It wasn’t the greatest display of defensive football, but a number of big plays and a competitive display from the Bills kept fans, pundits and analysts interested.
New England left the game with many questions unanswered, especially in regards to a defense still trying to find its identity. The Bills will have to settle for a stronger performance on offense than we’ve been treated to in quite a while.
Bills: Three performances of note
He may have provided a spark that got the offense moving against a poor Patriots defense, but Ryan Fitzpatrick (+0.1) still looks a long way from being a starting-caliber NFL quarterback. His main struggles came when he faced pressure — in 13 dropbacks he threw a bad interception and only picked up 78 yards. His willingness to take a chance is a welcome relief after the Trent Edwards days, but it should come with an interception-related disclaimer.
If the Bills were looking to put Marshawn Lynch (+1.5) in the shop window, he certainly put on his best outfit to entice potential suitors. Lynch played like the first-round talent he is, picking up 60 of his 79 yards after contact and forcing three missed tackles. If the Bills are willing to trade him with their deep backfield in mind, there are a number of teams for whom Lynch would serve as an upgrade.
While George Wilson sits on the bench and comes in for the occasional snap, we get to watch Jairus Byrd (-1.2) play as the deep — make that very deep — safety, waiting for an overthrown ball to come his way. Until it does, he makes a good effort of using his considerable speed to support in run defense, but takes such bad angles he ends up out of position to make tackles (he missed two tackles in this one). Donte Whitner (-2.1) was just as bad, accounting for seven tackles but only two defensive stops. To his credit, he is active in run support, but he couldn’t keep up with either rookie Patriots tight end in coverage (four of four throws allowed for 45 yards).
Patriots: Three performances of note
While Aaron Hernandez (+0.7) gets an awful lot of attention, we’re becoming quite impressed by the other rookie tight end: Rob Gronkowski (+2.3). He caught all three balls thrown his way in impressive fashion, but he also looks the more complete tight end (something the Bills acknowledged by treating Hernandez as a receiver with their personnel groupings). His blocking was particularly good, as he continues to shine through as one of the most NFL-ready rookies currently seeing playing time.
It’s rare for Vince Wilfork (-1.4) to have a negative game, so it’s worth noting how he struggled in this one. He really failed to make an impact on his 15 attempts to rush the passer (not so shocking), but was largely invisible when it came to disrupting the Bills rushing attack. His only play of note in the run game was a missed tackle. We wouldn’t expect this to continue with Wilfork, but whether it’s ineffectiveness or just inconsistency, it’s something to keep an eye on.
We’re not sure what happened to RT Sebastian Vollmer (-2.3 pass blocking) in this one. At times he looked very languid, which, coupled with him missing a series, makes you wonder just how injured he was/is. He gave up a hit and four pressures one week after giving up four pressures to the Jets. Something isn’t right with Vollmer. Through three games he’s given up just one less pressure than he did for the entire 2009 season.
First-round pick C.J. Spiller (+0.5) saw just over a third of all offensive snaps but had only four carries and three balls thrown his way (in addition to returning a kick for a touchdown). … Tackle Cord Howard came in for parts of one series and gave up a quarterback pressure. … David Nelson had two balls thrown his way, one of which was picked off. … Backup defensive tackle Torell Troup picked up a defensive stop on limited action.
We’ve mentioned the Patriots’ rookie tight ends but the defense was filled with rookie starters. Devin McCourty (-2.1) struggled in allowing four receptions, 72 yards and a touchdown. … It wasn’t a great day for Brandon Spikes (-0.4), who had trouble locating the ball-carrier, though it was much better for Jermaine Cunningham (+1.2), who got a quarterback hit, pressure and defensive stop. … Punter Zoltan Mesko (-0.5) had a max hang time of 4.30 seconds.
Patriots CB Darius Butler is in the doghouse. He came in for four plays, during which time he gave up a catch and lost contain on a big run play. He was quickly returned to the bench. … Fred Jackson appears the forgotten man of the Bills’ backfield. Including penalties, he was in on just 19.64 percent of plays.