Here are this weeks New England Patriots game grades:
Passing Offense: C-
Not much went right for the Patriots’ passing attack on Sunday, but we shouldn’t read too much into it as we head towards the playoffs. New England’s two best weapons were out in Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, and arguably their two best lineman were also inactive, as Sebastian Vollmer and Dan Connolly sat this one out.
Tom Brady was under duress early and often, and without his top weapons, nothing seemed in rhythm from the start. When Jimmy Garoppolo entered, things got worse, although he did make a few escapes that were breathtaking. The only positives I got from the aerial attack were Brian Tyms and Brandon LaFell, who put forth a nice performances on the outside.
Rushing Offense: B-
LeGarrette Blount and the stable of running backs New England deployed on Sunday fared a little better than the passing attack did, but not by much. For the day, the Pats averaged 4.6 yards a carry, which is pretty good against a defensive front as talented as Buffalo’s. Blount himself carried the ball 10 times for 62 yards, including a 34-yard gain in which the hole he scampered through was ginormous. I mean, I could have gained 20 yards on that play.
Anyway, it was a decent day on the ground for the Patriots, which is good, because if New England can run the football in the playoffs, this team will be impossible to stop. Blount had a huge divisional round game last year, and I have a feeling he might go off again on January 10th.
Pass Defense: B
There honestly wasn’t much to grade in this department. The Patriots’ starting unit played for about a half, but it was obvious the effort wasn’t really there. Sammy Watkins beat Darrelle Revis early for a nice 43-yard completion, but Revis later exacted his revenge on an incomplete pass deep down the left-sideline. Jamie Collins continued his stellar 2014 campaign with strip-sack, while also recovering that same fumble.
Going forward, I wouldn’t put much, if any stock into this performance by the Pats secondary, as they were just going through the motions. Come playoff time, this group will remain the strength of the team, and I expect them to make more than a few impact plays in January and February.
Run Defense: A-
New England’s secondary is still the strength of their defense, but the front seven isn’t far behind. With Vince Wilfork, Sealver Siliga, Alan Branch, Dont’a Hightower, and Jamie Collins manning the middle, it is damn near impossible to run against the Pats. I know Hightower was inactive on Sunday against the Bills, but Buffalo still only managed to gain an average of 3.2 yards a carry, as they never got anything going.
When this defense is at full strength, it is one of the best in the league, and I honestly think they are second only to Seattle. What was once a weakness (run defense), is now a strength.
Danny Amendola had a nice 26-yard punt return in the first half, and Stephen Gostkowski drilled three more field goals to close out another phenomenal season. New England’s special-teams unit continues to prove it is one of the best in the league.