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Monday, December 30, 2013
Picked-up pieces from 3rd-quarter review

By Mike Reiss

Picked-up pieces from third-quarter review of the New England Patriots' 34-20 win over the Buffalo Bills:

1. Overall, this wasn't a particularly sharp 15 minutes for the Patriots, as the Bills closed to 16-10. Mistakes in all three phases stunted some of the momentum the team had built to that point.

2. Holding penalties by right tackle Marcus Cannon (9:25 remaining) and center Ryan Wendell (8:54 remaining) were the 16th and 17th offensive holding penalties of the season for the Patriots. That's been the most frequent penalty called against the team this season, and it set up a less-than-desirable first-and-30.

3. On the next play, left tackle Nate Solder missed his block on Jerry Hughes and running back Shane Vereen was brought down for a 4-yard loss, setting up second-and-34. That sequence of plays -- penalty/penalty/missed block -- was the worst of the day for the Patriots and it came after the Bills had gifted them 30 penalty yards. If Bill Belichick thinks the Patriots need some “humble pie”, this is an area of the tape he can quickly reference.

4. Seemed like a ticky-tack unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Bills defensive tackle Alan Branch for pushing Wendell (9:57 remaining). Didn't seem like enough for a 15-yard infraction. Likewise on the Chandler Jones illegal hands to the face penalty (2:30 remaining).

5. Why the punt by quarterback Tom Brady on third-and-32? Belichick explained after the game that given the rainy conditions, he didn't want to set up a situation where the Bills' punt rush could create a game-changing play. “It was the play that we felt like we had good protection on and rather than going through the whole third-and-long deal with the punt rush, we were able to get a little cleaner play off there,” he said. But Brady said he could have hit the ball better and safety Jim Leonhard made a heads-up play to fair catch it.

6. Crushing block by special teams captain Matthew Slater at the start of LeGarrette Blount's 83-yard kickoff return. He de-cleated safety Duke Williams. Then it was all about Blount's speed, which at 250 pounds, is unusual to see.

7. A clear sign that left guard Logan Mankins was playing on an injured ankle -- he was driven back by defensive tackle Kyle Williams as running back Stevan Ridley was dropped for a 1-yard gain (1:17 remaining). Mankins is usually plowing ahead in those situations, even against a Pro Bowler like Williams.

8. Run support from all three cornerbacks -- Aqib Talib, Logan Ryan and Kyle Arrington -- showed up at various times. This came to mind after watching Talib's takedown of C.J. Spiller on a 4-yard run (14:03 remaining). This is something the Patriots place a high value on with their cornerbacks.

9. On Chris Jones' 6-yard sack (7:03 remaining), it looked like good man coverage across the board from Talib, Ryan and Arrington in the nickel package. Jones didn't win with his initial move, but with Lewis forced to tuck the ball, it gave the rush more time to get there.

10. For the second week in a row, the Patriots didn't move end Chandler Jones inside in pass rush situations Instead, defensive end Andre Carter rushed from an inside position. That has been a noticeable change.

11. Random thought: I see a lot of similarities between Bills safety Jim Leonhard and Patriots safety Steve Gregory in terms of style of play.

12. While not specific to the Patriots, a quick note on Bills outside linebacker Jerry Hughes, who seems to be coming into his own. The 2010 first-round draft choice of the Colts has had his career revived with the Bills and looked like their best defensive player, while we hardly noticed Mario Williams.