Despite win, Pats need more contributions from wide receivers

Charles Krupa / AP Photo

The Patriots won a 37-16 decision today over the Buffalo Bills. Yet while the final score indicated a blowout, the game was tied 13-13 at half and Buffalo even took a 16-13 lead early in the third quarter. New England was able to pull away late, but the early struggles exposed a larger problem--the lack of contributions from wide receivers.

Tom Brady completed 21 passes in the game for 224 yards and a pair of scores. Yet out of those, only seven catches for 87 yards went to actual wide receivers. Of course, the Patriots feature their tight ends (and running backs) in the passing game more than many other offenses around the league. But the results Sunday were abnormal by any stretch, and the effect was visible in the game.

Without consistent playmaking from receivers, the Pats struggled on many early drives. Three of the team's five first-half drives failed to gain 25 yards (two three-and-outs), and another stalled out in the red zone, leading to a Stephen Gostkowski field goal. On three of those four drives, wide receivers didn't catch a pass (they caught three total in the first two quarters).

In crucial situations, the stats were even more bleak. Brady only targeted his wideouts twice on third down the entire game. One was a 13-yard conversion to Danny Amendola on 3rd-and-6. The other was a pick-six intended for Kenny Britt 3rd-and-7. In the vast majority of third-down situations, Brady instead turned to his tight ends and to Dion Lewis out of the backfield.

While it resulted in a win, this tactic clearly isn't sustainable--against a quality defense in the playoffs (the Steelers and Jaguars come to mind), such a dismal performance from New England's primary pass-catchers would almost definitely lead to a loss. We've seen firsthand the potential of players like Brandin Cooks and Danny Amendola when they're locked in with Tom Brady. If the Pats hope to win another Super Bowl this year, Cooks, Amendola, and the rest of the wide receiving corps are going to have to step up from their performance Sunday.

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