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Sunday, September 30, 2012
Patriots' report card vs. Bills

By Mike Rodak

The Patriots' report card from Sunday's 52-28 win over the Bills:

Belichick
A-

Coaching

The biggest miscues in the first half -- two missed field goals and two fumbles -- were not the result of coaching. What was the result of coaching? The ability by Bill Belichick to steady a ship that had been rocked by two straight losses and a rough start on the road, make halftime adjustments and have his team come out and score 45 points in the second half.

Welker
B+

Pass offense

Statistically, it was a very good day for Tom Brady, who completed 61 percent of his passes for 340 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. But mistakes in the passing game were still present. Brandon Lloyd and Rob Gronkowski both had drops, while Brady dangerously tried to force a pass to Gronkowski in the end zone that was almost intercepted. On the flip side, it was another big game for Wes Welker, who was targeted 11 times after a slow start this season.

Ridley
A

Rush offense

Hard to top this performance. Even when things were looking bleak for the Patriots, the running game gave the team life and eventually powered New England to a strong second half. It was the first time since 1980 that the Patriots had two 100-plus yard rushers, with Brandon Bolden scorching the Bills for 137 yards on 16 carries (an 8.6 yard average), while Stevan Ridley was steady with 106 yards on 22 carries.

Fitzpatrick
B-

Pass defense

It was a typical roller-coaster performance by the Patriots secondary. Even though they made Bills tight end Scott Chandler look like Rob Gronkowski on back-to-back touchdown grabs, while also allowing a 68-yard TD catch by Donald Jones, the Patriots had four interceptions. How often can you say that? You never know what to expect from this unit, week-to-week or even play-to-play.

Spiller
B

Rush defense

This unit, one of the best in the NFL through the first two games, regressed last week, but rebounded on Sunday. At times, Buffalo had success running the ball -- Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller and Tashard Choice all had runs of 10 yards or more -- but the overall numbers were bearable (98 yards on 27 carries for the Bills). Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones' third-down stop on the opening drive most likely prevented the Bills from scoring.

Gostkowski
C+

Special teams

Stephen Gostkowski's two missed field goals early in the game had to shake Belichick's confidence in his veteran kicker, but things weren't going right for any part of the team at that point. The Patriots' kick return unit continues to look generally anemic, but the coverage units contained Leodis McKelvin in both the punt and kicking games.