WGR 550's Mike Schopp, while anchoring the post-game show following the Buffalo Bills' 37-22 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon, mentioned that it feels like we have been watching the same Bills-Pats game on an endless loop for the last 14 years. Sure, there have been blips on the radar in favor of Buffalo, but walking out of Ralph Wilson Stadium in the fourth quarter on Sunday, that's exactly how I felt.
Buffalo remains in second place in the AFC East at 3-3, but are now a game and a tie-breaker behind New England - mostly because they can't get out of their own way against the team that always beats them. Here are five things that stood out to me from Sunday.
No. 1: With three more turnovers on Sunday, the Bills gift-wrapped 13 points for the Pats in a 15-point loss. Handing New England the football is something of a specialty for the Bills, especially in home games played at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Including their three turnovers yesterday, the Bills have now turned the football over an unfathomable 20 times in their last five home games against the Patriots. The Patriots are clearly very good, but the Bills are very good at beating the Bills, as well.
No. 2: Buffalo ran for just 68 yards in this contest, which marks the fourth straight game that an opponent has held the Bills to under 100 rushing yards. The last time the Bills went four consecutive games without breaking the century mark on the ground as a team? Weeks 7-11 in 2009, the final year of the Dick Jauron era in Buffalo.
No. 3: While we're on the topic of the Bills' running game, let's talk about the team's willingness to abandon it: in 2013, the Bills comfortably led the NFL averaging 34.1 rushing attempts per game. In their last four contests, the Bills have averaged just 22.5 totes per game; they're not running especially well, but they also aren't sticking with it the way they did a year ago. Meanwhile, Bills quarterbacks - whether it be EJ Manuel or Kyle Orton - have averaged 41 pass attempts per game in the same time frame. It is well past time for Doug Marrone and Nathaniel Hackett to flip that script.
No. 4: Do you think that Tom Brady and New England may have figured a little something out about the Bills' coverage schemes at halftime? In the first two quarters, Brady completed 12-of-20 passes for 87 yards with one touchdown, and New England may have entered the break in a 7-7 tie had the Bills' turnover fest not netted the visitors two more field goals before the break. After the half - and without any semblance of a running game, as the Bills' run defense remains excellent - Brady completed 15-of-17 passes for 274 yards with three scores. As solid as the Bills' defense looked in the first half, they were equally bad in the second.
No. 5: You would think by now, considering that he's now been in the league for five years, that the Bills would have some sort of game plan to try to slow down Rob Gronkowski. To their credit, they did keep No. 87 out of the end zone for the first time ever; he'd scored touchdowns in each of his previous six games against Buffalo. Nonetheless, Gronkowski was a key figure in New England finally cracking the Bills' pass defense, finishing the game with 94 receiving yards on seven receptions. In seven career games against the Bills, Gronkowski has 37 receptions for 543 yards and nine touchdowns.
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