The New England Patriots, after thumping the Houston Texans 27-0, were themselves the victims of being shut out by the Rex Ryan led Buffalo Bills 16-0. As the score indicates, it was an ugly, uneven game in which the Bills dominated for almost its entirety. There were flashes of hope here and there but almost all were negated by a penalty or a miscue that saw the Patriots shut out at home for the first time ever within the confines of Gillette Stadium the first home shutout loss suffered by the Patriots since 1993 (!).
The first blow to Patriots fans was landed before the opening coin toss ever occurred. Jimmy Garapollo, he of the handsome face, was the supposed starter for Sunday’s AFC East matchup even though he was listed as Questionable on Friday’s injury report. Hours before the game however it was revealed that Jimmy G had been downgraded to inactive and Patriots’ rookie QB Jacoby Brissett would indeed get his 2nd start. It could have gone better.
Brissett wasn’t bad, per se, for a rookie. His stat line of 17 of 27 for 205 yds isn’t terrible but it certainly isn’t inspiring, especially when you include his fumble on a 3rd and long in the red zone. In fact, Brissett’s mediocre day with a tinge of the abysmal was indicative or pretty much the entire New England team in almost every facet of the game. The defense only allowed 16 points (1 TD, 3 FG) but couldn’t produce a turnover or keep Buffalo out of FG range. Gostowski missed another FG. Blount had a decent day carrying the ball but couldn’t break one open. Gronk was on the field but mostly as a ghost. I’d say the only Patriot who had anything close to a good day was Martellus Bennett who turned in another 100 yd receiving performance.
The real reason for the loss? Well, there are two. One is very obvious and the other is more conjecture but, as for the obvious, it was 3rd down efficiency. The Bills were able to convert 7/15 3rd downs and it seemed to be done mostly through the air. The Patriots? 1/12. Tough to win a game if you have no big plays, no turnovers, no special teams TDs, and aren’t keeping the chains moving. The second? Play calling. I don’t know if its a function of Brissett being a rookie, the Patriots not willing to show their hand, or maybe Jimmy G being unavailable at the 11th hour threw the gameplan out the window. Perhaps it was a combination of all three. It just seemed like the Pats and McDaniels never found their groove in this one and started calling some overly cutesy plays. The most exciting play of the whole game for the Patriots was Julian Edelman’s 90 yard run down the field called back for a holding a penalty on Chris Hogan. It was just that type of day.
After what many had seen as the emergence of the dominate Patriots defense we were waiting to see last week this week was definitely a step back for Matt Patricia’s unit. Even without Sammy Watkins the Pats secondary seemed incapable of stopping the likes of Robert Woods and Charles Clay when it mattered. That’s concerning and it falls on Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan (who was replaced by Cyrus Jones for a spell). While the four game Brady-less hiatus is now officially over I still want to see both Butler and Ryan’s corner play elevate into a legit pass defending tandem instead of a pair of almost-got-its.
As it stands, the Patriots are still in 1st in the AFC East even with giving up a costly home loss to division rival Buffalo. However, at 3-1 I think the Patriots are right where most believed they would be even without Brady and are certainly better off than most would have guessed if you told them the Patriots would be down to Brissett for two of those four games. Whatever the record was going to be, one thing was going to be for certain and that is no one is going to want to be on the Cleveland Browns by, oh, I’d say 1:35 pm on Sunday.
We’re on to Cleveland.