A Christmas miracle brought the Patriots team together for a remarkable holiday game. The veteran team won 24-12 against the Buffalo Bills and their rookie quarterback. New England’s biggest asset in their victory was the run game. With a variety of athletic players, the first downs were never ending. On the defensive side of the game, the Patriots made their presence known with intense quarterback pressure and close coverage in the Secondary. Overall, they put up a fight worthy of securing a first round bye in the playoffs.
The running back who made the greatest impact on the game was none of than rookie Sony Michel. Michel had 18 carries for 116 yards (his fourth 100+ yard game of the season) and 1 touchdown. He more than tripled the amount of yardage gained by any running back for Buffalo, and doubled that of any other running back on New England. Michel had six first down conversions and continuously fought for extra yardage. The running back’s touchdown was the first of the game and set the tempo for the rest of the team. Michel is a truly valuable asset that New England would be lost without.
The Secondary was the strongest part of New England’s defensive push. The unit as a whole only gave up 1 touchdown, 1 penalty flag, and 3 first down conversions. Multiple players were able to make great pass breaks and force fourth down punts for the Bills. Following New England’s second touchdown of the game, J.C. Jackson intercepted Bill’s quarterback Josh Allen’s first pass of the drive; this was Jackson’s third interception of the season. Later in the game, the Bills ran with the ball and cornerback Jason McCourty forced a fumble that was recovered by the Patriots. Jason McCourty also intercepted a pass in the fourth quarter, destroying Buffalo’s morale. The Secondary played a strong game that we hope to see more of in the playoffs.
Rex Burkhead had an outstanding comeback game after being held silent all season. Burkhead finished the game with 13 rushes for 39 yards, and 4 receptions for 40 yards. While he fumbled the ball once early in the game, he made up for it with crucial first down runs. He helped work the team towards the end zone while making athletic plays. Even though Burkhead didn’t have a crazy, stand-out performance to set him apart from everyone else, his contributions to the consistency of the game can’t be underrated.
Cordarrelle Patterson wrapped up with 4 runs for 66 yards, and 1 catch for 3 yards. All of his plays pushed New England’s momentum in the right direction and gave them first downs that the team may not have completed otherwise. The wide receiver came out during the third quarter due to a knee injury and was deemed questionable. The reason Patterson is on this list is due to the injury scare he gave New England in the third quarter. The He didn’t take questions in the locker room following the game, but he did report that he was good. Patterson is another vital part of the Patriot’s offense that would hurt them to lose.
Kick Return Unit
The kick return unit returned three punts in a row that landed inside the 20 yard line. Cordarrelle Patterson was tripped up on two of the returns, landing once on the 10 yard line and once on the 15 yard line. Sony Michel was given a run but after dropping the ball, he was only able to jog out to the 10 yard line. The remainder of the punt returns were delivered for 25 yards or more, but the punt returners should know when to run the ball out and when to simply take a knee.
The offense did a perfectly fine job in this game. The run game was spectacular and they won the game for New England. Brady was rarely given the opportunity to throw the ball… which is smart, except they can’t rely on the running backs to do all the work. With the team’s best deep threat receiver (Josh Gordon) out for who knows how long, Josh McDaniels should have used this game to experiment with replacements. The Patriots need receivers who can challenge the defense and throw them off balance. With New England’s only consistent threat being their running backs, any team can easily shut them down with force. McDaniels has to find more options for the offense if they want to have any chance at going deep into the playoffs.
The Patriots have one more regular season game against the New York Jets. They should use this game to experiment with receivers and finalize their lineup for each position prior to the playoffs. Brady needs this game to gain more confidence in himself; if he loses faith in himself now, they won’t make it past the first round of the playoffs.
-Caitlyn Allen is a Staff Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media and covers the New England Patriots. Follow her on Twitter @caitlyyyn_allen