- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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Emptying out some Patriots thoughts ...
1. Bill Belichick has said in the past that the "sack" statistic is overrated, in part because the player who gets the sack often isn't the one who produced the initial pressure. Along those lines, rookie Chandler Jones can thank Jermaine Cunningham for his first-quarter sack against the Bills. Cunningham, from this view, was an underrated performer in the game with a few strong rushes.
2. Cornerbacks are most often judged by how they cover, but their ability to play the run is important as well. Patriots starters Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty showed up big in that area Sunday, and perhaps it was even more noticeable because the Bills' secondary struggled so much in that area. Seeing Arrington fearlessly surge past left tackle Cordy Glenn to make a tackle? Impressive.
3. First quarter of Patriots-Bills, and Tom Brady connects on a 41-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski down the right side. CBS analyst Dan Dierdorf says, "When Tom can step into it, he might be the best deep-ball quarterback in the National Football League." Brady's deep-ball accuracy has come under fire in some circles in recent years, but Dierdorf sees it differently.
4. Rookie Tavon Wilson rotated in at safety along with Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung, and it looked from here like he earned himself the opportunity for more time in the future (part of that is tied to the thought that Gregory and Chung seemed to struggle). He seems to have a nose for the ball.
5. Not sure if you noticed, but the Patriots flipped ends Chandler Jones and Rob Ninkovich to the opposite side at times on Sunday -- Jones moving to the left and Ninkovich to the right. Bill Belichick was asked about it Monday and he explained that part of it is creating matchups they felt worked in their favor, while another part of it could be scheme related. Ninkovich sometimes dropped into coverage, playing some linebacker-type responsibilities. Haven't seen much of that, if at all, to this point in the season.
6. The Patriots also are doing something different before their kickoffs, using a "double huddle" with their coverage players. Then shortly before Stephen Gostkowski kicks off, the players break the huddle and assume their normal position. It's one way the Patriots attempt to pick up keys from the return team on their intentions.
7. Practice squad linebacker Jeff Tarpinian had the "championship belt" in his locker on Monday, which reflects he was likely picked by coaches as the top practice player of last week. Wondered if Tarpinian might get a promotion with Dont'a Hightower's hamstring injury putting his status for Sunday's game in question, but Comcast SportsNet reported veteran Bobby Carpenter is expected back instead. Carpenter's experience on defense and special teams might have been preferred, especially given the chess match this week against Peyton Manning.
8. All the credit goes to left guard Donald Thomas, center Ryan Wendell and right guard Dan Connolly for a thoroughly impressive performance Sunday. But also a note of praise for coach Dante Scarnecchia when considering that all three players either came up through the practice squad or were signed as free agents when there wasn't exactly a great demand for their services. A good example of when coaching and the players' hard work and attention to detail combine to produce the desired results.