRs are getting behind them, and making big plays. Today, both Bodden and McCourty gave up big plays to Donald Jones, after allowing Jones to get behind them. McCourty's poor coverage on Jones set up the Bills' winning score.
BB is paying for his decision to sign Ochocinco. It's becoming clear and he and Tom Brady do not mesh. It's also becoming apparent that, at age 33, his skills are no where near what they once were. With Aaron Hernandez out for a while, Brady needs another reliable target. This begs the question, "Why weren't some plays called to get Deion Branch involved in the offense"? The Pats' passing game went through just two receivers today, Gronk and Welker.
I'm sure that there are some who will blame BB or, more likely, Bill O'Brien for this loss. Folks, a team can have the greatest coaching in the world, and the greatest game plan in the world. But, if talent is lacking, or the players, for whatever reason, don't execute well on game day, the great coaching isn't worth a hill of beans. Today appeared to be one of those days.GRADE: B-
V. PLAY OF THE GAME:
The diving interception by Bills' CB Bryan Scott (Brady's first of four). It stopped a Patriots' scoring draft at the end of the first half, and led to the Bills getting a FG...and the momentum. It was at least a 6 point turn-around. If the Patriots had gone in for a TD, and gone up, 28-7...this game could have disintegrated into a blow-out Patriots' win.VI. PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Bills' RB Fred Jackson rushed for 74 yards, and added 87 more in pass receptions. The Pats had trouble with him all day.
Here are the game stats: http://scores.espn.go.com/nfl/boxscore?gameId=310925002
This loss was extremely hard to swallow. I invite your thoughts and/or opinions.