The New England Patriots didn’t perform to the best of their ability on Sunday, but they pulled things together when it mattered most and walked off the field with a 23-21 victory over the Buffalo Bills. One thing that was impressive about the Patriots victory was the fact that they rose up in the face of adversity, and it’s always good to see a well-executed, game-winning drive. Of course, the alternative is losing, which undoubtedly sits poorly in everyone’s mind. Below are five performances worth noting from Sunday’s game, with three being of the good variety and two being of the not-so-good kind.
1. RB Shane Vereen
Shane Vereen deserves an awful lot of praise for what he did on Sunday,and his impact on that game just cannot be understated. Vereen came into the game fired up (well, based on that tweet he sent in the morning), and he had a very favorable matchup as a wide receiver against a Buffalo Bills defense that just didn’t have the speed to counter that. Vereen took full advantage with seven receptions for 58 yards, but it was what he did on the ground that was even more important. He rose to the call of duty when Stevan Ridley was benched, and he performed extremely well with 101 rushing yards on 14 carries. That’s an incredible stat line, and you don’t see 159 yards of total offense from a running back every day, especially on just 21 touches. Vereen’s a weapon, and it’s a shame that he is going to be out for at least four weeks with a wrist injury. You know what the most insane part of it all is? Shane Vereen played through the entire game with that injury, which is a painful, small broken bone in his wrist; Vereen reportedly put his socks on with just one hand because of the injury.
2. DT Joe Vellano
The New England Patriots have just three defensive tackles on the roster right now, and it’s a good thing that Vince Wilfork and Tommy Kelly are an excellent starting pair and performed at a high level on Sunday. Their backup, UDFA Joe Vellano, did not look good at all in his debut, and the concerns on him (lack of physical tools) came to fruition on Sunday. Vellano simply got no push, and, worst of all, the push that did come came from the Buffalo Bills offensive line. I saw Vellano get pancaked more frequently than I would have liked, and he was getting blocked out of running plays on a regular basis. He’ll improve as the season goes on, but the Patriots depth at DT should be a concern. The Patriots did well to re-sign A.J. Francis, but they should have signed him to the 53-man roster, diverted Josh Kline to the practice squad, and released somebody other than Quentin Sims (yes, they reportedly replaced Sims for Francis) from the practice squad.
3. WR Julian Edelman
Rex Ryan made a classic misstep when he called Julian Edelman a Wes Welker-clone, because Edelman is a different player than either Welker or Danny Amendola. Edelman can play the slot well and will play the slot with Amendola almost certainly out against the New York Jets, but Edelman is best used in a role that showcases his versatility. Not only does Edelman possess the ability to line up inside and outside, but he can also stretch the field deep and run underneath stuff. His rapport with Tom Brady was on display repeatedly in August, and it was crucial in the victory against the Bills. Edelman caught seven of nine passes thrown at him for 79 yards, and that’s a terrific stat line right there. He also caught two touchdown passes and also added a long, 35-yard pick-up through the air. He even set the record for the most career yards per punt return, and it was an extraordinary day for the wide receiver with the most experience with the NewEngland Patriots.
4. WR Danny Amendola
I could have easily broken up Sunday’s “Big Three” by going with a less-heralded option by going with cornerbacks Kyle Arrington or Alfonzo Dennard, but I decided to stick with the mainstream stuff and choose Danny Amendola. He simply had a whale of a ballgame, and I just couldn’t bear the thought of leaving him off the list of three top performers. This guy was on a tear, and I also have a great admiration for somebody who plays through the pain. His ten catches for 104 yards were crucial to the Patriots victory, and he made some highlight-reel catches on that final drive. Four catches on one drive is always impressive, but that’s especially true on a game-winning drive. Amendola made some clutch third-down grabs, and his route-running was insanely impressive. He has the ability to will himself to get that half-step of space with a savvy move or cut, and that’s something that can’t go unpraised.
5. TE Michael Hoomanawanui
Michael Hoomanawanui did an excellent job last year as a blocker, but he’s going to have to do better than what he did on Sunday. Hooman was getting blocked out of plays with ease, and his run blocking left a lot to be desired. There were several strong-side runs in which Hooman simply did not do his job, and defenders had too easy of a time disengaging or simply getting by a TE who couldn’t contain his man. Hooman will bounce back, but there will be more of a focus on him with Rob Gronkowski still likely another week from playing and Zach Sudfeld nursing a hamstring injury. There is no Daniel Fells to fall back on either, so it’s all up to Hooman to be a good blocker and maybe even contribute as a pass-catcher. He simply did not have a good game, but I’ll chalk it up as an off game for him.