Ryan Fitzpatrick. If the Buffalo Bills are going to win against the New England Patriots in the future, quarterback play has to improve. New England has a decent defense with lesser talent that plays well as a unit, but it's not elite by any means. The offense is full of reclaimation projects that fill a niche, with the constant being Tom Brady's steady (to put it lightly) play. Fitzpatrick needed to be as efficient as Brady for Buffalo to have a chance Sunday; instead, he threw three interceptions and fumbled twice. Fitzpatrick consistently made poor choices, including a maddening tendency to throw the deep fade route on third-and-short. In a game that could have been a statement for Buffalo's changing culture, Fitzpatrick cracked.
Run Defense. This story remains the same. Aside from Kyle Williams, Buffalo doesn't have a defender that can beat blocks on a regular basis. The ever-efficient Patriots made their blocks, and tore into Buffalo for 217 rushing yards - a total that might have been higher had New England not let off the gas pedal in the fourth quarter.
Pass Rush. The Giants laid the blueprint for how to beat the Patriots in the 2007 Super Bowl: line up three to four very good pass rushers, win the one-on-one battles, and get into Brady's face. Unfortunately, Buffalo hasn't committed the organizational assets to acquire pass rushers en masse, and therefore can't get to Brady. Hence, Brady tore Buffalo's secondary apart. It's a pick-your-poison with the Pats running game or passing game, but given the choice, I'd rather have players that can disrupt Brady's timing. , when asked what he wanted most out of his football team, responded with a pass rush. Buffalo needs it badly, and it showed on Sunday.
Buffalo's First Drive. Buffalo came out and immediately pushed the Patriots around. Fred Jackson rushed for 50 yards on four carries. C.J. Spiller rushed for 14 yards on two carries. It looked like Buffalo was going to make a game of it. The drive ended short, with a Rian Lindell field goal giving the team a quick 3-0 lead. The Patriots adjusted on their next defensive series, but seven Buffalo turnovers ultimately sealed Buffalo's fate. The first drive was well done most of the way, however.
When Bill Walsh developed the horizontal timing offense, it was in reaction to Cincinnati's inability to block Pittsburgh's Steel Curtain defensive line. Buddy Ryan developed Chicago's 46 defense more than a decade later in response to Walsh's offense. Jimmy Johnson built Dallas with a blueprint: beat Buddy Ryan and Philly, who ran the 46 defense, and had the best talent on defense and Randall Cunningham on offense.
Buffalo needs to use this game as the marker for how far they haven't come, and continue to build with beating the Patriots in mind. Just like Johnson knew that a team that could handle Philly would handle everyone else, a Buffalo team that can handle the Patriots will handle everyone else. Acquiring a franchise quarterback that's effective and efficient, and can play under pressure (both overall game and pass rush) is a start. Buddy Nix should follow that with drafting as many pass rushers as he can. Then this team may have a chance.