It was a much different Bills team than fans saw in the first two weeks of the season, but the Bills were unable to exorcise old demons in New England, and fell to the Patriots 38-30.
That 30 points for the Bills is no misprint. While Ryan Fitzpatrick’s insertion into the starting lineup was met with a yawn around the league, his willingness to throw at least an intermediate pass revitalized the Bills’ attack, leading to an exciting, yet still frustrating day on the offensive side of the ball.
Fitzpatrick completed 20 of 28 passes for 247 yards with two touchdowns, and two very costly interceptions. Fitzpatrick spread the ball around, targeting Lee Evans 8 times (5 rec. 54 yards), Roscoe Parrish 6 times (5 rec. 83 yards) and Stevie Johnson 4 times (3 rec. 66 yards and a td). He also remembered that the Bills do still have a tight end on the roster, as Stupar had 3 rec. for 27 yards. But for all the positive things Fitzpatrick did through the first three quarters, his two fourth quarter interceptions were deadly. He overthrew Roscoe Parrish, who appeared to be open for a 30 yard touchdown, right to Patriots’ safety Patrick Chung. Then, with the Bills trailing 38-30 and about 3 minutes left in the game, his first pass to David Nelson was overthrown into a tight spot, ending the Bills’ chances of forcing the game into overtime.
While Fitzpatrick’s 2 interceptions were costly, the real culprit for the Bills’ loss was their complete lack of any kind of pass rush, and inability to stop the run. Masked a bit by the offense’s total inadequacy in weeks one and two, it became obvious on Sunday that the Bills were incapable of making any kind of defensive stand.
The defense gave up 200 yards of rushing, while the Patriots averaged over 5 yards per carry on 38 carries. While it may be too early to dismiss BenJarvus Green-Ellis, 16 carries for 98 yards and a td, and Danny Woodhead, 3 carries for 42 yards, as hall of fame candidates, I think it is obvious the Bills have yet to solve their problems in stopping the run.
The pass rush was completely ineffective for the third straight week. It is now common knowledge that the Bills will not be able to apply any pressure without blitzing, and Tom Brady very effectively used hard counts to successfully identify exactly where Bills’ blitzers were coming from.
Chris Kelsay was doing his best impression of a flipped turtle on Sunday, unable to get off of his back. Kelsay has gone from a below average 4-3 defensive end to an outside linebacker with no business being on the field. While the Bills’ secondary doesn’t have much chance when Tom Brady has all day to throw, by what rationale is Reggie Corner better than Ashton Youboty? Corner continually gets beat, while Youboty’s problem has never been coverage, it’s avoiding injury. I guess they’re solving Youboty’s problem by leaving a much better player than Corner on the sideline.
C.J. Spiller had what looked to be an arrival game against the Patriots, scoring his first two NFL touchdowns. Spiller scored his first touchdown after being split out left as a wideout, catching a quick bubble screen that the Bills have never run with much success, and scoring from 5 yards out. His second touchdown came on a 95 yard kickoff return, a huge answer to New England’s second half-opening touchdown drive, that appeared to give them all the momentum and a 24-16 lead. Spiller caught the kick and ran hard up the field, without dancing, before showing his incredible burst to the outside, leaving Patriots CB Kyle Arrington in his wake.
Bills’ fans who were realistic about the lack of talent at prime positions should be encouraged by the signs of life they saw on Sunday. While it has been customary for the Bills to play the Pats close up in New England before getting destroyed in Buffalo, the Bills were exciting for the first time this season.