Merry Gronk-mas: For the second week in a row, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski gave further proof why he is the most dangerous weapon in the NFL. Tom Brady found Gronkowski five times for 67 yards, a nice encore performance to his dominant role in last week’s win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but it was the first-half touchdown that he threw to Gronkowski that was most impressive of all. Gronkowski snatched Brady’s pass with one hand just before scrambling into the corner of the end zone for a 17-yard score that tied the game at 10. It was the 75th career touchdown connection between Brady and Gronkowski fifth all-time. Without Gronkowski, it’s doubtful that the Patriots could make it out of Pittsburgh with the victory, a point that was made painfully clear during the previous week’s disastrous loss in Miami, where Gronkowski was serving a one-game suspension that came from the last time the Patriots and Bills faced off. It as in Week 13, of course, when Tre'Davious White suffered a late hit at the hands of the tight end in Buffalo. There was no “payback” for Gronk, as some of the Bills had suggested in the days leading up to the game, just further dominance from the best tight end in football.
Put them in the corner: Stephon Gilmore looked nothing like a guy the Patriots gave $65 million to in order to pry him away from Buffalo. Nor did fellow cornerback Malcolm Butler play like a guy ultimately seeking a big payday net offseason. Gilmore and Butler were burned repeatedly on the day; particularly Gilmore by Kelvin Benjamin, who had a touchdown controversially reversed by the refs, and a 35-yard completion in the fourth quarter. The Patriots’ lack of a pass rush doesn’t necessarily help the secondary, but it’s a close certainly that Butler, who has been subpar much of this season, is playing his way out of a deal with New England. Then again, he did force Tyrod Taylor to fumble in the game’s final stages, earning him a bit of a mulligan with the crowd. And even with those slouchy performances, the Patriots defense once again held the Bills to zero offensive touchdowns for the second time in four weeks (Buffalo’s only visit to the end zone occurred on a pick-six). They also, for all intents and purposes, left the Bills hoping that 2018 will finally be the season that they earn their first playoff berth since 1999.
You keep me runnin’: While Brady ended up throwing for 224 yards (and two touchdowns), Sunday was another game during which the New England running game dominated again. Dion Lewis led the way with 129 yards of the Patriots’ 193 rushing yards on the day, getting help from Mike Gillislee (active for the first time in six weeks with the injury to Rex Burkhead), and Brandon Bolden. It originally looked like Buffalo might control the game with its running game, with LeSean McCoy appearing like a workhorse in the early going. The Bills and Pats were tied at 13 headed into the half, this after the long review surrounding the Benjamin catch, and it looked like maybe, maybe, the Bills might have a shot. Of course, remember when it was 9-3 at the half the last time these two faced off? The Patriots pretty much rewrote the script by scoring 24 second-half points. And onto the Jets in the regular season finale.