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Patriots Take AFC East Lead with Strong Second Half Against Buffalo

Photo: Keith Allison - Wikipedia CC

Tom Brady (above) had far and away his best game of the season last week against Buffalo, throwing for 361 yards and 4 touchdowns, and will look to build upon that Thursday against the Jets. Photo: Keith Allison – Wikipedia CC

Looking sharp for the second straight week, the New England Patriots went up to Buffalo on Sunday and took a 37-22 victory over the Bills. The Patriots built off their momentum from the previous week, led by Tom Brady, who had 4 touchdown passes and over 300 yards throwing.

Coming into this game, many people believed that Buffalo would present a tough challenge to the Patriots for the AFC East crown this year. The Bills certainly looked the part in the first half, keeping the score a close 13-7 going into halftime. Many of the storylines that were talked about prior to the game did indeed play a large role in the game. The Bills’ defense held the Patriots to under 75 yards on the ground, with their underrated defensive ends making some crucial plays when they were needed.

However, much credit should be given to the Patriots patchwork line, who lost another starter to injury when Dan Connolly suffered a concussion and had to input two inexperienced guards in Jordan Devey and Josh Kline. They gave Brady enough time to throw, which really showed in the second half when the Pats scored on every possession.

Pass plays to Tim Wright, Brian Tyms, and two to Brandon LaFell resulted in touchdowns for the visitors from New England, with all but Wright’s coming in the second half. What is interesting is that none of these players played for the Patriots last year, but seem to be getting more and more comfortable with Brady and the playbook as each week progresses. Keep an eye out on these receivers in the upcoming weeks, as their progress improves the passing game.

On the defensive side of the ball, there were some ups and downs, much like the offense. Looking like a top-5 defense on some drives, and then giving up long drives resulting in scores, this defense needs to stick to their identity and bunker down on long drives. Buffalo tight end Scott Chandler had routinely gashed the Patriots’ defense in games past, and did the same on Sunday. Every ball he caught seemed to go for a first down, though the Patriots kept him out of the end zone all afternoon.

Bills quarterback Kyle Orton had a decent game statistically, though his play was not as good as the stats led on. More than a third of his passing yards went to Chandler, and many of his yards were picked up on the few long scoring drives. The Patriots secondary managed to pick Orton off once when Jamie Collins stepped in front of a pass, and Chandler Jones had a strip-sack which he recovered. Running back CJ Spiller also had a fumble for the Bills late in the second quarter, which led to a field goal for the Patriots. Both teams played the run very well, which was a concern for the suspect Patriots’ run defense. They held up, however, and forced Orton to make plays through the air.

Overall, this was a solid win for the Patriots. They showed that the path for the AFC East title runs though Foxboro, and that both sides of the ball are starting to find their groove.

One sad aspect of the game was injuries however, and New England lost two starters for the year in the game. Stevan Ridley and Jerod Mayo both went down with knee/lower leg injuries, with Ridley’s injury being confirmed to be an ACL and MCL tear. While no specific report has been made about Mayo’s injury, it is reported that his is a knee injury and that he will be out for the rest of the year. It will be interesting to see how the Patriots move on without these two starters, though we can predict how. Shane Vereen should see more snaps on offense, with Brandon Bolden filling in as a between-the-tackles runner for the most part. On defense, Dont’a Hightower and Jamie Collins should take over the middle, with Deontae Skinner playing the third linebacker spot.

Up next, the Patriots host the New York Jets on a short week tonight in Foxboro. The Jets are currently 1-5, having lost five straight and are reeling. Their quarterback situation is messy, they do not really have a secondary, and their coach has been a Debby Downer this past week. However, the Patriots will certainly not be taking this game lightly. Rex Ryan always comes into New England games scheming, especially now that he is fighting for his job.

This game could very well go much like the game in Buffalo did – a close game early before the Patriots run away with it in the second half. There are too many injuries and not enough skill players on the Jets team for them to win, however, anything is possible. New York should come out emotional and ready for a game, and this looks like a good one. Watch for Brady to exploit a weak New York secondary, while New England’s own gives Geno Smith nightmares. It will be close at the beginning, but expect the Patriots to keep on rolling and win 31-17.

Matt McKay ’16 is a Patriots/NFL Beat Writer for The Hub. He can be contacted at mckaym@emmanuel.edu.

Posted by on October 16, 2014. Filed under Around the Hub,Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.