Immediate reactions: Patriots 34, Bills 20
blog by Nick Mendola • December 29, 2013 @ 11:17pm
Each week, reporter or not, I generally would prefer to see the Buffalo Bills win. This is especially true against the New England Patriots, though this week I’ll admit to a certain amount of hesitance.
What if Buffalo snapped their Gillette Stadium curse with Thad Lewis at the helm? What if the backup quarterback from Duke finished the year with two wins over the Dolphins and a Pats win as Buffalo starter, while EJ Manuel bobbed in and out of health and adequacy? How would the next eight months play out, with Lewis/Manuel becoming the latest in a series of Losman/Edwards and Flutie/Johnson debates? Who wants that?
Fortunately, there was a torrential downpour and Lewis continued to be, well, let’s be honest: a lot like Ryan Fitzpatrick. That’s good news if you want to keep him around as a backup quarterback, good news if you want to have a shot at sanity until 2014’s training camp and bad news if you’re Thad Lewis (who I genuinely like).
Onto the football…
—Marcell Dareus did not play in the first half, reportedly another suspension for being late to a team meeting. New England went right after the middle of the defensive line in his absence and gashed Buffalo on several first quarter runs. He’s good. Buy him several hundred alarm clocks.
However, he did have the brain fart of the game if you were looking for late heroics. Buffalo had held New England to a field goal attempt when Dareus jumped offsides. The Pats went bingo a few plays later and many people realized Ryan Miller was working borderline miracles up a few channels. Uncle Teddy magic and such.
—Somewhere, LeGarrette Blount is still running.
He was over 100 yards by the time he danced into the end zone while Jim Leonhard watched on in helpless fashion. The run was right and for 36 yards. Respect to Leonhard: he was the only Bill in sight.
Actually, Blount may still be running. He later made a 83-yard kick return into Buffalo territory right after Buffalo narrowed the score to 16-10. He played so well, 189 yards well, that Bill Belichick gave him a hug. HE MELTED THE GRINCH’S HEART.
—The first quarter field goal fest was anything but entertaining, save for a couple big plays from the Pats and a 24-yard CJ Spiller scamper to the left and out of bounds. Thad Lewis fumbled and went 2 of 5 for 49 yards, though the completions were solid grabs from Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin.
—Sealver Siliga, an undrafted defensive tackle out of Utah, picked up a first half sack for the Patriots, whose thin DL ranks were not as troubled by the Bills as pregame forecasters had hoped. To be fair to the Bills, Siliga has three sacks in as many weeks.
—The decision to sign Scott Chandler is only tricky because of money. Good teammate and decent tight end, but you can’t pay the guy top dollar to completely bungle one pass a game just because he has a knack for getting open… and aren’t we in a climate where someone pays him a ton? A tipped pass off his hands was nearly a Patriots interception on Sunday and memories of Falcon Fumble Fest are still stinging many Bills fans. With due respect to the awful, slick weather in New England…what do you make of him? Someone’s going to pay him too much, right?
—The Lewis to TJ Graham tandem was in full effect, as the inconsistent, flamboyant wide receiver snagged his second touchdown of the season in his best performance since Nov. 17. Graham’s 62 yards were his third-best total of the career (all have come this season).
—Blount’s long kick return leant an aire of inevitability to New England reaching the end zone, and Brady picked out Shane Vereen to restore the Pats’ two-score lead and then Julian Edelman on the 2-point conversion. The Pats had a 24-10 lead with 14:56 to go in the fourth and Bills fans were safely able to switch to Sabres mode.
—If you’re asking… there’s zero problem with kicking a field goal down 10 with 3:36 to play, especially when you’re facing 4th and 16. Dan Carpenter was good, again, and the Bills were in onsides kick country.
—Bills special teams coach Danny Crossman is tight with Doug Marrone, but it’ll take a special friendship of Ronnie Jones’ style closeness to keep him employed. Aside from Carpenter, the unit was brutal.
—The Bills run defense was really, really… really, really… really, really, really bad. The performance hearkened back to so many poor afternoons of seasons past. I like to think there have been some anomalies, but another impact linebacker is on the list of needed improvements (as is Brandon Pettigrew).
Stat-line I liked:
Spiller, 19 carries, 105 yards
— A good finale to a monumentally-disappointing season for Buffalo’s electric running back. Didn’t look right again after his early season ankle injury.
Stat-line I didn’t like:
LeGarrett Blount, 24 carries, 189 yards, 2 TD
— Come on, guuuuyyyyys.
Spiller, Manny Lawson, Stefan Charles
— The Canadian DT picked up a sack while Lawson didn’t have a fantastic game but did grab a pass defenses and six tackles.
Other teams keep playing football because they were better, in some cases barely, than the Bills.
We’re No. 9! We’re No. 9! We’re (drafting) No. 9