When the Patriots ran:
The Patriots really missed he presence of Sony Michel Monday night. The rookie had emerged as the lead back over the past month before leaving the Chicago game with a knee injury and without him the ground game was non-existent. That makes sense considering Josh McDaniels was left with a wide receiver (Cordarrelle Patterson), a passing back (James White) and a return specialist (Kenjon Barner) to carry the load. Surprisingly Patterson assumed lead back duties. Not surprisingly he struggled with the exception one carry that went for 22 yards around right end. He finished with 10 carries for just 38 yards, meaning his other nine attempts totaled 16 yards. White tried to pound it between the tackles but came away with mostly 2-yard runs, finishing with 15 yards on his eight carries. Barner only got two carries for 4 yards. The offensive line, which had been doing a great job carving out space in the running game recently, failed to create a push against a spirited Bills front that limited New England to 76 yards on 25 carries for a 3-yard average.
When the Patriots passed:
Tom Brady wasn't quite as sharp as he has been in recent weeks but he was able to move the ball effectively between the 20s. The problem was he and the rest of the offense were unable to finish many of those drive. He completed 29 of 45 passes for 324 yards - solid numbers on the surface. But he failed to throw a touchdown pass and was a bit jumpy in the pocket at times. He was strip sacked in the red zone in the first half, leading to one of Stephen Gostkowski's five field goal attempts. But he was effective in getting the ball to his two best playmakers and both were outstanding. White caught a game-high 10 balls (on 13 targets) for 79 yards while Julian Edelman turned in his best game of the season with nine catches (on 10 targets) for 104 yards. Both were consistently open underneath the Bills zones and moved the chains effectively throughout. Otherwise there wasn't much production as Rob Gronkowski again was quiet with just three catches for 43 yards and Josh Gordon finished with four for 42 yards.
When the Bills ran:
Former Patriots assistant and current Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll got creative at the outset and his wrinkles had some early success. Using the Wildcat he watched LeSean McCoy rip off a 12-yard run on the first snap, then a couple of plays later he put Chris Ivory in that roll and he picked up a first down with a nice run of his own. But the Patriots quickly put an end to that and completely suffocated McCoy the rest of the way. He had a grand total of 1 yard on his ensuing 11 carries and finished with 13 yards on his 12 attempts for an eye-popping 1.1-yard average. Trey Flowers was immense off the edge, consistently getting into the backfield to disrupt McCoy before the shifty back could find any running lanes. Everytime the Bills tested the perimeter of the Patriots front, Flowers was there to shut it down. He finished with six solo stops. Ivory was a little more effective trying his luck between the tackles and finished with 34 yards on just six carries (5.7-yard average) but overall Buffalo was unable to keep the pressure off backup quarterback Derek Anderson because the Patriots limited the Bills to 46 yards on 19 carries for a 2.4-yard average. Excellent work up front.
When the Bills passed:
Buffalo's offense has been inept all season and watching Monday night it was easy to see why. Anderson was unable to consistently make throws, and with the running game contained he needed to do so more often than Daboll would have liked. He completed 22 of 39 passes for 290 yards but also turned it over twice. The first one was huge as Buffalo trailed just 9-6 and had just picked up a first down when Kyle Van Noy came in unblocked off the blind side and knocked the ball away from Anderson as the threw. Patrick Chung recovered to set up a field goal. The second was Devin McCourty's 84-yard pick-six late that sealed it. The secondary was very competitive, admittedly against a limited group of Bills receivers but the work was impressive nonetheless. Stephon Gilmore allowed just two completions to Kelvin Benjamin in seven attempts, although one went for 40 yards. Chung did a nice job on Charles Clay, limiting him to three grabs for 36 yards. Overall the defense turned in some of its best work of the season.
This was another sloppy game for the special teams in what has become a season full of them. Ryan Allen did not have a great night punting, although the wind may have been a factor there. He had punts of 28 and 31 yards, neither of which was downed inside the 20. He also booted a low line drive that Micah Hyde was able to return 31 yards to the Patriots 35 that led to a Bills field goal. Gostkowski did a great job dealing with the conditions, making four of his five attempts but he did push a 50-yarder wide to the right. The Patriots were also called for a penalty while kicking off for the second straight week when McCourty came in the hold the ball for Gostkowski, leaving just two players aligned outside the numbers on the right side instead of the required three. That sloppiness allowed the Bills to pick up a few extra yards as Marcus Murphy returned the re-kick out to the 32. Stephen Hauschka connected on his two attempts, including one from 51 yards out. The Bills weren't perfect either as punter Corey Bojorquez dropped a snap on one of his attempts and that resulted in a 26-yard punt that was downed at the Patriots 38.