By: Steve Balestrieri
Grades for the Patriots 23-21 win over Buffalo by position:
Quarterbacks: Tom Brady had a rough outing for times on Sunday. He was hit a bit and hurried at times but when the game was on the line Brady delivered, going a perfect 7-7 on the final drive for the win. His numbers weren’t the greatest 29-52 for 288 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT but he got the W. Grade: B-
Wide receivers and Tight ends: Kenbrell Thompkins, Zach Sudfeld, Michael Hoomanawanui and Josh Boyce were basically non-factors. Thompkins did catch 4 passes for 42 yards. They were falling down when making cuts and didn’t run great routes.
But Julian Edelman and more importantly Danny Amendola saved this from being an “F”. Amendola had a great, gutsy game hauling in 10 passes. Edelman had two TDs in the first half but did drop a touchdown in the end zone. Grade: C
Running backs: Stevan Ridley ran the ball pretty well early in the game but put it on the turf twice and was benched. LaGarette Blount found little room to run and was bottled up.
Shane Vereen was the star of this group. Pressed into service after Ridley’s benching, Vereen gained 101 yards on 17 carries and none was bigger than his 15 yard run at the end of the game that set up the game winning field goal. Grade: B-
Offensive line: The Patriots offensive line had an uneven game on Sunday. At times they struggled to open holes for the running game, yet the team ran for 156 yards. At times they struggled with pass protection yet, Brady passed for 288 yards and was kept clean on the final drive when the game was on the line.
And something else to remember is that the Patriots had two turnovers inside of Buffalo territory (one one the 1 yard line) that could have certainly provided more points. Patriots time of possession 37:22 Grade: C+
Defensive line: Again a mixed bag for the defensive line, the game plan was to shut down C.J. Spiller and force the game into Manuel’s hands. And they did that very well. Spiller averaged only 2.4 yards per rush and 2.8 yards per reception. They did have some issues with Fred Jackson and weren’t able to register a sack but overall they did what they set out to do. A pretty decent start. Grade: B-
Linebackers: Brandon Spikes missed a lot of time in the first half due to dehydration. And for much of the game, the Patriots played a 4-2-5 so there were only two linebackers on the field. They did a good job for the most part in the running game, but had some lapses in coverage again that must be addressed. Grade: C
Secondary: Buffalo had two big scoring plays in the passing game, on the first one a Manuel to Robert Woods pass, it seemed that Aqib Talib passed off Woods to Steve Gregory who got tangled up with Scott Chandler. Those kind of mental mistakes can’t be tolerated. The second was covered tightly by Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty but was a perfectly thrown ball to Stevie Johnson. Speaking of “no one on the Patriots can cover me” Johnson, he had 3 catches for 39 yards, ….advantage Talib. Arrington was also very good with two forced fumbles. Manuel only passed for 150 yards. Grade: B-
Special teams: Ryan Allen did not have a good game punting the football. On one directional punt he shanked it for only 19 yards. On another he had the chance to showcase his leg from the Patriots end zone and could only manage 35 yards to the Patriots 42. Then from the Patriots 43, his punt went 57 yards forcing a touchback.
He did make a very nice play on a bad snap on an early field goal, getting the ball down and in position. Stephen Gostkowski made three field goals and did a good job of driving the ball into the end zone on kickoffs. Grade: C-
Coaching: Bill Belichick had a game plan to attack the Buffalo defense and it seemed that things were working to a tee. Up 10-0 and driving for a third score, it seemed that this one was destined for a blowout…. But mental mistakes hurt the team the rest of the way. As far preparing the young players for their first game..they dropped the ball there.
The defensive game plan was solid and worked well, the Bills only had one good scoring drive at the beginning of the second half and the coaches made good adjustments and kept them from seriously challenging for a score again. Spiller and Johnson were mostly kept in check. Manuel threw for only 150 yards. Grade: B-