Tuesday, November 6, 2012
Patriots-Bills refresher course
By Mike Reiss
As Patriots players return to work Tuesday in preparation for Sunday’s game against the Bills, a quick refresher on the key points from the Patriots’ 52-28 win over the Bills on Sept. 30:
Second-half comeback. The Patriots trailed 21-7 early in the third quarter before roaring back in the second half. After the game, Bill Belichick told players that the mental toughness they showed, to come back from that deficit on the road, was impressive.
Six turnovers created. The Patriots created six turnovers in the game, and arguably none was more important than linebacker Brandon Spikes’ forced fumble at the end of the second quarter. The Bills were at the goal-line, primed to go up 21-7 at halftime, when Spikes delivered a crushing blow on running back C.J. Spiller.
Running on Bills’ smaller defense. The Patriots totaled 247 rushing yards as the Bills stayed in their smaller nickel defense for most of the game, regardless of what personnel grouping New England utilized (37 snaps in 2 WR/2 TE and 36 snaps in 3 WR/1 TE). As quarterback Tom Brady said after the game, “I think they were really challenging us to run the ball.” This will be a strategy element to watch this week, as the Bills mostly stayed in their base defense against Houston this past Sunday.
Personnel report. Starting left guard Logan Mankins, tight end Aaron Hernandez, receiver Julian Edelman and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard were notable players who did not suit up in the game. With Edelman out, Wes Welker played most of the snaps after splitting time with Edelman the first two weeks.
Quiet day for Mario Williams. Right tackle Sebastian Vollmer won his one-on-one battle against Bills defensive end Mario Williams, who was essentially a non-factor (2 tackles). Williams looks like he’s coming on a bit in recent weeks.
Big play shows up again. The Bills took a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter on Donald Jones’ 68-yard catch-and-run touchdown. The play highlighted the struggles the Patriots have had at safety, as both Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory – both of whom have been sidelined because of injury in recent weeks – took a bad angle on the play. Overall, the Patriots were in their sub defense the majority of snaps against the spread-it-out Bills.
Gostkowski’s struggles. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed from 49 and 42 yards, putting the spotlight on some of his early struggles. He’s since rebounded decisively.