Brandon Tate fumble (AP Photo)
The Buffalo Bills almost managed to pull off an amazing upset against division rival Patriots, but fell just short 38-30 last Sunday. Here's a look at hos each team did, on a unit-by-unit basis.
PATRIOTS REPORT CARD VS. BILLS
PASSING OFFENSE: A -- QB Tom Brady has basically been flawless in two out of three games this season. On Sunday, he finished 21-of-27 with 257 yards and three touchdowns and once again helped engineer long scoring drives that kept the Patriots' struggling defense off the field.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- The big highlight was BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who got more playing time in Kevin Faulk's absence and made the most of it with 98 yards and a touchdown. His ability to keep the chains moving helped Brady and the rest of the offense run the clock down in the second half.
PASS DEFENSE: C-minus -- Not quite a "D" based on some key defensive stops in the second half, but not quite good enough either. The bills scored 23 points offensively despite being ranked last in the league in that category entering the game. Darius Butler continues to struggle and Brandon Meriweather looks lost, hence why he hasn't been starting of late.
RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Again, not good enough. Running plays that get past the front seven turn into a disaster because the secondary can't tackle. The Patriots gave up way too many yards on first- and second-down plays and a lot of that came on the ground, which is why it was so easy for the Bills at times to keep the chains moving with third-down conversions.
SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- The Bills didn't do much offensively in the second half, but C.J. Spiller's 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown kept them in the game longer than they should've been. When you have a defense that can barely stop the bleeding, giving up touchdowns on returns is unacceptable.
COACHING: B -- There's little the Patriots can do to fix this defense aside from shuffling personnel, which they've been doing. The good thing is they made the right calls offensively after a week in which they got too trigger-happy with the deep ball. They will, however, need to be more creative with blitz packages because they can't generate pressure from their front four.
BILLS REPORT CARD VS. PATRIOTS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Ryan Fitzpatrick proved he should have been the No. 1 quarterback all along. He passed for 247 yards and also scrambled three times for 18 yards. Fitzpatrick did make some critical mistakes, with two interceptions in the fourth quarter that prevented the Bills from pulling off the upset in New England, but he gave the Bills a chance to win as he produced 23 points on offense. Lee Evans had five catches for 54 yards, but he remains unable to shake double coverage and make big plays downfield. His longest gain was 17 yards. Roscoe Parrish had a 31-yard reception among his five catches for a team-high 83 yards, and Steve Johnson had a 37-yard TD catch. The line allowed only one sack, but Fitzpatrick did face some pressure and needed to escape a few times.
RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- The Bills have turned to Marshawn Lynch as their No. 1 back after he had been considered the No. 3 man for most of the offseason and training camp. Lynch responded with another strong effort as he gained 79 yards on 13 carries. C.J. Spiller was used mostly in the third-down package and he managed 29 yards on four carries, plus caught a 4-yard touchdown pass. Fred Jackson has become the forgotten man, and the only action he saw came primarily in third-down situations because he is the Bills' best back at picking up blitzes. The line blocked pretty well and the Bills averaged 5.6 yards per attempt.
PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Bills were boasting that they had one of the best secondaries in the league, but they haven't looked like it early in the year. For the third game in a row the Bills failed to make an interception, though they finally forced their first turnover, a fumble that was recovered by ballhawk Jairus Byrd. Tom Brady threw for 252 yards and three touchdowns, and he was sacked just once, by Kyle Williams. The Bills broke up just two passes, and they had no answer for New England's two rookie tight ends, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. They combined for nine catches for 108 yards and a TD.
RUSH DEFENSE: F -- The Patriots do not have a No. 1 back, yet they ran for 200 yards for the first time since December of 2008. The Bills were terrible in the run front, though part of the reason was that they played a lot of nickel and dime defense to stop Brady, and Brady took advantage by audibling to run calls. BenJarvus Green-Ellis had 98 yards and a touchdown. The Bills' defensive line did very little, and the linebackers did even less. Andra Davis and Keith Ellison were not strong in the middle of the defense, and the Bills miss Paul Posluszny inside.
SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- C.J. Spiller showed just how explosive he can be. The rookie first-round pick recorded his first kickoff return TD, a 95-yarder in the third quarter. He finished with 189 return yards and a 37-yard average. Rian Lindell made three field goals, but he also had a key miss on a downwind 51-yarder in the third quarter. The kickoff coverage team gave up a 44-yard return to Zoltan Mesko.
COACHING: C -- Chan Gailey had a nice mix of run and pass in the game plan, and Ryan Fitzpatrick executed things pretty well. Gailey took advantage of Fitzpatrick's willingness to throw the ball downfield, though the Bills had only two passes that were completed for longer than 20 yards. One problem, though, was the pace of the offense in the fourth quarter. The Bills should have been no-huddling when they were down 15 points midway through the fourth. On defense, defensive coordinator George Edwards has plenty of problems to sort through. The run defense was terrible, and the pass defense wasn't much better as the Bills gave up 445 yards, 25 first downs and 38 points.
This report courtesy The Sports Xchange
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