On the other side of the ball Buffalo’s offense rolled out a shell of himself Robert Woods, Justin Hunter, Walter Powell and Brandon Tate as receivers, with a mix of Mike Gillislee, Reggie Bush and Jonathan Williams in the backfield.
They weren’t exactly set up for success.
In the end it resulted in another beating by the hands of Brady, Bill Belichick and the Patriots, which left Bills conceding the division title to it’s usual king only midway through the season.
Here’s my 5 Yays and Nays from Week 8…
1) Mike Gillislee
Filling in for LeSean McCoy, Mike Gillislee was the lone bright spot of the offense on Sunday. He broke his first carry of the game off for 28 yards to begin what resulted wound up a productive 85 yard and 1 score performance. He’s certainly not the shifty athlete Shady is, but he’s a very dependable downhill runner and that showed. His solid outing only made the Bills look even sillier for not starting him over McCoy in Miami last week. Maybe if they had, McCoy would have been able to actually play in what was arguably the most important game of the season. Anyway, Buffalo should at least relish in the fact that they found a diamond in the rough with Gillislee. He’s an excellent backup RB.
2) Marcell Dareus
After returning from suspension ahead of Week 5, Marcell Dareus has been eager to hit something. Well, after a hamstring injury delayed his 2016 debut he was finally able to take out all that pent up aggression on the Patriots. Dareus was a huge help in stopping the run – the defense held LeGarrette Blount to a measly 43 yards on 18 carries – continually drawing double teams from the Patriots O-line. On one of his first snaps he got right into the backfield and demolished Blount for a loss of one. His four tackles and one sack performance made for a nice day, but they don’t necessarily tell the full story of how impactful he was. It was good to see him play at a high level.
3) Shaq Lawson
A hamstring injury left Lorenzo Alexander out of commission for most of Sunday’s game, allowing Shaq Lawson to play a lot more snaps than he did last week. The results were encouraging. He’ll forever be able to tell his grand kids about how his first career sack came against arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time, Tom Brady.
Unfortunately he did earn the first roughing the passer penalty of his career as well, but it didn’t take away from what was a promising performance from the rookie. He’s going to be fun to watch in the Bills defense, hopefully for years to come.
4) The pass rush
It’s been the strength of the defense this year without question, and after recording five sacks on Sunday they’re up to 26 as a team. That puts them in a tie with Denver for the most sacks through eight games. Even more impressive, each sack was recorded by a different player. In total 11 different Bills have at least one sack this season, so it’s not just one guy, although Lorenzo Alexander’s nine spot is pretty impressive.
Along with the five sacks, Buffalo forced nine quarterback hits against New England as well. Unfortunately, Brady was little more mobile in the pocket than usual, and despite some heavy pressure still made some impressive throws down the field.
5) One day it won’t always be this way…
Okay, so this isn’t a specific thing from yesterday’s game, but given the Bills ugly recent history against the Patriots and more specifically Tom Brady, it feels like a good time to remind Bills fans that it won’t always be this way. In fact if you need proof look back to the glory days of Buffalo Bills football, in the 90s. From 1990-1999, the Bills won 12 of their 20 meeting with the Patriots. These decades of dominance come and go. For now you just have to tip your cap and admit that Brady has the Bills number, but pretty soon he’s going to retire and the playing field will level out a bit.
1) Third downs
This applies to both sides of the ball. Offensively it was more of the same, as the Bills picked up just four of the 13 third downs they faced. Not having a full arsenal of weapons certainly didn’t help with that, however even in their healthier weeks Buffalo has been just miserable when it comes to staying ahead of the sticks. Their 35.29 conversion percentage is 26th in the league.
While the offense has struggled in this area all season, the defense has been as stingy as they come in regards to stopping opponents on third down. To see them flop as badly as they did on Sunday was surprising as New England was able to convert on nine of their 13 third down tries. That’s 69 percent. Their first drive of the game was probably the most frustrating because Buffalo had the Patriots in third downs of six, 10, two, and 9, and they converted all four on their way to a touchdown. It was disheartening to watch and clearly it set the tone for the rest of the day.
2) All those penalties
After leading the league in penalties a season ago, the Bills have been much more disciplined in 2016. Up until yesterday they hadn’t amassed double-digit penalties in a single game this season – something they did six times last year. They picked the wrong week to end that trend as 12 flags were assessed against them on Sunday. You have no chance against the Patriots if you make that many avoidable mistakes. Of course the Patriots, uncharacteristically, had 10 penalties of their own, but they also had a healthy team that could overcome those blunders. You’re not going to beat New England by giving them second chances and conversely shooting yourself in the foot.
3) Reggie Bush
Apparently he was going to have a bigger role in the offense until he sustained a groin injury. I’m not so sure it would of mattered all that much anyway. Bush finished the day with just two carries for minus-eight yards (no that’s not a typo), which included an ill-advised lateral/pass back to Tyrod Taylor on what looked like a RB pass play, nearly turning the ball over. On the season, Bush now has nine carries for negative two yards in six games of action. Not exactly the guy that won a now revoked Heisman Trophy. There has been an uptick in his usage as a receiver, which may be where he fits in this offense, but overall the Reggie Bush experiment has been a failure with a capital F.
4) Tyrod Taylor
By no means is Taylor to blame for this loss, however the fact that he’s been consistently average is concerning. There is absolutely nothing glamorous about a 19-for-38, 183 yard passing performance. And while he was able to score on a 26-yard scamper in the third quarter, that’s all he could really contribute to the party. Now he didn’t have much help. Most quarterbacks are working with more than an ailing Robert Woods, Justin Hunter, Walter Powell and Brandon Tate. When those guys combine for five drops and the continuity just isn’t there between receiver and QB, it makes his performance tough to evaluate. That said, Taylor sailed several passes high and still struggles to read defenses at times.
5) Stephon Gilmore
If Stephon Gilmore wants Josh Norman type money this off-season, he did himself no favors on Sunday. Evey bad outing he records, is only giving the Bills more negotiating leverage. According to Pro Football Focus, Gilmore allowed four out of five targets to be caught – including all three passes thrown to former Bills receiver, Chris Hogan – for a total total of 105 yards and a touchdown. Tom Brady had a perfect 158.3 QB Rating on the day when throwing Gilmore’s way. It was a very forgettable day for him. His overall resume certainly speaks for itself, however his play through eight games this season has been a huge letdown.
Follow me on Twitter: @Spencito6