It may have been a costly win given the injuries that hit New England, but the Patriots big win Sunday afternoon said a lot of about Bill Belichick's team.
Coming off its biggest, most emotional win of the season New England avoided the letdown and battled through a barrage of injuries to beat Buffalo 37-22. The victory propelled the Patriots to a 4-2 record and puts the team alone atop the AFC East.
The New England Patriots take on the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, October 12, 2014.
The win certainly wasn't pretty and was in question as a one-score game into the latter part of the fourth quarter, but it showed some serious fight and fortitude from the road squad. New England lost captains Jerod Mayo (knee) and Dan Connolly (head) early in the game and Stevan Ridley (knee) later. The offensive line was already altered due to center Bryan Stork being inactive and had to deal with the Connolly loss while rotating outside, at tackle, as well.
New England isn't exactly earning a lot of beauty points in a lot of areas, but it's still rolling forward winning, making plays and putting up points. Key players are getting more comfortable in their roles. New faces are finding ways to build roles for themselves. And Belichick's team now heads home for more than a month of games, beginning with the quick turnaround on Thursday night with a rivalry-renewing battle against the Jets.
There was a lot to like in Buffalo. Brandon LaFell is coming on. Rob Ninkovich had the Hat Trick of sacks. Tim Wright found the end zone once again with the always interesting stat line of one catch for 1 yard (1.0 avg.) with a long of 1 yard, a touchdown.
For just few hours, players, fans and coaches alike can enjoy an impressive, much-needed, gritty road win. Here's a look at some of the individual highs and lows from Sunday's action that sent the upstart Bills back to the drawing board in the East:
Rob Gronkowski –** The big tight end seems to be molding into his alter-ego – Gronk – more and more each week. A week after his first 100-yard game last Sunday, Gronkowski had seven catches for 94 yards including a long of 33, while a touchdown was called back for a holding call on the offensive line. He showed an ability to get deep, deliver hits and take them. He gave Patriots fans a scare when he broke his big black arm brace and was slow to get up after getting the wind knocked out of him. But the only ones who should be scared right now are opposing defenders.
Tom Brady –** As the cliché goes, reports of Brady's demise were greatly exaggerated. No. 12 was on point for most of the day, completing 27 of his 37 throws for 361 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 139.6 passer rating. Maybe best of all was that Brady took a few hits and was sacked twice, but seemed none the worse for it and kept the passing offense chugging along. His rapport with LaFell continues to grow. He looked deep to newcomer Brian Tyms a couple times, including a 43-yard touchdown. Whether he had the perfect protection or not, whether he's always on the same page as his targets or not, Brady has been making plays the last two weeks.
Darrelle Revis – New England's shutdown corner was once again shutting down the opponent's top target. A week after taking All-Pro A.J. Green out of the game, Revis matched up with fourth-overall pick Sammy Watkins and held him to two catches for 27 yards, his first reception coming midway through the third quarter. Kyle Orton almost seemed to give up on throwing in the direction of Revis Island for most of the game. Physically and at times mentally Revis is proving that he can alter an opponent's passing attack in dramatic fashion.
Nate Solder – New England's offensive line was a once again a concern, playing without Stork, losing Connolly and rotating Marcus Cannon at both tackles. Solder is supposed to be the marque guy up front but struggled for another week, giving up a sack in which he seemed to step down before allowing Jerry Hughes by him to get to Brady. He also had another false start. Solder just isn't playing like a former No. 1 pick who is on the books to earn $7.5 million in 2015, more than the guy he's supposed to be protecting.
Health –** The Patriots had been relatively healthy for most of the first five weeks, but that came crashing down this week. First the team had five players downgraded to Out prior to the trip to Buffalo – including key names like Stork, Dominique Easley and Brandon Browner. Then Dont'a Hightower apparently failed a pregame workout and missed his second straight game. It only got worse once the game started. Linebacker and captain Mayo left with a knee injury and was seen leaving Ralph Wilson Stadium on crutches. Connolly left with a head injury in the first half and did not return. Ridley left with a right knee injury and was also seen leaving the stadium on crutches and wearing a knee brace. Early reports indicated that Ridley may have suffered a torn ACL, while all accounts seemed to point to Mayo's injury as being major as well. Major injuries have been a major story across the NFL this season and in Buffalo they hit the Patriots.
Patrick Chung – The only real, glaring negative for the Patriots was as pass defense that allowed Orton to pile up 299 yards through the air. A big chunk of that damage went to tight end Scott Chandler, who hauled in six passes for 105 yards (17.5 avg.). Chung and the Patriots have struggled to cover tight end and the middle of the field for a long time. That was on full display in Buffalo.
What did you think of the Patriots performance in Buffalo? What about our list? Who's missing? Let us know with a comment below!