Report Card: led by Brady's epic performance, high marks across the board vs. Bills
It got a bit hairy towards the end of the contest there, but in the grand scheme of things, the New England Patriots were never seriously in danger of losing on Sunday to the Buffalo Bills.
Tom Brady put in another epic performance (even by his lofty standards), same for Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman, and the largely-inexperienced offensive line went toe-to-toe against one of the best defensive fronts on the game and scored a convincing and massive victory.
High marks all around for Week 2:
What else can be said about Tom Brady? Going up against one the best defenses in the game, Brady shredded the Buffalo D for 466 yards, the most ever by an opposing QB in team history. He tied his career-best with 38 total completions, tossed three touchdowns and finished with a 105.6 rating. The offense went 3-and-out just once all day, their first drive of the contest. After that, Brady and Co. made the adjustments they needed to and proceeded to obliterate a defense that wasn't even remotely close to making a consistent impact on the day.
Running Back: B
Dion Lewis was again nails in his second-career start, racking up 138 total yards and a rushing touchdown. Lewis' biggest play on the day came when he hauled in a gorgeous lofted ball from Brady down the sidelines on 2nd-and-20 from the New England 17 yard line, a play that went for 40-yards. He did cough up the ball for the second-straight week, which is certainly a concern moving forward. But Bill Belichick didn't bench him like he's done with other backs that have grassed the rock in the past. He stuck with Lewis, showing that he has confidence in his ability, something that certainly stuck with the 24-year-old as he worked to battle back from his error.
Wide Receivers: A
Julian Edelman put in another all-world performance - 11 catches, 97 yards, two touchdowns - to prove yet again that he's way more than a system slot receiver (honestly, can we put that garbage to bed completely or what?) Aaron Dobson's seven catch, 87-yard performance was the most pleasant surprise on the day. Danny Amendola hauled in one of the greatest catches you'll ever see, a 29-yard full-extension, diving effort with the defender in his grill to set the Pats up for one final field goal to put the game away.
Tight End: A-
There is simply no football player on the planet that can stop Rob Gronkowski. Gronk owned the middle of the field, averaging 16.1 yards per completion on seven catches. He abused Stephon Gilmore yet again on his touchdown catch in the second quarter, pulling off the juke and using a burst of speed in the blink of an eye to separate himself at the back of the end zone. But as we know, Gronk owns the blocking game, too, as was evident when he stood up Mario Williams on the line without exerting an ounce of energy to open up the hole for Lewis on his TD run. The only blemish came, and it was a big, when Scott Chandler dropped a pair of balls thrown his way in the end zone on back-to-back plays. Simply put, he has to catch those balls.
Offensive Line: A
There's a reason why Tom Brady was able to fire 59 total passes on the day and put 40 points up on the board. The battle between the Patriot offensive line and the Buffalo D-line was the most critical going into the game, and the unit dominated the vaunted front of the Bills. A few early hiccups with getting the calls out on the line stalled the process, but once the offense found a rhythm there was no stopping them as they marched all over the field. Brady was sacked just twice on the day but was strip-sacked by Jerry Hughes as the Bills were staging their comeback in the fourth, but other than that and a few penalties, the O-line put in an extraordinary day of work.
Defensive Line: C+
Chandler Jones racked up three sacks and four total QB hits, Rob Ninkovich picked up one of each for himself and overall the line put some good pressure on Tyrod Taylor, but they were spotty in the run game (160 total yards on the ground for the Bills) and at least two of Jones' sacks were a result of Taylor basically falling into his arms as he scrambled about. Through two games, the oppositon has been able to bust the run outside, as Ninkovich and Jones have been unable to consistently set the edge. That'll be an area that needs to improve moving forward.
Jamie Collins recorded 11 total tackles, 2.5 sacks, two tackles for loss, three QB hits and should've recorded a safety on Taylor, but the refs gave the QB forward progress at the inch-yard line. Dont'a Hightower finished with 12 total tackles, half a sack and a QB hit. Jerod Mayo saw only 16 snaps on the day as the team continues to slowly bring him along following two lost seasons due to injury. A few times Tyrod Taylor was able to break the pocket and scramble for yardage, but on the whole the unit kept everything in front of them and took away the middle of the field, forcing Taylor to progress through his reads, something he did unsuccessfully before the pressure hit home.
The defensive backfield picked off Taylor three times, with Malcolm Butler's fingertip pluck off the turf serving as the most impressive. The eyesore on the day came from Bradley Fletcher, as receivers went 4-4 against the corner for 64 yards, a touchdown, while he also flagged for PI. Taylor threw three TD's but it was done when the defense had backed off a bit too earlier with a huge lead. Butler was better in coverage, with two negatives coming when he was beaten over the top on a 32-yard TD pass after he took the wrong angle, and when he got the benefit of a blown call by the officials when Sammy Watkins was flagged for OPI when the corner had slipped on the turf.
Special Teams: A
Mr. Automatic, Stephan Gostkowski, nailed all four field goals he took, highlighted by his 46-yarder in the second quarter and his bomb of a 50-yard strike in the third, never to mind the seven kickoffs he boomed out of the end zone, killing any chance for the Bills to bring the ball out for a return. On his second-biggest play of the day, Danny Amendola took a Buffalo punt from their own end zone 28-yards in the first quarter, giving Brady a short field to operate with.
Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels, along with Brady, developed a gameplan to neutralize the Buffalo front and their defense as a whole. Spread 'em out, chuck it to the sides and in the middle and allow the receivers to make up yardage after the catch. The first failed fourth-down play in the second quarter on an incomplete deep ball to Edelman gave the Bills a short field, and it took two plays from them to score a touchdown and bring the score to 21-13. The second came in the fourth when Brady again threw deep to Edelman, missing the play by inches. The idea to go for it can be defended, as conversions in either of those situations effectively ices the game, but the play calls were questionable. The adjustments the team made following Buffalo's opening drive where incredible, as the defense forced punts on five of Buffalo's next six drives. The other was ended when Malcolm Butler picked off Taylor at the Buffalo 39 yard line.
Photo via: Boston Herald