After a shaky start last Sunday, the Patriots were able to pull themselves together and devour the Bills with a 37-16 win. The entire team contributed to this win, with a few mishaps here and there. The team is shaping up just in time for the playoffs.
Running back Dion Lewis had yet another stellar game, this time with a few personal records. Lewis ran for a career-high 129 yards on only 24 carries (also a personal best) with 1 touchdown. On top of that, he had 5 receptions for 24 yards and 1 more touchdown. Lewis happened to have the last two touchdowns of the game, therefore closing out Buffalo. As the end of the regular season comes closer, it can be said with authority that Lewis is one of the most consistent players on Patriots team.
Rob Gronkowski is putting his gameplay into overdrive as the playoffs grow nearer. Gronkowski finished the game with 5 receptions for 67 yards and his most impressive touchdown catch of the season. Throughout the entirety of the game, whenever the Gronk was targeted, there were automatically anywhere from 2-6 defensive players ready to take him down upon completion. However, halfway through the second quarter, Brady found Gronkowski by the edge of the left pylon, going one on one against Buffalo’s Micah Hyde. Brady saw the matchup and knew where to place the ball. The tight end turned around just in time to make a quick one-handed catch for a touchdown. More catches similar to this are sure to come.
An argument in regards to whether Malcolm Butler played well or poorly could go either way. In fact, his performance was similar to that of the defensive line, overall. However, Butler’s name appears more frequently on the down list, so he needs this. The cornerback ended the night with 3 tackles, 1 sack for 13 yards, 1 pass defended, and 1 forced fumble. Butler’s third-down sack and forced fumble led to the Patriots’ final touchdown of the game and saved New England from a potential Buffalo comeback. The Secondary in general still has a lot to improve on, but it’s the small victories that matter.
Without a doubt, the defensive line exceeded its previous performance against Pittsburgh in the game against Buffalo. On the other hand, this improvement came gradually throughout the course of the game. The line needs to be efficient and sturdy from game start to game finish. Otherwise, the Patriots offense will never be able to keep up. Much like Malcolm Butler’s play, even though it was inconsistent, the line had some very athletic moments. In total, the Bills quarterback was sacked 6 times for 39 total lost yards with another 9 quarterback hits. Improvement is underway!
Stephon Gilmore was beaten on 5 of 7 runs for a total of 70 yards. Even though Gilmore went up against Kelvin Benjamin, a 6′ 5″ wide receiver, his coverage was simply terrible. On a single play, the cornerback was burned by Benjamin for 35 yards. Throughout this season, Gilmore’s coverage has been inconsistent. He has some very athletic moments, but he also makes a lot of big mistakes.
These mistakes need to be non-existent from here on out.
Tom Brady started out the game much like the defensive line. His game began badly; he missed multiple open wide receivers. Slowly, he warmed up to the pressure of the game and delivered like he would on any other day. Overall, he was 21 of 28 in completed passes for 224 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. Sorry, I meant 1 pick six. The last time Brady threw a pick-six was in last season’s Super Bowl. The quarterback had an overall slightly below average night. Hopefully, his pace will pick up starting next week.
As a result of New England’s win, they have clinched a first-round bye in the playoffs. Next Sunday’s game against the Jets will determine if the Patriots get home field advantage in the second round of the playoffs.
** Could go on three up or three down. It’s a gray area.
–Caitlyn Allen is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. She covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @caitlyyyn_allen