Joe B: 7 observations from Bills - Patriots (10/30/16)

Posted at 7:42 PM, Oct 30, 2016

The Buffalo Bills entered their Week Eight contest versus the New England Patriots with their backs against the wall. A host of injuries made it so that the Bills were heavy underdogs at home to the Patriots, and the away team didn’t disappoint.

The Bills couldn’t do much of anything, as the Patriots had their way with them for much of the game. New England won the game 41-25, but the score didn’t indicate just how dominant they were for the duration of the contest.

How did it all happen? Seven observations from the game:

1) It went exactly as it was supposed to
- Right from the start of the game, you could tell that the Patriots were the top team by quite a large margin — and to the Bills’ credit, they actually hung around for a while. However, eventually, the score reflected just where the two teams were heading into the game: the Patriots — a healthy team firing on all cylinders with the best quarterback in the NFL and a solid defense to go along with it — and the Bills, a team down on their luck after suffering numerous injuries to key skill positions on the offensive side of the ball. The place the Patriots were the weakest was in the secondary, and the Bills couldn’t do anything to attack it because all of their top options were either sitting out with an injury, or completely muted in the game by an injury. With no offensive firepower to speak of, the Bills had to hope that the defense could help stop Brady a few times. That didn’t happen, and with the talent they actually had on the field, they certainly weren’t going to go score for score with a prolific Patriots offense. Any person with common sense would look at the matchups all over the field and see that New England had the clear advantage, and they took advantage of it. This one was never in doubt.

2) Busts in the backfield
- One of the biggest developments from last weekend’s loss to Miami, in terms of what it means for the upcoming game with Miami, was the injury to starting safety Aaron Williams. While he wasn’t having an incredible season by any means, he was also the Bills’ top coverage safety in terms of checking tight ends — in which the Patriots have the best duo in the league. No, the Bills had to play without Williams and hope that a combination of Robert Blanton and Jonathan Meeks would be good enough. What we ended up seeing was mass confusion, busted plays all over the field, and giving up big plays in the biggest spots that allowed the Patriots to do whatever they wanted. Meeks had just an awful game, but normal starting cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore, Ronald Darby, and even nickel corner Nickell Robey-Coleman weren’t that far off, either. It had Rex Ryan essentially speechless after the game, because the secondary was embarrassed on quite a few occasions during the game. It is critical that they get back on the same page, because their success is vital to the pressure that a Rex Ryan defense likes to get on the opposing quarterbacks.

3) Gilmore, Darby not playing anywhere near their standard from 2015
-  Gilmore was the worst of the cornerback bunch, and now halfway into the season, is at the point where he’s playing himself out of big money at the end of the season. This has been his worst season since his rookie year, and in a defense that depends on the cornerbacks to hold up on their end of the bargain as much as Rex Ryan’s does, his play has been one of the biggest disappointments of the season. I was a big a defender of Stephon Gilmore coming into the season, because I think he was severely undervalued by some fans of the team. There are no excuses for Gilmore’s play in 2016. He has not been good, and second-year cornerback Ronald Darby hasn’t been that much better. The play of those two have been by and large the biggest letdown of the 2016 season halfway in.

4) Tyrod simply just not on the same page with his receivers
- Against the New England Patriots, Tyrod Taylor had all of Robert Woods (well, kind of… he wasn’t really himself and still clearly hurt), Justin Hunter, Walt Powell, and Brandon Tate as the wide receivers. Predictably, Woods was ineffective, Hunter failed to separate from his defender, and both Powell and Tate struggled with their hands in big moments of the game that could have clearly benefited the Bills. There’s not much Tyrod Taylor can do in that spot, basically down his top four receivers from when the season started. However, he could have been much more accurate than he was at times. There were times when the ball really sailed on him, and the current crop of Bills receivers couldn’t do anything to try and kickstart the passing offense. This game was not just Taylor’s fault. While he certainly didn’t help bring the team up through the adversity of not having all of their top options, it also has to be noted that not many quarterbacks could excel in that spot with the receivers that he had at his disposal. The passing offense simply couldn’t get off of the ground on Sunday versus the Patriots, and a lot of players deserve fault for that — Taylor included.

5) Early second half surge put the Bills away for good
- Just as the first half ended, the game flipped around from potentially being only an eight point deficit for the Bills, to being a 14-point uphill climb. Dan Carpenter missed a 49-yard field goal, set the Patriots up at their own 39-yard line, and they took it down the field for a field goal of their own. That poor taste in the Bills’ mouth was left heading into halftime, and coming out of the gate in the second half, it appeared the Bills were still half asleep. The Patriots brought the kickoff to start the second half back 73 yards, as Danny Amendola scampered down to the Bills 24-yard line. It was pretty quick from there, and just two plays later the Patriots were in the end zone and up 21 points just one minute into the second half. From that point forward, with how well the Patriots were playing offensively, it was just too much to ask from the offense to try and come back against that team and against that defense. Had they come out and gotten a stop to start the second half, perhaps things could have been at least a little different — or maybe a tad closer. Instead, the Patriots came out with a vengeance in the second half, and it was just too much to overcome for the Bills.

6) The Reggie Bush experiment at running back needs to be over
- It’s time to call it. The Buffalo Bills brought in Reggie Bush during training camp to help out the running back room, and it has been a colossal failure. Bush is not the same player he once was, and is offering next to no production when lined up out of the backfield. On Sunday, he chipped in another beauty of a game on the ground by rushing for minus-eight yards on two carries. Now, on the season, Bush has nine carries for minus-two yards in six games. It’s abundantly clear that his running style just isn’t a fit for the Bills offense, no matter what creative position they put him in. Now, he may still have value as a receiver seeing as how the Bills are down to the bottom of their depth chart at that spot, but his days as a running back on the team should be over. He’s just not an effective player any longer. It’s time to give rookie Jonathan Williams more of a chance, because he’s shown a heck of a lot more than Bush has in limited chances. I mean, at least, he’s got positive yardage on the ground this season. That’s a start.

7) The good: Dareus helps run defense, Gillislee shows up
- While the majority of it was tough to watch for the Bills, two individuals really stood out through the game. First, you can’t go too far without mentioning how good of a job Mike Gillislee did in his first game starting in 2016. His 85 yards on just 12 carries kept their rushing attack alive, but it was a tad bittersweet. It showed that he could be productive with an enhanced role on the offense, which probably means that he could have been productive last week against Miami when the Bills stubbornly stuck with a clearly injured LeSean McCoy in the first half. Well, now if McCoy has to miss the Seattle game next week, the Bills will know they have a player that can step in admirably for him. On the other side of the ball, the Bills stepped up against LeGarrette Blount and the Patriots rushing attack. Blount accounted for only 43 yards on 18 carries — an average of 2.4 yards per carry — and a big reason for that was how well defensive lineman Marcell Dareus played against the run. It was his first game back this season from a combination of a four-game suspension and a hamstring injury that cost him three games, and he was able to both occupy blockers against the run, and get up the field to make a few plays of his own. It was a good step for Dareus, who had his play time limited because of such a long absence.

Bills MVP: RB Mike Gillislee
- Kudos to Gillislee, who fought through a foot injury to have an extremely productive day. The Bills just couldn’t rely on the run game because they were in such a big hole that they had to get out of.

Bills LVP: CB Stephon Gilmore/S Jonathan Meeks
- Gilmore had a clear busted coverage on the 53-yard Chris Hogan touchdown, while Meeks looked like he was in the wrong spot on an early New England touchdown. The absence of Aaron Williams, for both ability and for knowledge of the playbook/communication, was clearly missed on defense.

Up Next: The Bills (4-4) are up against the Seattle Seahawks (4-2-1) on the road at CenturyLink Field for Monday Night Football on November 7.

GIF of the game



Final Thoughts:
- To be perfectly honest, coming into the day, this was the expected result. Just by looking at both rosters on paper, and how shorthanded the Bills were in key spots that could have potentially taken advantage of some of the New England weaknesses, it was pretty clear that Buffalo needed things to bounce their way in order to have a chance in this one. Instead, they didn’t force any turnovers, allowed Tom Brady to march up and down the field through the air, and just simply didn’t have the firepower on offense to go score-for-score with one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL. Now, there were some big letdowns in the game from individual players which should be brought up. The most egregious of them was the play of normal starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who was one of the biggest reasons that the secondary failed quite a bit in that game. Especially as one of the more naturally talented players on the defensive side of the ball, his regression in 2016 has been untimely at best. However, looking at the bigger picture, this was a game the Bills were probably going to lose whichever way you look at it. They’re still 4-4 heading into the second half of the season, and have a schedule after their Week 10 bye that gives opportunity for a racking up quite a few victories. The most important thing is this: the Bills need to get healthy or else they won’t stand a chance of making the playoffs. However, all is not lost just yet. The Bills just need to have a superb second half that likely yields at least five, if not six, wins to try and capture a playoff berth. Don’t write them off just yet, the Patriots were the toughest team they’ll play all season. They do, however, need to get some of their normal stalwarts to start playing like it again. To Seattle they march.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia