NE-BUF Grades: Brady carves up Bills
The top takeaways from Sunday’s New England-Buffalo game, including the highest-graded players for each team:
New England Patriots
– The passing game was a clinic, and it went beyond just the +5.3 grade for QB Tom Brady. While he was sharp for the most part, the offensive line deserves a lot of credit for handling a tough Buffalo defensive front, particularly offensive tackles Nate Solder (+2.6) and Sebastian Vollmer (+3.3) who controlled DEs Jerry Hughes (-0.9) and Mario Williams (-4.3), respectively. Brady helped by taking quick drops and getting the ball out of his hand quickly, but both tackles did a great job of knowing exactly where Brady would be at the top of the pocket (almost always at seven yards of depth) and riding the edge rush securely behind him.
– Brady spread the ball around, with WR Julian Edelman (+1.5) hauling in 11 of his 19 targets while TE Rob Gronkowski (+2.8) continued his dominant play with seven receptions for 133 yards and a touchdown. Then throw in WR Aaron Dobson (-0.6) with seven catches for 87 yards and RB Dion Lewis (+0.7) catching six for 98 yards, including a number of catches while split wide, and the Patriots were creating mismatches all over the field.
– The Patriots’ eight sacks weren’t the result of domination up front, but a combination of things. They continue to use LBs Jamie Collins (-2.9) and Dont’a Hightower (+2.2) effectively as blitzers, as we credited Collins with three sacks and Hightower with one. Defensive end Chandler Jones (-1.7) notched three sacks, though two were of the clean-up variety while he beat Bills LT Cordy Glenn (+1.5) for the other. As for every-down production, it was DE Jabaal Sheard (+2.1) who created the most disruption, often while rushing from the interior as he picked up a hit and four hurries on 29 rushes.
QB Tom Brady (+5.3)
OT Sebastian Vollmer (+3.3)
TE Rob Gronkowski (+2.8)
OT Nate Solder (+2.6)
LB Dont’a Hightower (+2.2)
– Though QB Tyrod Taylor (-2.7) was sacked eight times, the offensive line only owns part of the blame. Taylor often left clean pockets and brought a lot of pressure upon himself, finishing with three of the sacks attributed directly to his stat line. As for the passing game, his inconsistent accuracy got him into trouble though he offset things by making a number of plays outside the pocket. This is the type of game you’re likely to see from Taylor when Buffalo gets into more of a shootout type of situation, unlike their ball-control Week 1 game against the Indianapolis Colts.
– A week removed from an impressive performance in coverage against the Colts, the Bills’ back end had their issues matching up with the variety of receivers the Patriots threw at them. CB Stephon Gilmore (-2.2) only surrendered eight official catches for 57 yards, but he also benefitted from a couple of inaccurate passes, namely the overthrown post route to Edelman late in the fourth quarter that should have been a touchdown.
– New England also managed to isolate Lewis and Gronkowski on LB Nigel Bradham (-3.4) who surrendered three catches for 80 yards while FS Aaron Williams (-2.1) had his struggles when matched up with Edelman who caught all four of his targets, including two touchdowns. The one bright spot was rookie CB Ronald Darby (+1.1), who allowed only three catches on nine targets for 48 yards, and even won a few battles against Gronkowski.
– The Bills managed a quiet 126 yards on the ground (non-scrambles) as RB LeSean McCoy (+0.1) showed good burst on his way to 89 yards, while rookie RB Karlos Williams (-0.4 overall) continued to find his way to the first down markers to grade at +0.3 as a runner.
LG Richie Incognito (+3.4)
C Eric Wood (+2.4)
LT Cordy Glenn (+1.5)
CB Ronald Darby (+1.1)
WR Robert Woods (+0.7)