The opening game of the 2013 season is in the books for the New England Patriots, and oh boy what a game it was. The Pats managed to squeeze out a 23-21 win over the rival Bills, as kicker Stephen Gostkowski nailed a 35 yard field goal with five seconds remaining in the contest to give New England the lead. There was a lot of bad, along with some good, to be found in this game, so here are five rapid reaction takeaways from the Pats win.
1. Offense Still Needs Work
Over this offseason, most of the talk surrounding the New England Patriots had been concerning the change in their offensive personnel. After seeing some of the acquisitions to Tom Brady’s receiving corps, most of ‘Patriots Nation’ was expecting an offense that would produce just as efficiently as last years dominating unit. However that was not the case in today’s game. Brady was limited to throwing to both Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman throughout the game, because rookies Kenbrell Thompkins and Zach Sudfeld could not get on the same page with Brady. Thompkins frequently found himself out of bounds, or not turning towards Brady at the same time that Brady threw the ball at him. This offensive unit relied on Edelman and Amendola to make the majority of their plays (combined 17 catches 183 yards and two touchdowns), and this will have to change if they want to be successful against tougher teams as the season progresses.
2. Ridley’s Fumble Problems Continue
Stevan Ridley is an extremely talented back, and he had a breakout season in 2012. However one problem that continued to surface was his ability (or lack thereof) to hold onto the football. The consensus thought was, if he could fix these fumbling issues, then he could possibly go on to become one of the best tailbacks in the NFL. But these issues continued today against Buffalo. Ridley fumbled in the second quarter of the game, and he did not see the field again. It does not matter how talented of a runner you are, if you can’t hold onto the football, you won’t be playing much with Bill Belichick as your coach.
3. Danny Amendola And Julian Edelman
As I mentioned above, the Patriots offense was reliant on these two guys to get down the field throughout the entire football game, and I was extremely impressed with how Amendola and Edelman played as the game wore on. Amendola shook off an apparent re-aggravation of his groin late in the first half to put on a show in the second. Edelman showed why he nearly replaced Wes Welker early in 2012, with a great performance that included catching both of New England’s touchdowns. Amendola showcased his vaunted quickness and toughness going over the middle, and Edelman continued to impress with his versatility in running routes. Even though New England’s passing offense needs to be improved, I think this duo could become an explosive 1-2 combination as the season moves on.
4. Patriots Defense Mixed Bag
Another unknown aspect of this 2013 Patriots team was how the defense would perform in the regular season. In my opinion we saw a lot of improvement, but we also saw some of the old struggles this unit has had. The front seven contained the explosive C.J Spiller (only 41 yards on 17 carries) but they also allowed the veteran Fred Jackson to amass 67 yards on 13 attempts. At times the front four would penetrate into the backfield, and the linebackers would swoop in and make the play, but then they would come right back and allow a 15 yard gain right up the gut. As for the secondary, I thought it was a mostly positive outcome for them, other than a few miscues between the safeties and the corners they played pretty solid football. The two major negatives I took away from the defense, was how the linebackers covered tight ends and running backs, and the pass rush was non-existent. Jerod Mayo was beat multiple times by tight end Scott Chandler, and both Jackson and Spiller found themselves with open grass in the passing game. Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich did virtually nothing off of the edge, and I am looking forward to seeing why they were so ineffective when I re-watch this contest.
5. New England Stands Up To Adversity Once Again
Despite playing a pretty bad football game, the Patriots still ended up on the winning side of the scoreboard. This was impressive to me because they showed that even on a bad day, they will still fight until the end to come up with the win. We know that Brady will do this, and he demonstrated his clutch ability once again late in the game as he led them on a game winning drive to end the game. But this Pats squad is filled with young players, and they all showed that they won’t back down in the face of adversity, and that is a big reason why they came up on top.