Tom E. Curran's Patriots-Bills Preview/Review: Pats win an ugly one
PREVIEW: Last year, the Patriots played in Buffalo in Week 8. The final score was 25-6 but the score doesn’t do justice to how hard the Bills made it on the New England offense. It was 9-6 late in the third and the Patriots only got in the end zone offensively once. The Bills were 2-5 going into that game but still gave plenty of resistance to a Patriots team still looking for its offensive identity. This week, the two teams meet again. The Patriots have the best defense in the NFL but — like last season — an offense that is still figuring out what it’s going to be all about. While the Patriots have plus-89 in score differential, this game should be the toughest test of the first quarter of the season.
REVIEW: In a lot of ways, this game was a carbon copy of the last Patriots game in Buffalo. One offensive touchdown. A return touchdown. An inflamed fanbase left howling after their three hour respite from the daily, soul-sucking existence in Western New York followed the same pattern it always does when the Patriots visit: Tentative hope. Sudden despair. Rekindled hope. More despair.
When the Patriots Ran
PREVIEW: This has been a sore spot so far for the Patriots as Michel has struggled to get started. The team is without fullback James Develin for the foreseeable future as he’s gone to IR. Left tackle Marshall Newhouse missed a pair of practices this week with an illness and was limited on Friday. The Patriots aren’t getting the same level of blocking from the tight end spot they had for years with Rob Gronkowski. So it’s not optimal. The Bills gave up 129 to the Giants in Week 2 but held the Jets and Bengals under 70 yards. They aren’t an easy team to run on with Star Lotuleilei, Jerry Hughes and rookie Ed Oliver up front with linebacker Tremaine Edwards cleaning things up behind them. Advantage: Bills
REVIEW: Better than the numbers — 23 carries for 74 yards and 17 carries for 63 yards for Sony Michel — but still not near where it needs to be. Rewatching some of the trouble Michel had in finding room to run, it wasn’t that the offensive line was doing a poor job, the Bills just knew what was coming and were able to send more than the Patriots could block. The fact that Michel on the field means never having to worry about the back catching a pass gives the defense a lot of certainty about what they need to guard against. And Buffalo’s second-level run support from Tremaine Edmunds and safety Jordan Poyer was outstanding. Advantage: Bills
When the Bills Ran
PREVIEW: The Patriots are best in the league at shutting down running games. Even though Frank Gore can still pop a few, the Patriots’ front is too locked in right now to allow the Bills running game to heat up. One factor to watch for is rookie Devin Singletary. He’s got 127 yards on 10 carries but is coming into this one with a sore hamstring. Advantage: Patriots
REVIEW: By halftime, Frank Gore had popped more than a few with 88 yards on nine carries. The Patriots wound up allowing 135 yards on 22 carries. The big yards were made by Gore running downhill and getting through the second level and up on the safeties. It was a far cry from the Patriots’ swarming performances in their first three games when they allowed an average of 36 yards to opposing rushing attacks, but there was nothing to indicate that this was a sign of things to come. It was a good back (Gore), making good decisions on well-blocked plays and the Patriots getting cleared out a few times. Advantage: Bills
When the Patriots Passed
PREVIEW: After three near-perfect drives to start the game last week against the Jets, the Patriots bogged down a bit after halftime. They were 2 for 8 on third downs after the when Julian Edelman exited the game with injured ribs. Expect him to play Sunday. But the Bills should be sending plenty of attention his way and sending their best corner, Tre’Davious White, to deal with Josh Gordon. That means the backs – Burkhead and James White – and wideouts like Phillip Dorsett and Jakobi Meyers will be called on. Dorsett is already off to the most productive start of his five-year career and the Patriots are going to need him to keep working at the same level to succeed. This is close but we’re giving the checkmark to the Patriots because they have the best quarterback to ever do it on their side. Advantage: Patriots
REVIEW: I had a feeling it was going to look sketchy, but this was worse than anticipated. Tom Brady went 18 for 39 with an end zone pick from the 2 that took points off the board. Throwing to Dorsett, Brady was 2 for 9 for 10 yards. He’s got limitations when defenses can send better corners or more attention his way because he’s not a big fella and is almost exclusively an outside-the-numbers player. Gordon caught three of the seven passes he saw for 41 yards. One was a simple screen that gained 13. The other was a crosser that gained 46. Nothing downfield outside the numbers or between the hashes. Brady’s best throw was his 26-yard hookup with James White that set up the team’s lone touchdown. He was not accurate on Sunday, with a number of passes sailing higher than intended and at least a half-dozen throwaways. Advantage: Bills
When the Bills Passed
PREVIEW: I smell interceptions. Josh Allen’s had a nice start to the season and his two new additions at wideout — Cole Beasley and John Brown — have combined for 35 catches. But this is an entirely different challenge for Allen with Stephon Gilmore likely to take Brown for a chunk of the game. Can Allen read and react quickly without losing composure and gallumping into trouble? Will the Patriots — dealing with their first running threat at quarterback this year — back off the pressure a bit to try and keep Allen from scrambling? This is a bad matchup for Allen. If he completes more than 55 percent of his passes, call it a big win for him. Advantage: Patriots
REVIEW: Told you. The Patriots had four picks. Three were thrown by Allen and all of them were forced and stupid. Allen did indeed gallump into trouble. He was knocked from the game when he was met by Jonathan Jones while trying to run for a first down. Some say the hit was dirty. Those somes don’t know the rules. Kyle Van Noy had another brilliant game in the pass rush, as did Adam Butler and Donta Hightower. Advantage: Patriots
PREVIEW: Jake Bailey had a remarkable game last week and was the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Stephen Gostkowski did not have a remarkable game, missing another PAT. The Bills haven’t gotten much done on returns this season. Their kicker, Steve Hauschka, has missed just one kick this season. Former Patriots hopeful Corey Bojorquez is the Bills punter. Rookie returner Gunner Olszewski had a bad muff last week and his ballhandling — while very good outside of that blunder — will be in focus. Advantage: Patriots.
REVIEW: Because of the missed PAT from Stephen Gostkowski, the Patriots were in a position to be beaten if Matt Barkley pulled a rabbit out of his hat at the end and got the Bills in the end zone. It’s getting silly. Gostkowski made his lone field goal from 23 yards and hit his other PAT. Gunner Olszewski fielded just one punt — a fair catch. Everything else was downed, into the end zone or out of bounds. Jake Bailey had to punt nine times. That’s a lot. Advantage: Bills
Line and Prediction
PREVIEW: Patriots 19, Bills 13
Patriots favored by 7.5. The total is 42.
REVIEW: Patriots 16, Bills 10
If you played Bills and under, YOU WIN! This space is now 3-1 against the spread, 3-1 against the total.
- Week 1: Patriots 16, Steelers 13
- Week 2: Patriots 30, Dolphins 0
- Week 3: Patriots 20, Jets 6