Pats blow a 21 point lead in Buffalo, look ahead to Oakland
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.