Well, my nails are gone. What a way to start the season. An edge of your seat, down to the wire 23-21 game is just what we all wanted in the season opener against the Bills, right? Well, not exactly. But in the NFL a win is a win and the Patriots now stand at 1-0 after their thrilling finish against the Buffalo Bills. Here are some rapid reactions to the Patriots win:
1. Danny Amendola is officially Tom Brady’s new security blanket
After the first half, we wondered if Danny Amendola would make it back on the field for the second half. Not only did he make it on the field, he made clutch catch after clutch catch and was crucial in getting the Patriots into field goal range on the game winning drive. Pretty amazing for a guy who looked to have a seriously tight hamstring at the half. If Brady and Amendola keep this up throughout the season people in New England won’t be talking much about Wes Welker.
2. Lots of work to do with rookies
While Danny Amendola and Tom Brady looked as if they had been playing football together since grade school, the Patriots rookie pass catchers had a rough day. As much as Tom Brady and Kenbrell Thompkins appeared to be on the same page in preseason, it is clear there is a lot of work to do for Josh McDaniels and the Patriots offense. Thompkins made a number of classic rookie mistakes like not getting both feet in on a sideline route and just poor route running in general. Some of these mistakes came at big moments in the game and the Patriots simply can’t afford this going forward. It will be interesting to see how Thompkins’ performance might affect his playing time against the Jets and if this means more snaps for Aaron Dobson (if he’s healthy) and Josh Boyce.
3. Big day for Edelman, Vereen
Julian Edelman is going to be on the field a lot if the Patriots offensive rookies have another game like they did today. He may be featured more, regardless, as he had a huge day with two touchdown receptions. His familiarity with the playbook and Tom Brady’s comfort level with him will go a long way to helping him secure a prominent role in the Patriots offense.
Shane Vereen rushed for more than 100 yards for the first time in his career and picked up some of that yardage at the most crucial times. His run late in the fourth quarter set up Stephen Gostkowski’s go-ahead field goal and came at a time when it really looked like Amendola was the only one that could catch a pass from Tom Brady. Vereen excelled not just as a pass catcher (7 catches for 58 yards), but also in carrying the football (14 carries for 101 yards). Of course, a lot of Vereen’s carries came at the expense of Stevan Ridley. If Vereen can show an ability to carry the football for consistent yardage, Ridley is in trouble.
4. What will become of Stevan Ridley
Stevan Ridley didn’t so much as sniff the field after his fumble was returned for a Bills touchdown. Ridley was already on thin ice with his coaches for some big fumbles earlier in his career, including in last year’s AFC Championship Game. It’s a serious question whether the Patriots can trust him to continue to carry the football as much as he did last season given his propensity to put it on the ground. It’s likely he will be featured again in the Patriots offense, but if he has another game like this his future in New England will be in serious doubt.