Sunday, December 29, 2013
Rapid Reaction: New England Patriots
By Mike Reiss
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Thoughts from the New England Patriots' 34-20 victory against the Buffalo Bills.
What it means: The Patriots earn the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoffs and a first-round playoff bye. For a banged-up team that had more key players leave the game, it’s a much-needed break.
Injuries to monitor: Starting left guard Logan Mankins left for the locker room in the second quarter with an ankle injury but ultimately played through it. He clearly looked hobbled at times. Rookie receiver Aaron Dobson left the game in the first half with a foot injury and did not return. Linebacker Brandon Spikes, who has been slowed by a knee injury, left the game in the fourth quarter.
Stock watch: LeGarrette Blount, UP. When the 250-pound Blount gets going, it brings back memories of the Patriots’ final Super Bowl championship season with Corey Dillon at running back. It’s rare to see such a big back run with such elusiveness and power. Blount totaled 189 yards rushing and also had two long kickoff returns that came as the Bills were threatening to get back into the game. This was a career day for Blount, who is rounding into form at the time many often say the running game takes on added importance. As the Patriots kneeled on the ball, coach Bill Belichick took Blount off the field so he could hear the rousing cheer from the home crowd.
Elements play a big part: The game was played in heavy rain throughout, which made ballhandling a struggle. The Patriots caught some breaks, fumbling four times and recovering all of them. So there was some good fortune for New England on this day. The defense, which was shaky at times, rose up in the critical moments.
What’s next: The Patriots will be off until the divisional round of the playoffs.