Sunday, September 20, 2015

Brady On Fire, Defense Records Eight Sacks And Three Picks In Win Over Bills

Nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills.

That mantra hasn't changed much since ESPN's Chris Berman coined the phrase to describe the comeback capabilities of the Bills, and on Sunday afternoon in Orchard Park, New York, the Bills proved that it still applies - but the one thing conspicuously absent from the equation is that in order for the Buffalo Bills to circle the wagons, they first have to give up huge leads to their opposition.

And that is exactly what the Bills did against the New England Patriots, as they allowed quarterback Tom Brady to throw for 466 yards and three touchdown passes behind a patchwork offensive line, while tight end Rob Gronkowski and running back Dion Lewis each gained more than 100 yards of total offense, then fell just short of what would have been an epic comeback, eventually falling to the world champions by a score of 40-32.

The final score is not indicative of the dominance displayed by the champs for a majority of the game, carrying a 37-13 advantage into the fourth quarter, when Buffalo followed up a 10 play, 80 yard drive by taking advantage of the Patriots turning the ball over on consecutive possessions - once on downs and once on a Brady fumble to give the Bills a short field...

...scoring on drives of just seven and two plays, respectively, to close the gap to just five points with over four minutes left to play, but a Logan Ryan interception stopped the bleeding and secured the victory that left the Bills' fans broken-hearted and boosted the Patriots record to 2-0 on the young season.

The Bills came into the game with a reputation for being a pack of speedy sack artists, licking their chops in anticipation of dominating New England's young interior offensive line, but it was the Patriots' pass rush that came away with a headline-grabbing eight sacks of Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor while the Bills pass rush fell victim to Brady's quick reads and even quicker release, logging just two sacks for the game.

Chandler Jones led the onslaught with three sacks and Jamie Collins followed that up with 2.5 on the afternoon as the Patriots' defense held the Bills to 160 total yards through three quarters - exactly half of that total coming on the first drive of the game - in building a 24 point lead. Outside of that initial drive, the Patriots defense forced Buffalo's offense into five three-and-outs and picked off Taylor twice in that span.

But Buffalo found their legs in the fourth quarter, scoring three touchdowns in ten minutes of game time and found themselves with a slim opportunity to tie the game at the end, but needing to drive 80 yards in 1:15 and working with no time outs before Ryan's first pick of the season ended any hope the Bills had of circling the wagons one last time.

Linebacker Rob Ninkovich and defensive tackle Alan Branch contributed sacks, while Malcolm Butler and Duron Harmon added interceptions to contribute to Buffalo's demise.

One thing that the Bills did consistently well was run the ball, averaging six yards a pop against a porous New England run defense with running back LeSean McCoy doing the majority of the damage on 15 carries for 89 yards, though Taylor boosted the average on five scrambles for 43 yards and a rushing touchdown.

Taylor was generally on target, as his 23 of 30 for 242 yards and three touchdowns will attest and, combined with Buffalo's 160 yards on the ground, they should have had more to show for their day, but three interceptions combined with 14 penalties for an absurd 140 yards were just too much to overcome.
Andrews (60) and the Patriots' line protected Brady well

The Patriots weren't perfect by any means, logging 11 flags themselves for over a hundred yards, losing two fumbles and turning the ball over on downs two different times - and the Bills turned most of those gaffes into points.

Lewis solidified his position as the Patriots' passing back - and lead back for the second straight game despite putting the ball on the ground again - by averaging nearly six yards each on his seven carries and catching six balls for 98 yards, which was second on the team behind tight end Rob Gronkowski's seven carries for 113 yards and a score.

Julian Edelman put in his usual yeoman's effort with 11 receptions for 97 yards and two touchdowns while Aaron Dobson made his presence felt by taking in seven of Brady's offerings for 87 yards.

Initially, it appeared that the Bills had the Patriots figured out, as Taylor and running back LeSean McCoy gouged the Patriots defense for 56 yards on their first drive, capped off by a two yard Karlos Williams run to give Buffalo an early 7-0 lead, then held New England on a three-and-out on their first possession - but just as they did against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Patriots went with three safeties to get eight in the box...

...stopping the Bills with a three-and-out of their own on the next series, Ninkovich's sack forcing a punt. New England scored the first of three consecutive touchdowns on their ensuing possession, Brady hitting Dobson for 17 yards and Gronkowski for 36 before Edelman tied the score with a seven yard touchdown reception.

A Collins sack ruined Buffalo's next possession, forcing the Bills to punt from their own endzone, Danny Amendola returning the ball all the way down to the Buffalo 27, where the first of several personal fouls was assessed on the Bills, setting up Brady at the 14 yard line, then Lewis scoring on a tough run from 6 yards out to give the Patriots a lead they would not relinquish.

Butler's interception just seconds into the second quarter ended yet another ugly Bills' possession and gave the ball to Brady at the Buffalo 30, catches of 16 by Lewis and seven by Dobson preceding an easy pitch and catch between Brady and Gronkowski and a 21-7 New England lead.

Another Jones sack and Lewis' second fumble in as many games came to no harm to either team, but a failed deep pass on 4th and 1 from midfield by the Patriots gave Buffalo a break they needed to climb back into the game, a 39-yard pass interference penalty on Patriots corner Bradley Fletcher contributing greatly to a resultant Bills' touchdown - a nine yard toss to Buffalo tight end Charles Clay closing the gap, but kicker Dan Carpenter missed the extra point wide right to leave the score at 21-13.

A Stephen Gostkowski field goal made the score 24-13 with just over two minutes left in the half, a score that held up thanks to Harmon's second interception of the season that ended a promising Buffalo drive and sent the teams into the locker rooms.

New England's initial drive of the second half stalled at the Buffalo three and Gostkowski salvaged three points out of it to make the score 27-13, but after the next Bills' possession went nowhere, Brady hit Edelman with a 22 yard scoring strike for what would eventually be the game winner - and after Branch and Collins sacked Taylor on consecutive plays to end Buffalo's next possession, Gostkowski hit another trey to give New England a 24 point lead heading into the final frame.

That's when the Buffalo Bills circled the wagons.

Having already been dropped by Collins and Dont'a Hightower for a shared sack on their first possession of the fourth quarter, Taylor found room to pass when escaping the pocket, hitting receiver Robert Woods in the end zone for 32 yards and a touchdown - but only trimming New England's lead by six when their two-point conversion failed.

Another fourth and one from near midfield produced the same doomed play call on the Patriots' next drive as in the first half, Buffalo taking over on downs and driving 59 yards on seven plays, Taylor scoring from seven yards out on a designed quarterback draw, but again only trimming the lead by only six points as another two-point conversion failed and left Buffalo trailing by 12 with five and a half minutes remaining in the game...

...but a strip sack of Brady by Bills' linebacker Jerry Hughes gave the ball right back to Buffalo at midfield, Taylor finding receiver Sammy Watkins for 24 yards on just the second play of the possession, and the extra point made the score 37-32 with over four minutes left in the game, and Buffalo with two time outs.

Gostkowski's fourth field goal of the day increased the Patriots' lead to eight with just over a minute to play in the game, but Ryan intercepted a tipped ball at midfield to preserve the New England victory that became much harder than it should have been.

After the game, Bills' coach Rex Ryan was adamant that he was out-coached by Belichick and that was the reason his team lost, but as noble as it is for him to take one for the team, the simple fact of the matter is that his team's lack of discipline - resulting in the fourteen penalties - and the miscues on special teams that left five points on the field were the actual culprits...

...not to mention that his pass rushers couldn't punch through the crust of the Patriots' offensive line to pressure Brady and that his pass defense had no answer for neither Brady, Gronkowski, Edelman, nor Lewis - while Ryan's offensive line had no solution for the Patriots' pass rush.

Obviously, both teams will need to improve going forward, with the onus being more on Buffalo - not just because this loss drops them a game behind New England in the standings, but also because they have to pick up the pieces and take their act to Miami, where a Dolphins' team coming off a humiliating loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars will be waiting for them...

...the loser of that game likely to be a full two games behind New England as those same Jaguars will be visiting Foxborough next Sunday looking for their second consecutive upset of an AFC East opponent - which isn't likely, unless they can stop a Patriots' offense that has scored 68 points in two games, something that Buffalo's top five defense didn't even come close to doing on Sunday afternoon.

No comments:

Post a Comment