ORCHARD PARK – The chasm between the Bills and Patriots is as wide as ever, and that was once again so plainly obvious to see during New England’s barely-break-a-sweat 41-25 victory at New Era Field Sunday.
They’re here (I’m looking at the sky) and the Bills are down there (I’m looking at the ground) and it just never seems like it will ever change, at least not while Tom Brady is flinging footballs all over the place.
Brady has rarely been better than these first four games he has played since his Deflategate suspension ended (12 TDs, 0 interceptions, 1,319 yards passing, an ungodly 133.9 passer rating), and if anyone truly thought the Bills were going to slow him down, they were kidding themselves.
The Bills were looking at each other on the field wondering what went wrong, and they were looking at each other in the locker room searching for answers. A couple of them – namely Preston Brown and Corey Graham - surmised that the truth hurts, and that right now, this is a “mediocre” team that won’t be going anywhere – again – unless things change in a hurry.
Stop me if you heard that one before. The good news is that at least Brady and Bill Belichick are off the schedule the rest of the year. Upon Further Review, here are a few more thoughts I had regarding this latest putridness against the Patriots.
Three things I liked
1. The pass rush. Brady does not normally take sacks because he gets rid of the ball so quickly. But the Bills, while it may not have seemed like it, did occasionally throw some decent coverage at the Patriots, enough to allow the pass rushers to sack Brady four times, and Jimmy Garoppolo once. Preston Brown, Zach Brown, Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams, and Shaq Lawson all recorded sacks in the game. Unfortunately, it didn’t matter in the least. One of the Patriots beat writers threw out this amazing stat: On plays where Brady threw the ball inside two seconds, he was 16-of-16 for 158 yards. Seriously, how do you possibly stop that?
2. Mike Gillislee. The Bills sure didn’t lose this game because LeSean McCoy was inactive. Gillislee did a nice job filling in for the injured McCoy as he rushed for 85 yards on just 12 carries and scored a touchdown. It just makes you wonder what might have happened last week in Miami if the Bills had just sat out McCoy like they should have, and gotten Gillislee established early. Maybe it wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but I’ll bet the Bills running game would have had a better day, and that might have been enough to flip the score.:
3. Zach Brown. This guy continues to be a pleasant surprise and with 11 more tackles, he’s back to leading the NFL with 87 overall this year. Brown had the late sack on Garoppolo, an inconsequential play, but he had other more meaningful tackles earlier. I would have liked to have seen Brown matched up a few times on Rob Gronkowski because perhaps he would have had a better chance limiting the damage. No one can cover Gronk, but Brown has the size and decent enough speed to at least make it interesting. Having Nickell Robey-Coleman, who’s 10 inches shorter and 100 pounds lighter than Gronk, one-on-one on that 53-yard TD was coaching blunder 101.
Three things I didn't like
1. The officials. I haven’t vented on the NFL’s rulebook yet this season, so this is as good a time as any. Like I’ve been saying for years, burn it and start fresh. This game saw 22 accepted penalties totaling 200 yards, 116 of those against the almighty Patriots. Who wants to watch games like this? If you’re a Bills fan, I know you’re like me in that every time the Bills rip off a nice gain, you immediately look for a flag because inevitably, one is coming. It’s almost like the officials are thinking “There’s no way the Bills could have done that, someone had to be breaking the rules.” I’m sick of the officials becoming part of the narrative of every game.
2. Stephon Gilmore. Rex Ryan’s defense relies on cornerbacks who can cover one-on-one, and Gilmore is considered by many league experts as one of the best in the league. I’m starting to question the sanity of that theory. He hasn’t been close to that level of performance this year as he has repeatedly been beaten for big plays. The latest came when ex-Bill Chris Hogan caught a 53-yard TD pass from Brady by running past Gilmore on a deep route. It appeared that safety Jonathan Meeks screwed up the call and was supposed to be providing over-the-top help, but here’s my thought: Gilmore was out there one-on-one with Hogan, not Julio Jones or AJ Green. How about picking up your confused teammate and making a play, because one was there to be made.
1 – Time in Bills history where they have played back-to-back games where neither team committed a turnover. It happened last week in Miami, and Sunday against New England.
1969 – That was the last time a team that was shutout by a division opponent in the first meeting of the season, and then scored 40 or more points in the rematch. The Patriots did that to the Bills this season, and the Chargers did that to Denver in 1969.
4 – Times in games played in Buffalo where a visiting quarterback had a game where he threw for at least 300 yards and four TDs without a pick. Brady also did it in 2007 and 2014, and Dan Marino did it in 1986.
Next up is an unenviable trip to Seattle, one of the most difficult venues for a visiting team in all of football. And the fact that the Seahawks just lost at New Orleans to fall to 4-2-1 on the season certainly won’t help their mood. Clearly, this is the toughest road game the Bills face all season, and their offense will be put to the test having to deal with ear-splitting crowd noise and an angry, super-talented Seattle defense that ranks second in average points allowed, sixth in yards allowed, and fourth in yards per rushing attempt.