First impressions: Patriots 41, Bills 25

First impressions: Patriots 41, Bills 25

In Buffalo, it was apparent that the Patriots were a much different team than the one that took the field at Gillette Stadium and lost to the Bills in Week 4. They easily rolled over Rex Ryan's club, 41-17, moving their record to 7-1 on the season. Here are five quick impressions from the matchup . . .

PATRIOTS 41, BILLS 25: Curran's Best and Worst | Bills Mafia throws WHAT on the field??

* Tom Brady continues to perform as the most consistent signal-caller in the NFL as he completed 22 of 33 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns. He spread the ball to a variety of targets, completing multiple passes to six different receivers. He also continues to impress as he used his legs sparingly but effectively. He was able to climb the pocket and buy himself time to find open receivers. He stepped up, avoided pressure coming from the edges, and threw with Bills defensive tackle Kyle Williams in his face for his first touchdown pass of the game. In the third quarter, Brady scrambled for a gain of 15 yards on a third-and-five play to keep a drive alive that eventually resulted in a LeGarrette Blount score. Brady came out with 4:29 left in the game, giving way to backup Jimmy Garoppolo.

* Buffalo played a smart football game against an undermanned Patriots group back in Week 4, but at home they imploded. From the beginning, they drew penalties on a consistent basis. They had a 12-men-on-the-field flag on New England's first drive of the game, on the second their defensive holding penalty canceled out a Patriots offensive-pass-interference call. A late hit in the third quarter and a hold in the fourth also helped the Patriots keep drives alive and led to scores. They finished with 12 penalties for 84 yards. The Patriots were called for some long ones themselves, particularly pass interference calls on Eric Rowe and Justin Coleman, giving them nine flags for 87 yards. 

* Stephen Gostkowski made all of his kicks on the afternoon, perhaps giving him the shot of confidence he's been looking for over the last few weeks. He made two field goald, including a 51-yarder at the end of the first half, and five extra-points. The long boot of the day actually ricocheted off of the upright and bounced through. Gostkowski appeared fired up, throwing his hands into the air in celebration upon seeing that it was good. 

* Rob Gronkowski snagged five passes for 109 yards, including a 53-yard score that gave him the new Patriots record with 69 career receiving touchdowns. Gronkowski found himself in one-on-one coverage down the seam in the first quarter for his record-breaking catch. He took a bow immediately after crossing the goal line, then executed his trademark spike. That was a celebration that could have gone any number of ways, and he chose the classy route. 

* While the Patriots will be happy to head home with another divisional win, one area they'll have to continue to evaluate is their depth at cornerback. Malcolm Butler has solidified himself as a No. 1 corner, and he had another strong game on Sunday, but after that there are some question marks. Last week, Eric Rowe played every snap, looking like the No. 2 on the depth chart, ahead of Logan Ryan. This week, Rowe saw plenty of action through the early portion of the game, and the Bills went right after him. He committed a pass-interference penalty and an illegal contact penalty early in the game, and he picked up another pass interference flag in the fourth quarter. He was targeted eight times, only allowing three receptions, but he was personally responsible for 63 penalty yards. Ryan and Justin Coleman also saw their share of action but the No. 2 job looks like it's up for grabs. Second-round rookie Cyrus Jones was made a healthy scratch before the game for the third consecutive week. 

Martellus Bennett: NFL players just want to smoke weed and play video games

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Martellus Bennett: NFL players just want to smoke weed and play video games

Martelllus Bennett was released by the Patriots earlier this month after reappearing for a two-game cameo following his controversial exit from Green Bay last season.

As he ponders whether to play again, it's probably to safe to guess what he's been spending his time doing. It's what he says all NFL players want to do in the offseason. 

The outspoken tight end talked about the goals of every NFL player in an interview with Complex's "Out of Bounds". 

"You hand the guy a book and they're like...get that thing away from me!" Bennett said, laughing as he fumbled a book. "That thing is the devil. A book? That's the devil!"

Change to pass-interference rule is WAY overdue

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Change to pass-interference rule is WAY overdue

Yes, please, on the proposed adjustment to defensive pass interference. No, thank you on the revised catch rule.

And I know I'm going to have my dreams crushed on both counts.

Despite all the arm-flapping and breath wasted that "NOBODY KNOWS WHAT A CATCH IS ANYMORE!!!!", long-distance pass interference has been a bigger bugaboo for the league for a much longer time.

In 2017, there were 129 pass interference calls longer than 15 yards. The proposed rule change that will be debated at next week's NFL Annual Meeting will make pass interference a 15-yard penalty unless it's egregious and intentional. In those cases, it will continue to be a spot foul

So overdue. For too long offenses have been rewarded by officials on 50-50 balls where DBs and receivers engage in subtle handfighting. It's absolutely illogical to expect middle-aged officials in okay (or worse) shape to keep pace with Gronk-sized receivers and whippet-quick defenders, then make calls on plays 40 yards downfield.

If you're going to throw a flag that gives the offense 40 yards, there should be an extreme degree of certainty accompanies that flag. And too often, the officials are forced to make educated guesses. Next thing you know, Joe Flacco and Rex Grossman are in the Super Bowl.

It's probably the most difficult penalty to call in football, yet it carries the greatest punishment for a defense? What sense does that make? 

I actually think the NFL should go a step beyond and make pass interference reviewable. I'll even make this concession -- it's reviewable only for DPI that puts the ball inside the 10 and is longer than 15 yards. How's that?

"More reviews?!?!? We don't need more reviews?!?!?!"

Okay, but you'll accept them when a dimwit coach argues a spot on a three-yard run that may or may not mean a first down, but not on a play that hands the offense half the field? Come on. Forward thinking.

As for the contention corners are going to begin bludgeoning receivers once they realize they're being beaten deep -- BAM! -- that's where you get the aggravated pass interference (API . . . trademarked 2018) that can be dropped on their heads.

A DB that doesn't turn to face the ball and runs through a receiver? An arm bar all the way downfield preventing a receiver from getting his hands up? A way-too-early arrival? That's API and it's a spot foul. What are the possible negative consequences?

It will now spawn debate as to what's aggravated PI and just garden variety PI. And it asks officials to make another judgment call.

But the truth is, it already is -- in many cases -- a judgment call. And if I were an official reaching for my flag on a Hail Mary from the 43 at the end of the game where there was jostling, I'd sure as hell be happy that I have the option to call garden variety PI and put the ball at the 28 rather than put the ball at the 1.

It's a rule change that makes the game better. That way you don't have calls like this or this. This 55-yarder would be an API (defender hugs Crabtree).

Tellingly, there's no outcry about the need to reform pass interference NOW like there is about the catch rule. You know what needs to happen? A few more plays like this where the Patriots profit. Then you'll see a damn MOVEMENT!