Student assistant Mike Rodak takes a look at the television copy of Sunday’s game against the Bills and offers some of his first-quarter observations:
1. The biggest sting by the Bills ground game came on the game’s first drive, which began with a 27-yard Fred Jackson run. The absence of suspended ILB Brandon Spikes was felt on this series perhaps as strong as it will be for the duration of his suspension. In his place, Gary Guyton struggled shedding blocks from larger offensive linemen, opening holes on some plays. In addition, DL Kyle Love was overpowered at times at the line, especially at nose tackle, while an undersized DE Eric Moore held up well against the run, showing strength.
2. One unusual play came early in the quarter when the Bills put in motion both FB Corey McIntyre and TE David Martin. For the Patriots, ILB Jerod Mayo and OLB Rob Ninkovich were assigned man coverage on McIntyre and Martin, respectively. The motion before the snap, however, left Mayo playing at the edge of the line, and Ninkovich inside; the fifth-year veteran Ninkovich quickly adjusted and set himself into a 3-4 ILB spot. The play was a run, requiring Mayo to set the edge and Ninkovich to key on the opposing guard. It was a good example of both players knowing the responsibilities and reads of more than just their position.
3. The 29-yard Danny Woodhead touchdown run came on an outside “trap” play the Patriots have used often to big gains in the running game. TE Rob Gronkowski came in motion from right to left, executing a “wham” block on DT Kyle Williams after LG Logan Mankins fanned outside to block DE Chris Kelsay. Meanwhile, LT Matt Light went into the second level and stuck a solid block to seal LB Paul Posluszny inside. Light had struggled on two previous second-level blocks in the game, but this one was the key to Woodhead’s touchdown.
4. Even after the Bills’ success early in the game running the ball, they quickly shifted to a spread offense as the first quarter progressed. With the Bills using the shotgun and four- and five-receiver sets, but with base personnel, the Patriots generally stayed in either their base 3-4 defense or their nickel package, using OLBs in some cases to cover slot receivers. Without any legitimate deep threat for the Bills, the Patriots also did not hesitate to bring a safety down over to cover a slot receiver or to protect against the run, leaving only a single high safety in either case.