Needing a long third-down conversion in the red zone, the Bills threw at Logan Ryan. Searching for short yardage in the flat, the Bills threw at Logan Ryan. Wanting to make a huge play down the field, the Bills threw at Logan Ryan.
The Patriots cornerback has never recorded more than seven tackles in a game in the NFL, but on Sunday, as the main target of Buffalo’s offensive game plan, he doubled his career high. Ryan finished with 14 tackles and assisted on three others, nine more combined tackles than any other Patriot,
“From top down in the secondary, our coverage wasn’t good enough,” Ryan said. “Everything just wasn’t on point, and that’s the players’ fault. We need to do the little things a little bit better.”
Lined up against Ryan for much of the game, Robert Woods had 10 passes thrown his way, the most of any Bills’ wide receiver. Woods turned those targets into seven catches for 89 yards, the third-most yards New England has allowed a receiver this season.
“He gets a lot of targets for them with [Sammy] Watkins out, and he had some success with it in the first half,” Ryan said. “In those situations, I have to play better, I have to be a little more aggressive. It’s tough to learn from, because we tried to not give up many deep balls, which we really didn’t, but personally I have to play a little more aggressive on the short ones.”
It wasn’t just Ryan. The Bills exploited a Patriots defense that spent much of the game defending long passes and constantly giving up mid-range completions. Both Woods and coach Rex Ryan said Buffalo usually shies away from running slant routes, but they took advantage of what the Patriots were giving them.
“That was something we were seeing watching film all week,” Buffalo quarterback Tyrod Taylor said. “We thought we had the right type of guys to run those routes inside and beat some of their man-coverages.”
The Bills possessed the ball for 36 minutes on Sunday, largely because they were able to extend drives by converting seven of 15 third downs. All four of Buffalo’s scoring drives were 10 or more plays.
The difference was Taylor, who ran five times for 28 yards and often used his legs to move the chains. He missed on several deep passes and struggled with accuracy near the sidelines, but he still completed 27 of 39 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown. It was the first time in his NFL career he’s won while attempting more than 30 passes.
“He makes you rush differently, he makes you a little more tentative, and at the end of the day he made some plays, extended some plays,” said Patriots defensive end Chris Long. “We knew that was something we had to stop. I don’t think we did a terrible job with that, but at the end of the day, he did make some plays doing that.”
For a team that struggled mightily to move the ball, the Patriots’ defense didn’t do its offense any favors. The Bills’ first drive, which ended with the only touchdown of the game, chewed more than seven minutes off the game clock. As a result, New England ran just six plays in the first quarter. That’s a tough hole for any offense to climb out of, but particularly for an offense starting a third-string rookie at quarterback.
“Defensively, when we played well on first down, we give up a first down on second down,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said. “Play well first and second down, give up a long gain on third. On a 12-play drive, it wasn’t all bad each play, but it was two good, one bad. We just have to play more consistent and better.”