Next story: A chat with Bill Maher, who performs at Shea's this Saturday
by Dave Staba
New Bills Splattered By Same Old Patriots
They may have a new coach, quarterback, running back, two-fifths of a new offensive line and a new attitude in all phases of the game.
The Buffalo Bills, however, clearly have not figured out the single most-imposing obstacle to the postseason lo these last 15 years:
The New England Patriots.
Rex Ryan’s Bills looked ready to blast away the indignities of the 21st-century portion of their rivalry, to use the word very loosely, with the widely loathed Patriots—for about six-and-a-half minutes of game time.
In his first start against the Patriots, Tyrod Taylor overcame the entrancing defensive schemes of Bill Belichick to throw for two touchdowns and run for a third in less than a quarter. Unfortunately, that quarter was the fourth.
The span between Buffalo’s strong opening and furious finish, though, provided a rather terrifying football flashback.
After Taylor smartly directed an 11-play, 80-yard drive to Karlos Williams’ 2-yard touchdown run and an early 7-0 lead, and the Buffalo defense forced Tom Brady into a quick three-and-out, the Patriots offered Buffalo its annual in-home demonstration of their physical and strategic (if not moral) superiority.
From that point through Stephen Gostkowski’s 50-yard field goal with 28 seconds left in the third quarter, New England hammered the Bills 37-6. Over that same 37:58 of game time, the perennial AFC East tyrants piled up 407 yards to Buffalo’s 70.
And that doesn’t include the penalties. Oh, the incredibly stupid penalties. But we will get to those later.
The vast majority of New England’s earned yards flowed from, surprise, Brady’s 38-year-old arm. Either unfazed or inspired by the never-ending Deflategate silliness and the accompanying pre-game venom and in-stadium ruckus produced by Bills fans, Brady threw for 466 yards on Sunday. That’s more than any quarterback has compiled against any Buffalo defense in the franchise’s 55-plus seasons. Even that milestone only begins to hint at how good he was Sunday.
He completed 38 of 59 passes to nine different receivers, with four of them (Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Dion Lewis and Aaron Dobson) each grabbing at least six worth 87 yards or more. On the rare occasions Buffalo’s strangely passive secondary managed to keep the coverage tight, Brady simply placed the ball where only his targets could get their hands on it.
The NFL’s best quarterback tore through a defense that mashed his supposed heir apparent, Andrew Luck, a week earlier with such ease that his team ran the ball by design only a dozen times. Not one of those planned carries occurred after New England was up 37-13, a strategic haughtiness that enabled Buffalo’s successful effort to make the 40-32 final far closer than the game itself.
Throwing on every down, and even going for it on fourth-and-one, are not things a team leading by multiple touchdowns does if its coach believes there is any chance of a beaten foe somehow coming all the way back. This is what Bill Belichick—he of the field goal at the two-minute warning when leading by 21 and scores like 56-10 and 52-28—does when he wants to make sure that opponent, particularly when its players and coach have been a little mouthy during the week, fully understands with whom they are dealing.
In the interest of maintaining the positivity that routinely permeates this space, we’re not going to dwell on the myriad ways New England once again proved Belichick’s point. Instead, let’s look at the bright spots Buffalo can carry into the next 14 contests:
TAYLOR FUMBLES ACCURATELY: Aside from throwing three interceptions, the last ending any hope of the unlikeliest comeback imaginable, Buffalo’s new quarterback put the ball on the ground on back-to-back plays in the third quarter. But the first bounced right back to him, while LeSean McCoy picked up the second and advanced it 6 yards. That’s 19 yards more than the Bills netted on their second, third and fourth drives of the game combined.
NO SPECIAL-TEAMER WAS CHARGED WITH A FELONY: Although perhaps the authorities should have gotten involved at some point. Like when both Corey Graham and Duke Williams got flagged for unnecessary roughness AFTER Buffalo surrendered a 28-yard Danny Amendola punt return with the game tied at seven. Two plays later, the Patriots took the lead for good.
Or maybe legal intervention was in order when Aaron Williams (whose miserable day ended when he got carted off in an ambulance after riding Edelman into the end zone on New England’s final touchdown) induced a taunting flag. That’s never good form, but to do so on the extra point after falling behind should be criminal.
THEY DON’T PLAY THOSE GUYS AGAIN UNTIL NOVEMBER 23: If you are going to lose, at least lose to the best. Buffalo’s opponents leading up to their Sunday-nighter at Gillette Stadium: Miami (twice, the first coming this Sunday at 4:25 p.m.), the Giants and Jets, Tennessee, Cincinnati and Jacksonville (in London). None of them are close to the best in anything.
Dave Staba has been writing about the team, among other topics, for local and national publications since 1990. Follow him on artvoice.com and wewantmarangi.blogspot.com.
(NOTE: In the interest of full disclosure and to avoid accusations of self-plagiarization, a couple of items above first appeared on the Twitter at @DavidStaba. I set up the account at the same time wewantmarangi.blogspot.com launched, then almost immediately forgot about it. But I have been looking for a way to share opinions completely stripped of context or nuance with friends, family and total strangers, and the 140-character limit seems ideal.
So you are urged to give a guy a follow (again, that’s @DavidStaba). I will respond in kind and will not fill your feed with updates on my lunch, kids or other personal awesomeness—that’s what Facebook is for.
In the first week since reactivation, the number of followers tripled (from nine to 27). If that pace keeps up, I should get to a million right around Thanksgiving. At which point, if I understand the new-media economy at all, I can retire.)blog comments powered by Disqus
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