Before we start in on the Buffalo Bills' ugly 40-32 loss at the hands of the New England Patriots on Sunday afternoon, let's point out the most important observation one can make right now: that the best news of the day was that safety Aaron Williams, who was immobilized on a cart and removed from the field by ambulance in the third quarter, has full movement in all of his extremities, and has already been released from the hospital. That was a scary situation that appears to have a happy ending.
As for the game, well... not quite so happy.
- It's hard to quickly describe just how thoroughly the Patriots shredded Buffalo's pass defense. But we can try! From a game plan and play-calling perspective, the Patriots rendered the Bills' nine-figure defensive line completely moot. Pre-snap shifts and motions kept the secondary on its heels, and left the Patriots in advantageous matchups; they threw it to whoever they wanted, and beat whichever Bills back-seven defender they felt like beating on a given play. Tom Brady, who was superb, finished the game with 466 passing yards, the most a quarterback has ever thrown for against Buffalo, and Rex Ryan and the Bills were not able to come up with any effective counter-punches throughout the course of the game. Which would explain why the Pats attempted 59 passes compared to just 12 runs.
- Okay, I guess we'll need a second bullet point for New England's offense (and by extension, the poor outing from Buffalo's defense). Just to expand on the Pats' ability to feed whoever they wanted: Rob Gronkowski (7-113-1) had his typical dominant performance; Dion Lewis (13 touches, 138 yards, and a score) hopefully put himself on Ryan's radar with his performance; and Julian Edelman (11-97-2) filled in the cracks with a typically quiet-huge day. Lewis sparked the offense with his elusive style - Bills defenders, plural, were left tackling air every time he touched the ball - and then the usual suspects took off from there. You know a game plan has failed miserably when the three most dangerous skill players on the opposing team all have field days.
- Through two games, the Bills have committed 25 penalties for 253 total yards - and that doesn't include the penalties that opponents have declined. These have run the gamut from simple procedure penalties to head-scratchingly stupid personal fouls, and several of those set the Bills back in the first half of this one. Even Ryan admitted post-game that a flag thrown on the Bills' sideline occurred when a ref with "rabbit ears" (Rex's actual words) heard someone (probably Ryan) mouth off. If this team is truly built in Ryan's image, which was written about ad nauseam this offseason, then we might have to deal with a fired-up team doing dumb things to draw flags at less-than-ideal times for another 14 (or more) games. It's one of many things the team needs to clean up, and quickly.
- We all pretty much knew this, but the Bills' offense is clearly not built to play from behind. They took the opening possession of the game and ran up a quick 7-0 thanks to great run scheme and some good plays by the team's strong group of skill players. But the Patriots scored 37 of the game's next 43 points, to build a 37-13 lead in the third quarter, and Buffalo's offense looked all out of sorts during that stretch. This offense is built to control the clock and limit mistakes, and that's much harder to do when you're trailing. As such, the mistakes piled up, and most of them came by way of quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who threw three interceptions, fumbled on back-to-back third-quarter plays (both of which the Bills recovered), and took a whopping eight sacks.
- Taylor, to his credit, did his best Ryan Fitzpatrick impression in making it a game late in the fourth quarter. It took him much too long to turn his game around and figure out New England's defensive game plan, but once he did - and once he stopped giving the ball to the other team (his final interception glanced off of Sammy Watkins' hands) - he kept his team in it. Taylor completed 23-of-30 passes for 242 yards with three passing touchdowns, plus another score (along with 43 additional yards) on the ground. Taylor won the starting job because he can make plays, and he did that on Sunday, keeping hope alive that he can be the quarterback of a playoff team. But clearly, the Bills are who we thought they'd be before the season - a team that's in big trouble if they need great quarterback play for four quarters to win a game.
What else stood out to you, Bills fans?