Sunday, September 8, 2013
Sharing some halftime thoughts
By Mike Reiss
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Sharing some thoughts at halftime of the Patriots’ season-opening game against the Bills, with the Patriots leading 17-14:
This was a half in which mistakes by both teams led to points.
A fumble by Bills running back C.J. Spiller on the second play of Buffalo’s first drive set a tone for what was generally a sloppy 30 minutes for the Bills' offense. It was forced by cornerback Kyle Arrington and the Patriots turned it into their first touchdown (Julian Edelman TD catch). Arrington also forced a second fumble in the second quarter, leading to another touchdown (Edelman again), as Arrington and Edelman have been two of the Patriots’ top players today.
A fumble by Patriots running back Stevan Ridley -- in which he wasn’t touched but lost his footing and then the football (it was returned 74 yards for a touchdown by safety Da'Norris Searcy) -- was one of the Patriots' biggest miscues. The Patriots led 10-0 at the time, so that was a big mistake.
Ridley’s ball security is a concern for the Patriots. He also lost a football earlier in the game, but was ruled to be down and the Patriots kept the ball. Ridley did not play another snap after his fumble.
Late in the second quarter, a pass intended for tight end Zach Sudfeld was intercepted when Sudfeld lost his footing coming out of his break. Footing was an issue for the team (it had been raining for parts of the weekend here).
From a strategy standpoint, the Bills are primarily playing a three-receiver package on offense, which has the Patriots in their nickel defense. The ‘D’ has mostly been up to the challenge, except for what looked like a blown coverage at the end of the second quarter on a Robert Woods touchdown catch.
Offensively, the Patriots have worked hard to establish the line of scrimmage by sometimes using an extra offensive lineman as an eligible receiver/extra tight end. That also ties to their shortage at tight end, with Rob Gronkowski not yet ready for action and just Michael Hoomanawanui and Sudfeld at the position.
The Patriots are mixing their packages but this isn’t the explosive offense we’ve come to expect in recent years. Receiver Danny Amendola has looked sharp, and there is an obvious comfort level that Tom Brady has developed with him. Ditto for Edelman. Outside of that, however, it’s a work in progress.
In some respects, this isn’t a surprise. With so many changes at receiver and tight end, some growing pains were anticipated.
On the injury front, the Patriots were without linebacker Brandon Spikes, who was on for two snaps and left with dehydration. Amendola limped off late in the second quarter and was holding his groin while stretching on the sideline.
The Bills get the ball to start the second half.