After being stuck in a truck after a snowstorm for three hours yesterday after the Pats game, I can finally get at my computer. For those who may have missed it, the Patriots beat the Bills yesterday 17-10 in Buffalo for their first true road win of the season. It was not a pretty game, however, if you’re a Pats fan. The first half of football was OK, but the second half was horrid, at least offensively. The silver lining was the defensive play was downright impressive, considering the team was without Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork. Of course, the caveat to that is teh fact that they played the Buffalo Bills, hardly an offensive powerhouse.
The offense seems to be in a kind of rut the likes we haven’t seen since early 2001. Part poor play calling, part poor execution, the offense fell back to its pre-Panthers game performance in the second half. After scoring a field goal early in the third quarter, the offense managed just one additional first down the entire second half. That first down was, however, the game clincher that allowed Brady to sit on the ball at the end of the game. Still, one has to ask- “What’s going on in the second half?” The plays were downright predictable: run, stretch run, down-the-field pass. Laurence Maroney was very successful in the first half running up the middle against the worst-ranked rushing defense in the NFL. In the second half, the team switched to more stretch plays that got stuffed in the backfield. Passes were getting forced into double-coverage, be it Randy Moss or Wes Welker (or even Sam Aiken). Sam Aiken is OK, but a reliable third receiver he is not. With Joey Galloway never panning out, dare I say that maybe losing Jabar Gaffney was a greater loss than Richard Seymour?
But a win is a win…right?
With the Pats one win next week away from clinching the division, do you really have confidence that they can do some damage in January? Last season, with a lesser quarterback, the Patriots were surging as December rolled around and had they made the playoffs, I think they could have done some real damage. Right now, to say they’re limping in would be generous. What’s the difference? Well, the QB is different, but would you rather have Matt Cassell right now over Tom Brady? Thought not. Hmmmm….what’s missing….Wait! Who was calling plays last year? Wasn’t it that guy who’s in charge of Denver right now, the same Denver team that beat the Patriots with a lesser QB? Ahh, yes, Josh McDaniels was in charge and was a great play caller and game planner. I wonder if Bill O’Brien has inspired enough confidence from Bill Belichick to hang onto his job after the season is over, especially with old friend Charlie Weiss available. But I digress.
Again, the bright spot was the defense. After getting run over during Buffalo’s first drive that resulted in 3 points, rookie Ron Brace, filling in for Wilfork, settled in and the team played pretty well. They also employed a rather unique defensive formation: no down linemen, 5 linebackers, and 6 defensive backs. The linebackers were walking around, back and forth, confusing the offense, and Buffalo didn’t know who was coming and who was dropping back into coverage. The question I asked during the game was, “Where has this been all year?” Maybe it was in response to the injuries on the defensive line, but it was effective. The Patriots got their best pass rush going of the season, totaling 6 sacks. Perhaps this defensive trickery will be a sign of things to come down the stretch.
Well a win is a win, I suppose. The Pats are one step closer to the postseason, and then who knows? Tomorrow, I’ll look specifically at my likes and dislikes from the Buffalo game.