Circling the Wagons: Bills’ playoff hopes take huge hit vs. Brady and Pats

QUINTIN JAMES

Assistant Sports Editor

 

Coming into Sunday, the Bills were 6-5 and in the hunt for the final playoff spot in the AFC. Starting a three game home stand after beating the Chiefs on the road, the Bills were feeling confident heading into Sunday’s pivotal showdown with the rival New England Patriots.

After two weeks of blowout defeats and a failed quarterback change, the Bills managed to upset the Chiefs on the road to pull above .500 and help their playoff chances. A showdown versus Tom Brady awaited them, and for the Bills, it was a chance to get a rare win against Brady.

The game started and quickly it was apparent that the Patriots meant business. Brady and crew showed off why they were 9-2, and Buffalo came out flat during the second half and had no answer for them. The Bills offense couldn’t muster up a touchdown all game, as Brady broke an all-time NFL record for wins against one team. He moved to 27-3 all-time versus the Bills with a 23-3 victory in Orchard Park.

After driving on their first possession, Tyrod Taylor threw a costly interception inside the five-yard line. This was probably the best chance Buffalo had to score all afternoon, as they got all the way down in the red zone and turned the ball over.

Buffalo’s success this season has been largely due to their lack of carelessness with the football. During this recent losing skid, the turnovers have increased for the Bills.

The Patriots would counter with a long drive of their own that ended in a field goal, but the theme of the game was the lack of presence in the Bills’ run defense.

The Patriots ran the ball with Rex Burkhead and Dion Lewis for a combined 27 carries for 180 yards and two touchdowns on the day and both running backs had holes to run through all game long.

The Bills’ defense were using a “bend but don’t break” style defense in the first half. They would allow big runs but would hold the Patriots to field goals instead of a touchdowns.

When the Patriots passed the ball, they mainly targeted Rob Gronkowski, and like many other teams, the Bills had no answer for him as he hauled in nine receptions for 147 yards.

The Bills passing defense didn’t have a bad day, as Gronk was the only New England receiver who had more than 34 yards.

They also picked off Brady and kept him from scoring a touchdown in the game. The defense didn’t play amazingly, but they gave their offense chances to stay in the game.

The Bills had their struggles on defense, but the passing offense was lackluster at best. Besides opening the drive, the Bills struggled to move the ball all game and Taylor looked uncomfortable in the pocket.

LeSean McCoy had another solid game almost running for 100 yards, moving his total for the season closer to 1,000 yards.

With the inconsistency of the offense this year, one main stay has been McCoy. The ninth year tailback out of Pittsburgh keeps on racking up yards and continues to be the main weapon on this Bills offense.

While McCoy had a good game, the passing attack couldn’t get anything going. Faced with a ton of third and longs, the Bills failed to convert many key third downs that made the New Era Field crowd very restless.

Wide Receivers Zay Jones and Deonte Thompson were held to two receptions apiece for 21 and 22 yards respectively, despite each being targeted at least seven times.

After regaining his job last week, Taylor followed up his good performance with a subpar performance that is sort of the story of his season at this point. This performance wasn’t helped by the fact Taylor injured his knee on the first play of the game but continued playing.

After getting hit in the pocket early in the fourth quarter, Taylor had to be carted to the sidelines with a knee injury and rookie Nathan Peterman came in the game for his third appearance of the season.

By then, Burkhead scored two rushing touchdowns for the Patriots to extend their lead to 23-3, so everyone in the stadium was eager to see Peterman respond following his nightmare first start in Los Angeles.

While he didn’t throw an interception, he only completed six of 15 passes for 50 yards and the offense didn’t look any better with the quarterback change.

One major event that happened in the game was in the fourth quarter, as Gronkowski was flagged for a dirty hit against Buffalo rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White. After an interception, Gronkowski intentionally drove his shoulder into the back of the neck/head of White out of frustration that a pass interference wasn’t called.

White suffered a concussion during that play, and many Bills fans were understandably upset. While Gronkowski was apologetic after the game, many Bills players called it a dirty play and were surprised he wasn’t ejected for the play.

As of right now, the Bills sit at 6-6 and with two home games and two away games remaining, they still have a legit shot at making the playoffs. Currently the seventh seed in the AFC, the Bills have the Colts and Dolphins at home before traveling to New England and Miami to finish out the season.

An overall record of 9-7 should be a goal for the Bills as splitting these final four games could spell elimination from the playoffs. Going 3-1 will be difficult, as Miami is always a wildcard and are still in the hunt for a playoff spot.

If the Bills want to make the playoffs, they need to figure out their passing attack. To win in the NFL, you need to throw the ball effectively and if you can’t, you will struggle. The run defense has to get better as well. These final two home games will certainly determine the Bills’ fate for this year.

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