Patriots’ performance Sunday means little in playoffs
FOXBOROUGH – Quick-hit thoughts following the Patriots’ 17-9 loss to the Bills on Sunday afternoon:
■ Nope, sorry, not going to freak out about how poorly the Patriots played. The team didn’t look good, but how they played will have no bearing on the playoffs. The Patriots treated this as a preseason game (rightly so), sitting Rob Gronkowski, Dont’a Hightower, Brandon Browner, Julian Edelman, Dan Connolly, Jonas Gray and Sebastian Vollmer, and they called vanilla plays on both sides of the ball. I don’t believe in the concept of having “momentum” going into the playoffs. I believe in having your players healthy and well-rested. So Sunday was a success, despite the final score.
■ To prove how sitting Gronk and several key starters was the right call, Nate Solder injured his knee at the end of the first half and didn’t come out of the locker room after halftime. We don’t know the severity, and thankfully he has two weeks to get healthy, but losing your starting left tackle in a meaningless game would not be a great way to enter the playoffs.
■ That said, it is a shame the Patriots’ home winning streak over the Bills came to an end at 13. This was the Bills’ first win in Foxborough since 2000, and first-ever win at Gillette Stadium in 12 tries. The loss ruined the Patriots’ perfect streak at home this season. It was their first regular-season loss at home since losing to the 49ers in Week 15 of 2012, snapping their 16-game home win streak.
■ This game was a good opportunity to get live game reps for a lot of the backups. Duron Harmon, Tavon Wilson, Jonathan Casillas, LeGarrette Blount, Cameron Fleming, Malcolm Butler, and several others may be forced into action during the playoffs.
■ Excited to see Jimmy Garoppolo get his first real playing time since Week 4, but the patchwork offensive line didn’t give him any time to throw. He showed good mobility and awareness in avoiding some of the pass rushers, and good accuracy on the few throws he was able to get off. But the difference in arm strength between him and Tom Brady is noticeable.
■ Got to love Danny Amendola’s toughness and fearlessness on kick returns, but he’s going to get himself injured the way he keeps leaving his feet. That said, he’s solid on kickoff returns and a good complement to Edelman on punt returns.
■ Jamie Collins wrapped up a breakout second season with a triple play – sack, forced fumble, and fumble recovery. Collins really filled up the stat sheet this season: Four sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recovers, two interceptions, and a team-high 115 tackles.
■ Josh Kline was a turnstile at left guard. Bill Belichick sounded fairly confident during the pregame radio show that Dan Connolly will be back for the playoffs, but if Kline has to play at all, Brady and the Patriots could be in trouble.