In a game marred by missed opportunities, rookie mistakes, and turnovers, the New England Patriots had three stellar performances on offense that led to a 23-21 victory over the Buffalo Bills. Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, and Shane Vereen put the team on their backs and were able to make up for an abysmal performance from rookie WR Kenbrell Thompkins. Edelman finished the game with 79 yards and 2 TDs, while Amendola made some impressive acrobatic catches in tight coverage and tallied 104 yards. Shane Vereen took over the role of primary running back after Stevan Ridley was sentenced to Belichick’s doghouse for fumbling the ball twice. The first Ridley fumble was recovered by New England, but the second resulted in the first Bills touchdown of the game. This touchdown ignited the fans and the Bills offense, ultimately leading to the first 4th quarter lead the Bills have had over the Patriots since 2009. Tom Brady was an average 29/52 for 288 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 pick. While his stats aren’t bad, Brady also fumbled the ball on a critical 4th and goal snap at the 1 yard line that could have put the Patriots ahead in the 3rd quarter.
The biggest takeaway from today’s game is that the offense is a huge work-in-progress. For the first time, Kenbrell Thompkins looked like the undrafted rookie he was before the Patriots claimed him. He seemed to be stuck in the college football mindset as he failed to get both feet in bounds after catching a few critical balls, one of them a would-be touchdown. He was also very slow in his cutbacks which led to several missed opportunitites. Other rookie WR Josh Boyce saw 2 targets but no catches all game. TE Zach Sudfeld finished with 1 target, no catches, and was the cause of Brady’s interception. Towards the end of the game and only facing a minor deficit, the Patriots seemingly abandoned the running game and kept the ball in Brady’s hands. This worked for today, but it cannot be a trend of games to come. As we have seen in the past, whenever Brady is forced to throw over 50 times a game, the offense becomes extremely predictable and easier to stop with a solid defense. The Patriots offense struggled against an average defense without its star player, Jairus Byrd, which doesn’t bode well for the future until the rookie receivers progress faster.
On the other side of the ball, Bills QB EJ Manuel looked good for a rookie in his first game, finishing 18/27, 150 yards, and 2 TD’s. His 105.5 passer rating was actually better than Brady’s of 76.4. He made some poor throws, as is to be expected of a rookie, but he made some key plays that should have Bills fans hopeful for the future. If it weren’t for the Bills habitually shooting themselves in the foot all game with penalties (10 for 75 yards), Manuel would have likely led them to a victory.