For the first time since 2002, the Buffalo Bills have beaten the New England Patriots. It was a streak of 15 straight losses for the Bills, and the 4th worst losing streak to one team. The Bills hold the record, with 20 straight losses to the Miami Dolphins from 1970-79. It was quite an epic defeat for the Patriots, who were up 21-0 with less than 6 minutes in 2nd quarter. Buffalo finally got on the board with a Steive Johnson touchdown. The Patriots though went back to work, just picking apart the Bills defense. They worked their way into the red zone, and were primed to go up by at least 17 points with under 2 minutes to play in the half. It was then the Brady made a pass to Danny Woodhead in the flat. The pass was a little bit behind him, and Woodhead just got a hand on the pass. The ball deflected up into the air, and was picked off by Buffalo. Fitzpatrick was able to bring his team back down the field and get field goal as the half came to an end. Then came the 2nd half, which was a storm of turnovers by Brady, and it started quick. Brady was picked off on the first possession, not even 2 minutes into the 3rd quarter. From his own 44, Brady just tried to force a pass to the clearly covered Chad Ochocinco. The Bills took the ball back down the field for another touchdown, to pull with 4 points. Brady and company were able to move the ball though on their next possession, getting the ball all the way down to the Bills 6 yard line. Unable to punch it in though, New England would have to settle for a field goal to go up 24-17. The Patriots were poised to tack back control of the game, as early into the 4th quarter, Brady had moved his team to the Buffalo 23 yard line. But again the turnover bug struck, when he clearly under-threw his tight end Rob Gronkowski and was intercepted again by the Bills. Buffalo took the ball down the field for another touchdown to tie the game at 24, all be it with some help from the New England defense. Fitzpatrick was able to move the Bills 95 yards in just 51 seconds. It took 2 plays, but was aided by 2 New England penalties. 1 penalty was for pass interference in the endzone, which negated a Pats interception. On the very next drive for New England, Brady’s string of bad luck continued, as the very first play was a pass the hit a Bills players helmet. The ball deflected into the air, and was intercepted by Buffalo for a touchdown. From down 21-0, the Bills had taken a 31-24 lead. To reiterate, the Bills were outscored in the 1st quarter and early 2nd quarter 21-0, but then outscored the Pats 31-3. That is just a mind boggling number. Brady brought New England back down the field though, and completed two 4th down conversions to Wes Welker, the latter for a touchdown catch. Fitzpatrick now had just 3:25 left to get the Bills into field goal distance. They did it with ease, as the 1st play from scrimmage was a 29 yard pass to Donald Jones. The next play was a screen pass to Fred Jackson, and he went down to the New England 40. After the 2 minute warning, Fitzpatrick hit Jackson again on a short crossing route. Jackson went all the way into the endzone, but after a booth review would be ruled down at the 1 yard line. This worked against New England, as it allowed Buffalo to milk the clock now to set up the game winning field goal attempt. After a couple of kneel downs by Fitzpatrick, with some penalties in between by both teams, Ryan Lindell was set up with a yard field goal to win it. From down 21-0, the Bills came back by outscoring the Pats 34-10, and winning for the first time since 2002, 34-31. Now do you all see what I was talking about when I said that San Diego easily could have won their week 2 matchup if not for those red zone turnovers? Even though the Pats intercepted Fitzpatrick 2 times, Brady had an uncharacteristic day, matching his interception total from last year with 4 in this one game. And the Patriots defense should just how shaky they can be. When you combine the team that is leading the NFL in scoring (Buffalo), with the team allowing the most Points Per Game (New England), bad things are going to happen to that defense. If you attribute this loss to the fact that the likes of Pat Chung or Albert Hanyesworth were out, then you clearly aren’t looking at the big picture. Even when those 2 are on the field, New England is still giving up the most Points Per Game! This game shows the very real problems the Patriots have, centered around their defense, and unbalanced offense. The way this team is set up now, they can not win if Brady has a bad day. Well that doesn’t happen but once or twice a year you might say, except for the fact that the last 3 playoff games (the Giants, Ravens, and Jets) Brady hasn’t played well, and his team has lost to the more balanced team. What is the one thing all three of those teams have in common? Great defense with a great run game to complement an average quarterback. Brady has neither, and he’s one of the best quarterbacks of all time, let alone in the league right now.
New England just can not run the ball, and their defense can not stop anybody. This is not something new either, this has been going on since 2006. That was when we really saw this league convert to a passing oriented league. But before 2006, how many quarterbacks won a Super Bowl purely because they could chuck the ball better than the other guy? Trent Dilfer in 2000 won by managing games, and letting the Ravens defense suffocate opponents. 2001 was Brady, who was very mediocre in that game. How can that be when he won Super Bowl MVP you might ask. Well that comes down to his clutch factor, and what he did on the final drive. Brady threw the ball just 27 times, completing 16 for 145 yards and 1 TD. Brady was helped out by a ground game, which saw Antowain Smith run for 92 yards on 18 carries, and a defense, which held the “Greatest Show on Turf” to just 17 points. St. Louis in fact scored just 3 points in the first 3 quarters of play. This was an offense that had league MVP Kurt Warner (who threw for over 4800 yards that year), Issac Bruce, Tory Holt, and Marshal Falk. 2002 was Brad Johnson and the Tampa Bay defense, which was #1 that year, with Michael Pitman rushing for 124 yards. 2003 and 2004 was Brady again, with the Patriot defense and a balanced ground attack. And last in 2005 we saw Ben Roethlisberger win with Willy Parker and Jerome Bettis running the ball, and the Pittsburgh defense. Even after that 2005 Super Bowl, we saw Addai running the ball for Indy and they had the best run defense that year, and then Jacobs/Bradshaw/Ward in New York with that ferocious pass rush, and Willy Parker/Mewelde Moore in Pittsburgh again with that solid defense, and Pierre Thomas in New Orleans with a defense that led in takeaways, and James Starks in Green Bay with a top 5 defense last year. Even as the league converted to being more pass oriented, it came down to the team with the more balanced attack, and better defense succeeding in the postseason. This is where New England just doesn’t fit in.
A great comparison I heard whilst listening to the radio one day, was that this Patriot team has become like the Dolphins of the 80’s and early 90’s, with Marino at the helm. Neither team ran the ball, or had a defense that could stop you. It came down to just outscoring your opponent. Marino could put up all the stats, and he set all the modern-day records. But none of that mattered when it came playoff time. He lost Super Bowl XIX to the 49ers, because the defense locked down on the passing game, and they couldn’t run the ball to begin with. Add in how Montana and Rice took apart that defense, and you have a blowout. He lost playoff and division games to the Buffalo Bills, because of the balanced attack of Jim Kelley, Andre Reed, and Thurman Thomas along with a stifling defense. This is exactly where Brady finds himself right now. He is no longer called upon to just manage games, and use his talent when they need it. He is called upon to be the entire offense, because their run game and defense are not good enough to back him up. Until those problems are fixed, there is no way this team will be able to win another Super Bowl. It doesn’t matter how many yards Brady is throwing for, if the opponent is matching him. In the case of the 2007 Super Bowl, it doesn’t matter how many touchdowns he’s throwing for. If he can’t hand the ball off to a reliable back to take the heat off, eventually teams will key in against him. That Super Bowl is 100% comparable to the one the Patriots won in 2001 against the Rams. High powered offense, meets a good defense and a balanced offense. Of course there was a little luck involved, with the Samules dropped pick and the Tyree catch. But after all, if you’re the better team, then those mistakes shouldn’t matter. The Patriots still had chances to win that game, and their defense couldn’t seal the deal.
The Patriots will just try to outscore you. They are not a team that can play the ball possession game. This season alone, the league is averaging a 55-45 pass to run ratio. The Patriots are at 65-35 pass to run ratio. We no longer see Brady managing games like he did when he was winning Super Bowls. It used to be that the Patriots would win a game 20-17 with Brady getting them the lead, handing the ball off to grind down the clock, and the defense keeping teams out of the endzone. We no longer see this, and I don’t know why. Winning Super Bowls with a balanced attack, or winning regular season games because you can outscore everybody, which seems more appealing to you?
Now then, on to the next game of the season. The Patriots fly out to Oakland to face the Raiders, who are coming off a come from behind win of their own against the New York Jets. This is a very important game for the Pats, to try to right the ship, and get a win over a team that just beat a division rival. The Raiders are a team centered around the run, and have no names at the wide receiver. So I think this is a much more favorable matchup for New England then the Buffalo game was. Oakland is going to try to beat you by running Darren McFadden down your throat, and the Pats have a banged up secondary that is giving up the most passing yards a game. Compare that to rushing, where they are ranked 10th. Unless this is a result of teams constantly being behind, and not having a chance to run the ball, then I think New England is in good shape. If not, it could be a slice and dice operation by McFadden. The Pats offense should fair much better against the Oakland defense, as I imagine Brady is going to be working overtime so as not to make the same mistakes he did last week against Buffalo. No Nnamdi Asomugha in the Raiders secondary either, just spells trouble for that Raiders team. I’m looking for a blowout, 38-10 New England.
New England is off to a good start, beating division rival Miami, and now possible playoff opponent San Diego. It was a close game, that San Diego just whittled away. The Chargers easily could have won that game last week, but they self-destructed in the red-zone, along with big plays by the New England defense. On 4th and goal in the 2nd quarter, San Diego elected to go for it on the Pats 1 yard line, down by 3. This was the equivalent to Miami last week, down 7, when they took the field goal. The Chargers said, well Brady’s gonna score anyways, why not score and take the lead instead of tying the game. Mike Tolbert was stuffed trying to go off the right tackle, and Brady took the Patriots right down the field 99 yards for a touchdown. A Vince Wilfork interception in the red zone resulted in another Patriots score, and a late fumble by Mike Tolbert sealed their fate. So while the game never really was in jeopardy, it was a few mistakes away from being a loss for New England. It was definitely closer than the final score indicates, and closer than I thought the game would be. Now we look ahead to the Buffalo Bills, for another big division matchup, over in Buffalo.
Buffalo is a new team this year, now 2-0, and will not be an easy win anymore. Remember back to 2009. Brady was back from his knee injury, and everyone was looking forward to another 2007. Week 1 against Buffalo, in New England, the Bills took an 11 point lead into the final 5:25 of the game. After an 82 yard drive by Brady, the ensuing kickoff was taken out of the endzone and fumbled by Ledois McKelvin. Pats went on to score, and win the game 25-24.
So here we are, 2 years later, and the Bills are a much better team. They have a great threat at Wide Receiver in Stevie Johnson, Fred Jackson is one of the most productive and underrated players in the NFL, and Ryan Fitzpatrick can win games. While the team on paper isn’t that frightening, they will compete each and every week. It really comes down to whether or not the Pats defense can make stops like they did in weeks 1 and 2. The answer I think, is no they can’t. This game will be a shootout, with the Bills going to Stevie Johnson at least a dozen times. So look for McCourtey to get a lot of work on Sunday. The Pats defense did a great job coming up with clutch stops against San Diego last week, and this week will be a better test of that defense. A road game, in a very hostile environment, against a team that is literally dying to beat you. Brady and the Pats offense will do their thing, but we’ve seen the past 2 weeks that they can be stopped. Aaron Hernandez will be out for this week, and possibly the next 5 weeks with an MCL sprain. This could prove to be a huge loss, as he takes up a good portion of the field while corners are too small and linebackers to slow to cover him. Just 1 or 2 crucial stops by the Bills defense should help them get past New England this week, in a 38-34 victory.
Week 1 Post-Game Breakdown:
Week 1 is in the books, and the Patriots are off to a good start. New England took an important division game down in Miami, against a Dolphin team that is trying to make the jump past mediocrity. Brady had a historic night, throwing for 517 yards. It was a tough 1st half for New England, as they were held to just 14 points. But the Miami offense stuttered after scoring an opening drive touchdown. It was the 2nd half where the Pats started to pull away, and that was mainly due to the no huddle offense being run by Brady. Starting cornerback Vontae Davis missed most of the 2nd half due to cramping up, and starting cornerback Sean Smith was out later in the game due to cramping as well. Brady took advantage of these 2 being out, and tore apart the backup corners. It was a tightly contested game, but the Patriots were able to pull away in the end, winning 38-24.
While Brady did throw for 517 yards, how important is that really? Yes it’s an impressive stat, but does it really show us anything? The answer is quite obviously, no. The NFL is now a passing league, I don’t think anyone would argue that. Throwing for over 300 yards is not as rare as it used to be. Week 1 in the NFL, 15 quarterbacks threw for over 300 yards, with 4 of them throwing for over 400 yards. Tom Brady, Chad Henne, Cam Newton, and Drew Brees were over 400, while Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mark Sanchez, Kevin Kolb, Rex Grossman, Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Phillip Rivers, Jay Cutler, and Kyle Orton all threw for over 300 yards. These quarterbacks were 9-6 in their games, so not a big difference in the win column. When looking at the 4 quarterbacks over 400 yards, 3 of them lost. Look at the Pats-Dolphins game, it was only decided by 14 points. And if Miami was able to tie the game with a touchdown in the 3rd quarter, instead of settling for a field goal, things could have turned out differently. Also remember, that 99 of those 517 came on one play for Brady. Compare that to Joe Flacco and the Baltimore Ravens, who flat-out dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers from the 1st play from scrimmage. Yet Flacco only threw for 215 yards. So all those yards Brady had mean nothing, if the team around him isn’t able to produce as well. If the Patriot defense was able to get a couple turnovers, then it would have changed the complexion of the game. What we also saw in that Ravens game was the effectiveness of Ray Rice. While the Patriots don’t have an elite running back the caliber of Rice, it just goes to show how important running the ball can be. The Pats like to use the old 49ers philosophy, of using short passes to open up the passing game. But Brady was throwing the ball down the field all night, and those 517 yards are a testament to that. For New England to be at its most effective, Brady will need to throw those short passes. Doing this will open up the deep ball much more, and it will chew up clock time. If Brady can keep the ball in his hands, and away from the opposition, you’ll see that defense come up with big stops more consistently, and the Patriots will start outscoring people by large margins.
Week 2 Preview:
New England has their home opener Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. San Diego comes in off a late win against the Minnesota Vikings. It was a poor performance by San Diego, considering they were down 17-7 at one point, while Viking quarterback Donavan McNabb threw for only 39 yards. How San Diego didn’t run away with this game amazes me. They ended up coming from behind to win 24-17. San Diego still has Phillip Rivers, Antonio Gates, and Vincent Jackson, and a tremendous defense, but they don’t scare me at all. I feel like San Diego is on the decline, and last year was just the beginning. They missed the playoffs, in a division they have owned for the past 7 years. Vincent Jackson is a good receiver, but there is no one around him. Antonio Gates is the best tight end in the game, but injuries last year kept him out at the end of the year. Ryan Matthews at running back has not lived up to the expectations of replacing L.T. The offense is hurting, and I don’t see the defense being able to bail them out this week. New England should handle San Diego week 2, and I see them winning 35-14.