46 degrees / sunny, wind gusts up to 20mph
- Play Calling: At the beginning of the the 3rd quarter, head coach Sean McDermott had the Bills in the game, trailing only 9-3. The Patriots received the ball, and faced a 3rd & 11 on their own 29 with just over 13 minutes to go in the quarter. If the Bills could force the Patriots off the field, the Bills would get the ball with a chance to take their first lead of the game. Up to this point, McDermott’s defense largely played coverage and rushed only 3 or 4, but on this particular down, McDermott gambled and dialed up what appeared to be a “0” blitz. We can understand why he did this – sometimes you just feel like being greedy – but it turned out to have bad consequences. QB Tom Brady burned the call for a 19 yard completion to TE Rob Gronkowski and a first down. The Patriots wouldn’t face another 3rd down on the drive on their way to scoring a TD and taking a 16-3 lead.
- Personnel: LB Eric Lee was a critical player for the Patriots in this game as he picked off Bills QB Tyrod Taylor at the goal line on the game’s opening drive. A little over a week ago, Lee was on the Bills’ practice squad – which means he didn’t even suit up for games. Good coaching by the Patriots and head coach Bill Belichick made him useful on this day.
- Game Planning: Even though he lost by 20 points, McDermott’s game plan actually was working pretty well. Defensively, he wanted the Patriots to have to earn their yards – he rarely blitzed, and largely tried to keep everything in front of him. This had the effect of slowing the game down. He also wanted to take away the Patriots wide receivers and force balls to the backs and tight ends. McDermott has a talent deficit on his roster, but to manage it to only a 9-3 deficit in the first half was good game planning in our book.
- In-Game Adjustments: While McDermott’s defensive game plan was fairly effective for a good portion of the game, he didn’t show many adjustments on offense. The Patriots’ run defense in this game wasn’t up to their usual standard, and we felt the Bills’ could have exploited this a bit more. They were on the right track by trying QB Joe Webb on a couple of wildcat plays – one resulted in a nice run by Webb and another resulted in an incompletion by Webb, but a play was there to be made. The Bills, however, seemed only to have those 2 plays designed for Webb, and they didn’t seem to want to adjust to using him a bit more.
- Clock Management: McDermott had a bad challenge in the first half that resulted in burning a time out. On another key play, the Patriots were leading 16-3 at 2:25 in the 3rd quarter and faced a 3rd & 10 on the Bills’ 33. The Patriots threw short to RB James White, who caught the ball and appeared to be short of the first down. A 4th down would have forced the Patriots to make a decision on a 40 yard FG on a blustery day – in short, at best a 19-3 lead with more than a quarter left. We felt McDermott should have challenged the spot – they’re hard to win, but on this play, there was a good replay angle. McDermott didn’t, the Patriots quick snapped, and ultimately drove in for a TD and a 23-3 lead, and effectively, the victory.
- What We Liked: The Patriots’ patience. They’re a team that is expert at adjusting to whatever you give them, and they are confident enough in their execution that they’ll take it and be patient with it. They didn’t score 30+ in this game because the Bills took away the deep balls, but the game still was over by the 4th quarter.
- What We Didn’t Like: The Bills lack an offensive identity. We simply can’t figure out what they want to do.