Curran: Normally stoic Patriots show some fire in Bills beatdown

Curran: Normally stoic Patriots show some fire in Bills beatdown

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y.  – There’s sometimes a dispassion about the Patriots as they clinically go about their business. They don’t merely play against their opponents each week, scuffling to put up more points than the other guys over 60 minutes. They play against a performance standard that the coaches and players set for themselves.

Which is why – despite wins of 20, 18, 11 and 16 over AFC opponents since Tom Brady returned – there’s still that niggling “good but not good enough” air afterwards. It’s as if the opponent is incidental.

Well, the Bills got the Patriots to put down their briefcases this week, crack their knuckles and decide that, since the Bills wanted to make it personal a few weeks back, the Patriots would make it personal at New Era Field.

The Bills squeezed a little old school, circa 2003-07 Patriots emotion from the normally stoic team.


The 16-0 whitewashing in Foxboro without Brady and with a pregame bum’s rush for Jacoby Brissett? "That definitely stood on our minds,"said safety Devin McCourty. "We didn’t forget about that."

The Patriots have played crisper games on defense. And they could have scored more than the 41. But they rattled organs on Sunday. From Dont'a Hightower’s violent enveloping of Mike Gillislee on the Bills’ first possession to an array of takedowns by Malcolm Butler and through the organ-rattling hit by McCourty which chased Brandon Tate from the game, the Patriots delivered their messages to Rex Ryan’s team.

And afterward, McCourty delivered the message verbally as well. Asked about the dustup between the Bills DBs, Brissett, Malcolm Mitchell and a few Patriots assistants, McCourty said derisively, “What was that . . . Like, that wasn’t even a play. Was that the thing of the year that they got in a little scuffle? I mean, maybe it’s the highlight of their season. But that’s pretty sad if that’s your highlight.

"We know what it was about coming up here today. Coming up here today and getting a win in the division. Every win you get in the division it puts another team behind us even more so. That’s what our focus was. I didn’t think anything was gonna happen. They were probably more worried about having to come play us again more than anything.”

It was good to see somebody channel their inner Rodney Harrison. Or Tedy Bruschi, Willie McGinest or Mike Vrabel and show that – despite the methodical detachment we usually bear witness to – they get pissed off when somebody tries to dump their books in the hallway. And they remember it.

More good news? Another round of lippiness from the Bills after the game ensures that there will be more for the Patriots to file away when they see the Bills in 2017. Or in the playoffs. But probably in 2017.

Bills linebacker Zach Brown lamented the Bills injuries: “They are at full strength and we aren’t at full strength. I mean we don’t got our running back, we don’t got Sammy (Watkins), I mean Zo (Lorenzo Alexander) is hurt, myself playing with an injury, Jerry (Hughes) ended up leaving the game with an injury. So we are not at full strength ourselves. So (Tom Brady) took advantage of us not being at full strength. Taking advantage of people coming in, backing up.”

Bills corner Stephon Gilmore lamented penalties: “Penalties gave them everything, just gave them everything really . . . They didn’t ever beat us one-on-one really. We just gave them everything. He seen it, easy throws, just gave them everything.”

And Brown – who signed a one-year deal with the Bills back in April – intimated that without Brady, the Patriots are just a collection of guys.

“Yeah, some people they gain confidence when they have (Tom) Brady,” he said. “When Brady wasn’t here they were not heard of. So it is like who are you when you are not with that guy. You are not the same player. So for me it’s more of you are just a guy when you are not with him. When you are with him you think you are somebody. But for me he is just a great player. Tom, he is good, give him his respect.”

Brown ambled around saying it specifically, but it’s clear his target was Rob Gronkowski as Brown also told the Boston Globe, “I’m more impressed with [Martellus] Bennett than Gronk. When Tom Brady wasn’t here, you didn’t hear [Gronkowski]. But when Tom Brady comes back he knows where to place it, how to place it, and he uses Gronk’s size to his advantage.”

“As far as blocking, no, I do not think he’s one of the best. Bennett is probably a better blocker.”

The game? The game hinged on an exchange in the first quarter.

After the Patriots made it 7-3, the Bills held on the kickoff return and started at their 7. Charles Clay then had a Tyrod Taylor pass go through his hands, Tate cement-fisted a well-thrown ball by Taylor, the Bills uncorked a 33-yard punt and the Patriots were in the end zone two minutes later with a 14-3 lead.

That was pretty much it. The same script we saw against Pittsburgh showed up on the next two Patriots drives – a couple of three-and-outs and then a Bills touchdown. Then the Bills made the same coverage mistake the Steelers did and let JAG Gronkowski run down the seam with an overmatched corner on him and there was your separation again.

The Bills missed a 49-yarder late in the half, the Patriots motored downfield and Stephen Gostkowski got off the schnied with a 51-yarder through the wind off the post and in and then Danny Amendola took the second half kickoff back 73 yards to set up the score that made it 31-10.

The remaining focus for the day was on a flying sex toy.

The gap between the Patriots and teams like the Bills isn’t going away. And with a week to get under the hood and figure out why a defense chock-full-o’-talent is too often pedestrian the Patriots will widen the gap between themselves and the rest of the proletariat even further.

But at least this week I got 900 words on something other than, “Wow, aren’t the Patriots a pain to defend…?” It was a little bit like the old days.

'Leprechaun' Gronk dropping more hints about future plans - sort of

'Leprechaun' Gronk dropping more hints about future plans - sort of

Rob Gronkowski, decked out in his finest St. Patrick's Day duds over the weekend in Nashville, reportedly tried to shed some light on his NFL future.

Of course, while Gronk was doing Gronk things, he told a Patriots fan one thing and a reporter another.

Breech is an NFL writer for His father is former Cincinnati Bengals kicker Jim Breech. And the "69ers" aren't a real team.


AFC East is starting to prepare for post-Brady life

AFC East is starting to prepare for post-Brady life

The Patriots' "direction" never really changes. They're always "going for it" because they're always one of the best teams in the league. 

The rest of the AFC East is usually in flux. The other teams range from hoping for 8-8 to trying to bottom out in hopes of a high draft pick. Yet right now, it seems the stars are aligning and that the Jets, Bills and Dolphins all have the mindset: Change things now and be ready to pounce once Brady is gone. 

The Jets traded up to No. 3 on Saturday, assuring themselves a chance at one of this draft's top quarterbacks. The Bills, with picks Nos. 12 and 22, are expected by pundits to make a similar move up. The Dolphins, fresh off cutting bait with Ndamukong Suh in an attempt at a culture change, have the 11th pick and could use it on a quarterback to either push or replace Ryan Tannehill. 

None of the three teams are close to pushing the Patriots as long as Brady's around, even with the Bills coming off a season in which they reached the playoffs. Yet there's a two-or-three-year plan on which all three teams could have designs: Get the quarterback now, build around him and be in a good situation by the time Brady is done. 

We've seen these teams try to rebuild before during the Brady Era, with only limited success. Mark Sanchez worked out better in New York than anyone could have initially expected, but that success lasted way shorter than any believers could have hoped. Now, it seems they try again. 

Over in Buffalo, the end of the Tyrod Taylor era hardly means the beginning of the Nathan Peterman era. Those two first-rounders should easily be able to get the Bills into the top five, and they've also got two second-rounders and two third-rounders. Hell, they have the pieces to get to No. 1 if Cleveland is bold enough to pass on their choice of Darnold/Rosen/Allen/Mayfield. 

The Dolphins are in the more interesting spot. Tannehill missed all of last season and he's 29. If you're six years into your career and your team still isn't totally sure if you can be one of the better QBs in the league, you probably aren't one of the better QBs in the league. At the very least, Lamar Jackson should be there at No. 11. They could also trade up. 

At the start of last season, the Patriots had far and away the two best QBs in the AFC East. Now, it stands to reason that at least two of their divisional opponents (the Jets and Bills) will come away with what they hope are franchise quarterbacks. And if any of these guys hit, the Pats will have gone from the best QB situation in the NFL to seeing some actual competition waiting for them by the time their own quarterback is done. 

Of course, all three of these teams usually suck at everything, so it shouldn't be a big deal.