Sunday, September 8, 2013
Patriots' defense held its own
By Field Yates
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Quarterback Tom Brady orchestrated yet another fourth-quarter comeback for the New England Patriots in their season opening 23-21 win on Sunday, but not to go overlooked was a stout defensive effort that complemented the offense.
In reviewing the game through a statistical lens, the Patriots' defense more than held its own against a Buffalo attack that, although inexperienced, boasts a reliable offensive line and explosive skill players.
A few areas stood out:
The Patriots surrendered just 14 points on defense, as the Bills got their first points of the game through a Da'Norris Searcy fumble return early in the second quarter. In addition, the Bills managed just one sustained scoring drive, as their first offensive touchdown came on a short field after another Patriots turnover.
The secondary had a miscue on a touchdown throw from EJ Manuel to Stevie Johnson, but it was largely solid for the game. Manuel mustered just 150 yards passing on 27 attempts, with the Patriots missing at least one easy interception (Alfonzo Dennard had a pick in his grasp before dropping it). Cornerback Kyle Arrington was a standout on the day, forcing two turnovers and nearly intercepting Manuel as well.
The Patriots talked throughout the week about limiting a pair of Bills skill players, C.J. Spiller and Steve Johnson. Johnson found the end zone once, but the two were limited to just 94 yards of total offense and Spiller fumbled once. Taking away those two is going to be a goal for every defense that faces Buffalo this season and the Patriots did well to contain them on Sunday.
Three areas in which improvement is needed: 1) The Patriots were unable to register a single sack of Manuel on the day. 2) The secondary cannot afford to have blown coverages, which appeared to be the case on the Johnson touchdown. 3) It wasn't crippling, but Fred Jackson had 41 receiving yards and there were instances where the Patriots linebackers were a step behind in pass coverage underneath.