Dec 29, 2013; Foxborough, MA, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Thad Lewis (9) heads to the field with teammates prior to their game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
This game meant a lot for the New England Patriots as they were fighting for a first round bye in playoffs. As for Buffalo this game was for pride in their division and not much more. With a loss Buffalo would get a better draft pick and a win would have meant Doug Marrone would be 7-9 in his first season.
The Patriots came out swinging giving their big running back LeGarrette Blount the ball early and often. The Patriots looked to take the steam out of the fierce Buffalo pass rush with quick passes and running plays. During the first drive it seemed to be working. However, Buffalo’s secondary stepped up during the first drive when Jairus Byrd forced a fumble, which was recovered by the Patriots. A few plays later, Leodis McKelvin jumped a quick slant route and forced a fourth and short and the Patriots had to settle for three points.
During the Bills first drive, Spiller was able to make some nice cuts to make a 24 yard gain. Facing a third and seven, Thad Lewis looked like a veteran quarterback going through his progressions and finding the rookie Marquise Goodwin for 22 yards. However, two plays later Thad Lewis looked like he was trying to catch a chicken as he fumbled the ball and put Buffalo in a fourth and 23. Dan Carpenter was able to bail Buffalo out again hitting a 51 yard field goal to tie to the game up.
The Patriots were definitely more physical from the start of the game. They pounded the ball and used quick passes to keep the Bills defense guessing. Edelman and Blount seemed to be the difference makers for the Patriots in the first quarter. On their second drive the Patriots were able to drive into field goal range and kick a field to make it 6-3.
Buffalo didn’t move the ball on first and second down, but Thad Lewis continued to look good in the pocket. He was able to connect with Robert Woods for a 27 yard reception to move the ball on third down. Later in the drive the Bills momentum stalled and they had to punt the ball.
End of the 1st Score: 6-3 Patriots
In the beginning of the second the Patriots kept going to their two play makers Edelman and Blount. Buffalo didn’t seem to have an answer for either player. With a little over 12 minutes to go in the second quarter, Blount found a big hole and exploited the Buffalo Bills for a 36 yard touchdown. Blount topped 100 yards rushing with that run and made the score 13-6 (including PAT).
Buffalo tried to answer back with a heavy dose of Spiller, however, his rushing woes continued as he couldn’t find any rushing room on first and second down. Buffalo was again forced into a third and eight and had to rely on a nice screen play from Lewis to Fred Jackson for a first down. Jackson continued to show he is a better back this season as he found holes in the rushing attack, fought for yards and is a receiver as well. Even with Jackson fighting for every yard the Bills faced a fourth and one and tried to do a quarterback sneak, but were stuffed by the Patriots. Going for it certainly shows Buffalo was playing for nothing, but they should have relied on their running backs to get the one yard and not the quarterback.
With great field position the Patriots were quickly forced into a third down. On third down, Brady mishandled a bad snap and was forced to cover up the ball in which Manny Lawson was credited with a sack. The Patriots were forced to punt for the first time in the game and pinned the Bills inside their own 10, with a little over six minutes left in the second quarter.
On Buffalo’s next drive they went with a heavy dose of Jackson where he was able to bust out a 16 yard rush for a big first down. The Bills continued to focus on the rushing attack throughout the drive. Much like the rest of the season they mostly ran on first and second down and on third down they are forced to pass. Buffalo again was forced to punt and continued to be predictable on offense.
The Patriots on the other hand were not so predictable and used a fake reverse to setup a screen to Vereen that setup a 22 yard gain. Right after the big gain, the Patriots went back to the physical ground and pound with Blount and continued to dominate the on the ground. Stefan Charles was able to get his first career sack during the drive as he was replacing Marcell Dareus for the first half. The Patriots were able to overcome the sack and continued to move the ball. Blount finally made a mistake during a drive and fumbled the ball, but the Patriots were able to recover another fumble. However, New England continued to control the time of possession and the entire game and they were able to kick another field goal to make it 16-3.
End of the 2nd Score: 16-3 Patriots
First Half Bills MVP:
Fred Jackson – Jackson averaged 5.2 yards a carry and finished with 47 yards in the first half.
First Half Bills LVP:
Run Defense – Buffalo gave up 173 yards on the ground in the first half. LeGarrette Blount was easily able to run through the Bills defense.