New England Patriots 23 Buffalo Bills 3
In a season long battle for the first seed against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the New England Patriots continue to add to their win total as all roads lead to an epic Week 15 matchup to see if the playoffs really will run through Foxboro again as they typically do. As mentioned previously on the Patriots Week in Review, these games don’t really matter for the Patriots. They’re slam dunks before you’ve even found the game on GamePass. Whilst the top teams in the NFC battle out for a limited amount of playoff spots between a bunch of great teams, the Patriots are sitting pretty in a weak AFC knowing that there is only one big game is left in the regular season for them, and it’ll be taking place at Heinz Field.
In this Week 13 matchup against the Bills, the Patriots struggled to take control early, despite an early pick thrown in the red zone by Tyrod Taylor, who would get injured in the latter stages of the game. By half time, the score was only 9-3 Patriots, with all the points being scored by the kickers. Not great. In the first half, the Bills really confused the Patriot offense and were able to get some big stops along the way. Their problem throughout the entire game was their own offense, because they struggled throughout to help their defence out with any points. The Bills pass rush in particular was having fun in this game, beating up Brady for 3 sacks and 5 QB hits. Throughout the early stages of the game, this was looking like a real problem. However, in the second half, the tactics were changed and the Patriots started clicking on offense. Whilst one of my personal favourite players Dion Lewis was running well and is clearly the best running back on the Patriots right now, it was Rex Burkhead who was the star of the show in this game, scoring both of the Patriots touchdowns.
To open the second half, the Patriots ran ten plays for 70 yards, ending with a Burkhead touchdown. The next touchdown drive for the Patriots was quite interesting. On a crucial third down, James White made a catch and after he was brought down, he looked like he was short of the first down. Taking advantage of the Bills’ indecisiveness on whether or not to challenge the play, Brady used his veteran instincts to quickly line up and run a play. After a solid gain on a run from Burkhead, the Patriots ran just one more play (another Rex Burkhead run play) on this drive as it ended with a touchdown. By the end of the second quarter, this game was a close one where it looked like the Bills could actually force an upset. By the end of the third quarter, it was 23-3 and the game was over.
Despite there being no points scored in the fourth quarter, something pretty important did happen, which was terrible for all those involved. The fact that Tre’Davious White was clearly impeding Rob Gronkowski on his route on the play doesn’t matter, the flag never came and so continues the story of how the refs seem to call plays on Gronk differently from everyone else. However, it doesn’t matter. Rob Gronkowski should not have attacked White the way he did. He deserves his suspension and he shouldn’t have even appealed it. Because of the attack, White suffered a concussion. With the amount of CTE in the NFL already, the last thing the league needs is players intentionally trying to hurt players. In the end it was clear to see that Gronkowski himself was incredibly remorseful and apologetic after the incident and embarrassed by the way he had acted in what he called ‘frustration’. There is no excuse and I am glad to see Gronkowski banned for the next game because actions have consequences. However, I still like Rob Gronkowski as a player and a person outside of the game and I believe his maturity in the aftermath of the incident has shown more of the man he is than the mistake he made during the game. I hope Tre’Davious White makes a fast recovery because he has been one of my favourite rookies to watch this year and has a genuine shot at winning defensive rookie of the year.
Next for the Pats is Monday Night Football against the Dolphins, which is really annoying, because the work rota says I’m in early on Tuesday, so it’ll either be a few hours less sleep or a ‘Game in 40’ catch-up in the morning before work, I have yet to make the fateful decision. For now anyway, the Patriots still have the second seed in the AFC with a 10-2 record, tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers, however, that will all change when the two heavyweights of the AFC meet in a couple of weeks.