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After Further Review: Resurgent ground game sparks Pats vs. Bills

20191222-AfterFurtherReview-PDC

First Quarter

-The first two plays by the Patriots offense were runs of three and four yards, setting up a big third down, but the protection was impressive, setting the tone for the rest of the day as Brady found Julian Edelman for seven yards.

-Rex Burkhead would fumble on the next play after picking up 18 yards. It was a nice pursuit play by Jordan Poyer and his fellow safety Micah Hyde recovered the fumble and returned it 31 yards. It was the kind of play the Patriots defense usually makes early in the game.

-But on an immediate quick-change opportunity for the defense they came through by playing stout run defense. Buffalo did not throw until they got into third-and-long, taking a page from the Bengals by focusing on their ground attack. The Patriots defense wouldn't have the same porous start they did last week and that helped hold Buffalo to a field goal.

-The Patriots offense would bounce back from their opening-drive turnover with one of their better drives of the season, with an emphasis on the running game with Elandon Roberts at fullback leading the way. Four-straight runs to Sony Michel produced 27 yards behind Roberts.

-The touchdown pass to Matt LaCosse was a nice throw and catch, as LaCosse initially blocked before slipping out into the flat and making a nice adjustment on the ball. An 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that was well balanced between power runs, screen passes and short passes and featured six different weapons was ideal.

Second Quarter

-Credit the pass rush pressure on the Bills first third down of the next drive, as Cole Beasley got open but Josh Allen had to unload the ball while off balance and the pass fell incomplete. Dont'a Hightower beat the right guard and was stepping into Allen's face as he threw.

-The Patriots would start their next drive on their one-yard-line and hold it for 17 plays, but they faced an initial third down that would've given the Bills great field position. The pass protection was great once again as Brady calmly delivered a strike to Edelman for 17 yards.

-Another nice play design to get the ball to N'Keal Harry on his toss reverse that picked up 18 yards with Tom Brady delivering a key block that resulted in extra downfield yards. Harry looked good with the ball in his hands as he continues to progress here at the end of the season. He played 51 percent of the snaps.

-The 81-yard drive would end with a field goal but it was still a a positive to see continued execution from the offense, including a variety of personnel groupings and packages. It was one of the first times it felt like Josh McDaniels was spinning the wheel and keeping the Bills defense from locking in on what the Patriots were doing.

-After trading punts the offense would get the ball back at the 50 with 1:08 left, a golden opportunity to get points before halftime. This began a rough couple snaps for Mohamed Sanu who was somehow held short of a first down on a third-down catch then blew his block on fourth down, allowing Harry to be tackled short.

-The Bills would take over with :33 seconds left at their own 41 and move into Patriots territory on an Allen keeper that went 16 yards, then a perfect dime to Dawson Knox for 33 yards as he was ruled down at the one-yard-line after review. Patrick Chung wasn't beaten on the big pass by much.

-Buffalo would get into the end zone two plays later with a nice design, a throw back to their eligible tackle. This was a rare situational failure by the Patriots both on offense and defense. Luckily they'd bounce back in the second half.

Third Quarter

-The defense forced a four-and-out on the first possession and the offense would respond with a boost from a great play design by Josh McDaniels to get Rex Burkhead wide open on a wheel route. There was nice disguise with presnap motion by Sanu and the helped set the table for Burkhead's big play.

-Since missing two field goals against Dallas of 46 and 48 yards and getting a 41-yarder blocked against the Chiefs, Nick Folk has been perfect for the Patriots and hit his first 50-plus kick to give the Patriots the 13-10 lead. Folk has recently put together some reassuring kicks.

-The Bills would get their last score of the game on an impressive 53-yard throw to John Brown. This was one where the Patriots were aggressive up front, with everyone but Devin McCourty up at the line of scrimmage. As is the case with this kind of scheme, if the quarterback can get the throw off with pressure in front and around him, it has a chance to be a big play. That's what happened. Usually the Pats run man defense behind and it looked like Gilmore and McCourty should've had Brown bracketed but he ran free. Nice play by Allen with two defenders bearing down on him, he delivered a strike.

-After trading punts again, the Patriots would again lean into Elandon Roberts at fullback and it would produce a drive-starting 25 -yard run by Sony Michel. Roberts isn't quite James Develin out there but he's progressed into an effective fullback and one the offense highlighted in this game. Jakobi Meyers' second-down catch for 15 yards was a nice play after Meyers was thrust into action after Edelman went out. He'd grab another impressive catch in traffic for 11 yards later in the drive.

Fourth Quarter

-Without Edelman, the Patriots offense still got down to the red zone, powered by a tough third-down effort from Rex Burkhead to get them to the Bills five-yard-line. But a direct snap to Mohamed Sanu that he flipped to James White was snuffed out. Then on third down no one got open and Brady's scramble was stopped at the two. This could've been a red zone flameout that cost the Patriots the game but Edelman's return would spark the comeback.

-The touchdown-scoring, game-winning drive got started with Edelman's first play back, a 30-yard catch-and-run that took the Patriots to the Bills 29-yard-line. Those kind of explosive plays haven't been consistent this season and the boost this one gave the offense was palpable.

-Rex Burkhead would continue his great game, taking the ball in for the go-ahead score with a tough run, breaking tackles from the one-yard-line. Edelman got things started and the run game kept them going and finished them off. Then a play action to Edelman gave them the two-point conversion and a seven-point lead with just over five minutes left. Complimentary offensive football at its finest.

-The final Bills drive would take up almost the rest of the game. Cole Beasley picked up 57 yards on the drive and other than Allen's 11-yard scramble that was the only way the Bills moved the ball. Still, they got it down with multiple shots at the end zone from inside the Patriots 10-yard-line. That's when the front seven took over, applying pressure and not allowing Allen to run or throw. They'd send six rushers on the vital third down and it was enough to force an incompletion though it looked like Beasley was open for a moment if Allen could've set and thrown without pressure.

Personnel Packages

Offense

  • 11 personnel - 30 snaps
  • 21 personnel (FB) - 18 snaps
  • 21 personnel (RBs) - 6 snaps
  • 20 personnel (RBs) - 5 snaps
  • 12 personnel - 5 snaps
  • 22 personnel - 3 snaps
  • 10 personnel - 2 snaps

Defense

  • 3-3-5 - 19 snaps
  • 1-4-6 - 18 snaps
  • 2-3-6 - 7 snaps
  • 2-4-5 - 5 snaps
  • 1-3-7 - 2 snaps
  • Goal line - 2 snaps

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