Rex Ryan and the Bills approached playing the Patriots the second time around much differently than they did in Week 2.
Buffalo and their outspoken coach were relatively silent over the course of the week, and the focus on the game showed on the field on Monday.
The Pats were held to just 20 points on Monday Night. Their lowest output of the season offensively.
Luckily, the defense stepped up and delivered another solid performance. Coupled with a few big misses by Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Let’s take a look at what went wrong offensively, and how the defense got the Pats to 10-0:
Offensive Line: By now you have heard many a times how awful the Patriots offensive line was on Monday night. What’s worrisome about Monday night’s performance was the amount of pressures the O-Line gave up just by getting beat in one-on-one situations. The Bills deserve a lot of credit for disguising the rush and dialing up some different blitzes that had Tom Brady guessing on protections. It isn’t the offensive lines responsibility to read the defense and change the protection based on what they see, that’s on the quarterback. If the Patriots want to continue to be the high-powered offense that they have been thus far this season, they need a better effort from the group upfront. Marcus Cannon, in particular, had a rough performance in this one. In all, Brady was hit 13 times, just an unacceptable number for any quarterback.
Wide Receivers: When both Aaron Dobson and Danny Amendola went down in Monday’s game, the broadcast quickly became about the lack of weapons around Tom Brady, especially at the wide receiver position. The O-Line was woeful, but it was also clear that the Patriots receivers weren’t getting any separation from the Bills defensive backs. Brady had to get rid of the ball quickly, and there just weren’t enough opportunities being made by his receivers down field. Having said that, with the news that Danny Amendola’s knee injury is minor, I still think they have enough pass catchers to get by. Gronk, Amendola, and LaFell should be enough for Tom Brady to move the offense.
Credit to Buffalo: The Patriots had their worst offensive performance of the season on Monday, and the biggest reason for that (yes, even bigger than injuries) was the gameplan and execution by the Bills defense. You have to tip your cap to Rex Ryan. He had about as good of a gameplan against this Patriots offense as you can draw up. It was obvious that the Bills liked their chances with their outside corners vs the Patriots WRs, and for good reason. The Bills devoted multiple defenders to Gronkowski when he lined up as an in-line tight end. When Gronk went outside, he mostly drew the Bills best CB Ronald Darby. The Bills also did a great job of disguising who was rushing the passer and who was dropping into coverage. It forced Brady and the O-Line to react to the Bills defense instead of diagnosing the play call pre-snap. If it wasn’t for a few busted coverages and Tom Brady’s efficiency against the blitz (7-10 for 128 yards, TD) the Patriots never would have put up 20 points. That’s about as good as you can play this Patriots offense.
Run Defense: One of the keys to this game was if the Patriots defense could slow down the Bills rushing attack (ranked 2nd entering Week 11). The Pats held LeSean McCoy, Karlos Williams, and mobile QB Tyrod Taylor to just 94 yards on the ground. How did they do it? By two-gapping in the 3-4, setting the edge, and limiting the cutback lanes for Shady McCoy. McCoy is a tremendous running back, who likes to set up the defense for bigger runs by cutting back just when you think you have him stopped. The Pats defensive line deserves a lot of credit for holding up the Bills O-Line and playing discipline run defense.
Tyrod Taylor: In reality, the Bills lost this game because Tyrod Taylor couldn’t make the necessary throws to beat a team as good as the Pats. Taylor had good success throwing the deep ball in the first few games of the season, but has really regressed in that area as of late. Taylor was 4-9 for 107 yards on deep passes. The stats aren’t awful, but he under threw a number of open receivers, which cost the Bills at least a touchdown. He did connect on a few nice deep balls to WR Chris Hogan, and threw a nice pass to Shady McCoy that was broken up by Devin McCourty on a great play. Where this really hurts the Bills offense is its effect on second year receiver Sammy Watkins. Over the last two weeks, Watkins has been open deep a number of times and Taylor has flat out just missed the throw.
Jerod Mayo: There have been a lot of questions about Mayo’s role in this defense and his lack of playing time. This was one of Mayo’s best performances this season. Mayo played in just 16 defensive snaps, but recorded five tackles and one run stuff. The Pats have opted to play Jonathan Freeny over Mayo in Jamie Collins’ absence. The lack of snaps for Mayo has a lot to do with the team easing him back into games after suffering two significant injuries in the last two seasons. In an ideal world, Mayo would be the third linebacker on the depth chart behind Hightower and Collins.