Patriots-Bills: What we learned as the Pats locked up the No. 2 seed
The Patriots took care of business against the Bills, and now get a well-deserved week off.
New England beat Buffalo, 34-20, Sunday evening – and it’s a good thing they did. Both Indianapolis and Cincinnati won its games, putting the heat on the Pats to do the same, or be forced to play next Sunday in the wild card round. But none of that matters anymore. Next weekend the Colts will host the Chiefs, the Bengals will host the Chargers, and the Pats will face either the Colts, Chiefs or Bengals the weekend of January 11-12.
The Pats need the rest that they’ll receive next weekend. Brandon Spikes left Sunday’s game with a knee injury and did not return. Logan Mankins dealt with an ankle injury. Devin McCouty (concussion) was inactive. With the Patriots already dealing with plenty of injuries, any extra time to nurse players back to health is welcomed.
With the rain pouring down in Foxboro from start to finish, you just knew that it was going to be a game won – or lost – on the ground. Seeing as the Bills lead the league in rushing attempts going into the game (511) and were second in yards (2,138), they were probably fine with that. But while New England owns a more balanced offense, the Pats too have a strong ground game, and it was on display Sunday. LeGarrette Blount was a man on a mission in this one, finishing the day with 189 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He also was huge on special teams, as his two second-half kickoff returns of 83 and 62 yards led to a Patriots touchdown and field goal, respectively. On the day, he had a whopping 334 all-purpose yards.
The Patriots weren’t their sharpest on Sunday, but the Bills were anything but. Even when the Patriots made mistakes, the Bills were there to give them second chances. That’s what losing teams do. One obvious example is when the Patriots were lined up to kick a field goal on fourth-and-1, up 16-10. Bills DT Marcell Dareus was flagged for encroachment on the play and that gave the Pats a first down. One play later, Tom Brady found Shane Vereen in the end zone. Brady then hit Julian Edelman for the two-point conversion. The Pats received five first downs via penalties on Sunday.
‘D’ impressive late
With the Patriots holding on to a 10-point fourth-quarter lead and the Bills in the Patriots’ red zone looking to score a TD, New England’s D stepped up. Aqib Talib tackled Fred Jackson in the backfield on second-and-10, and on the next play, Rob Ninkovich sacked Thad Lewis to force Buffalo to kick a field goal. New England fell on the ensuing onside kick, scored a few plays later, and that was that.