ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Instant Analysis from the Patriots’ 16-10 win over the Bills on Sunday.
■ The Patriots won, but the offense played so poorly this game feels more like a loss. There is no shame in getting shut down by an excellent Bills defense, but rarely have the Patriots looked so inept on offense. They gained just 224 yards, their sixth-fewest yards in the Bill Belichick era, and their fewest since 2009.
The Patriots limped into this game, with minor injuries to Julian Edelman, Rex Burkhead, and Josh Gordon, plus issues at center, left tackle, tight end, and no fullback James Develin. Josh McDaniels didn’t have any tricks up his sleeve, and Tom Brady couldn’t make any magic on his own. It’s never a good sign when Brady is just chucking it deep, and he reached that point by the second quarter. The Bills made the Patriots look like a JV offense. The Patriots will need a better effort when they play better quarterbacks.
■ Stephen Gostkowski’s yips finally caught up to the Patriots. He missed another extra point, his fourth of the season, and it allowed the Bills a chance to drive for a game-winning touchdown. Gostkowski is really testing Bill Belichick’s faith, and it may be time for the Patriots to bring in a kicker, at least for a tryout.
Brady also looked like he was shying away from contact. He had Gordon open for a touchdown on a post pattern in the second quarter, but never saw him and instead threw the ball away. Brady also threw a horrible interception in the end zone, never seeing Bills safety Micah Hyde. This is what happens when Brady doesn’t have trust in his offensive line or receivers.
■ The Patriots’ run game was especially useless. Sony Michel had a 15-yard run on the first play, then rushed 16 times for 48 yards the rest of the way. Michel was so ineffective he was barely used in the second half, rushing just six times even though the Patriots needed to grind down the clock. And the offensive line got completely manhandled by the Bills’ defensive front all day.
The Patriots had no short-yardage run game, and had to resort to trickery. Brandon Bolden scored on an end-around from the 4-yard line in the first quarter. But they had to use James White on one short-yardage run (he barely picked up a first down), and had to throw a quick screen to Gordon just to get off their goal line. The Patriots’ offense gets all out of whack when they don’t have run-pass balance.
■ The Bills’ excellent secondary was a bad matchup for the Patriots’ receivers, especially with Gordon and Edelman banged up. But Phillip Dorsett was healthy and was still awfully quiet, catching just two passes on nine targets for 10 yards. Dorsett is great as a fourth option, but when defenses pay attention to him, he’s Just A Guy.
■ The Patriots were lucky that Josh Allen is one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL. They did an excellent job of confusing Allen with their pressure, and Allen sabotaged the Bills with several terrible decisions. His three interceptions were some of the worst you’ll see in the NFL, throwing off his back foot into traffic. The Patriots were daring Allen to beat them with big blitzes and no deep safety, and Allen couldn’t do it. The Bills’ offense actually improved when Matt Barkley came into the game in the fourth quarter.
■ Jamie Collins is making an early run for Defensive Player of the Year. He added another sack, sealed the game with an interception, and did an excellent job with spying and containing Allen on his scrambles. Collins now has three interceptions, 3.5 sacks, and a touchdown this season.
■ Second-year cornerback J.C. Jackson also had a day to remember, with two interceptions and a blocked punt that resulted in a touchdown. Matthew Slater scooped it up for his first touchdown in 12 NFL seasons. No one was more deserving of the score.