Taking a look at the television copy of Sunday's game against the Bills and offering some third quarter observations:
1) The Bills used their 'Wildcat' package (with a balanced offensive line) for the first time in the game early in the third quarter, with offseason pickup Brad Smith taking the snaps. Smith's first run from the shotgun went right up the middle, gaining five yards after DTs Kyle Love and Vince Wilfork were both driven off the point. Saving a much longer run -- with LB Jerod Mayo sealed by an outside block -- was the play of LB Brandon Spikes, who met FB Corey McIntyre in the hole, shedding the block and wrapping up Smith. On the next play, Love and Wilfork both held their ground, while DE Andre Carter and CB Devin McCourty came in from the outside to collapse the hole, leading to a one-yard gain for Smith.
2) The struggles on run defense for the Patriots continued later in the drive, on an 18-yard run by RB Fred Jackson. Working out of the 3-3-5 nickel, Wilfork was lined up in a '3-technique,' was double-teamed by LT Demetrius Bell and LG Andy Levitre, and was driven 2-3 yards downfield. Meanwhile, both Mayo and Spikes played the same gap (between LG and C), allowing Jackson to cut back behind Bell's block on Wilfork. Once he broke into the open field, SS Sergio Brown wrapped up Jackson but could not take him down, while FS Josh Barrett again came in with a tentative lowered shoulder, missing Jackson completely.
3) Another key play in the game came on Bills TE Scott Chandler's three-yard touchdown grab. After trying a tighter, goal line package, the Bills shifted into a shotgun, spread formation for third-and-goal. Despite it being an opportunity to pressure QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Patriots rushed only three, with LB Rob Ninkovich breaking off Chandler's route to protect against a Fitzpatrick scramble to the corner. This left Chandler open in the end zone, with Brown on man coverage on an inside route by WR Donald Jones. Mayo was in an inside zone, but got caught up in Jones' route and couldn't get outside to cover Chandler.
4) On a second-and-4 late in the third quarter, the Patriots used WR Julian Edemlan as a runner out of a single-back set, one drive after Edelman took a handoff out of the shotgun for a first down. This time, there appeared to be some sort of miscommunication along the offensive line, with both C Dan Connolly and RG Brian Waters going into the second level to block the same player (LB Nick Barnett). This left RT Nate Solder to execute a difficult inside reach block on DT Alex Carrington, which he was unable to do; Carrington muscled past Solder and into the backfield to quickly end the run.