EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 11, 2012

Two-minute Drill: Pats 37, Bills 31


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — BIG SHOWS

1. Devin McCourty – Play of the game, courtesy of Ryan Fitzpatrick. But he also came up with a great strip on Fred Jackson at the 1, earlier in the quarter. Look, he still can’t cover, but he’s step up from Pat Chung.

2. Danny Woodhead – Used correctly, in the passing game and with only one surprise carry – good for a 15-yard toughdown – the dividends paid were exceptional. Added four catches for 46 yards and a score. That’s five touches, 12.2 yards per touch and a pair of TDs. Perfect.

3. Wes Welker – Some moron of the press corps asked Welker if on the quick “tear” screen, which he reversed field against the grain and turned nothing into a 23-yard gain, if that’s what the play called for. Sir, your credential should be revoked. That play was all Welker’s creativity and athleticism. Kid is a player, if the Pats haven’t noticed yet. Now sign him. Six catches for 74 yards to lead team.

4. Tom Brady – With his wife expecting, Brady was sharp and decisive and led the offense to 37 points, which should win a lot of games, even with this Patriots defense.

5. Katie Day – Three automatics of autumn. The leaves will change colors and fall. The Patriots will beat the Bills at Gillette Stadium. And Day, of East Kingston, N.H., will dominate the competition in the NFL’s Punt, Pass and Kick here in Foxboro. Day repeated as champion here yesterday, winning the girls 14-15 Division. Congrats, Katie.

6. Mike and Chris Lane – Visitors in the “Gronk Box,” the Lane Brothers of Andover certainly know how to make a guest feel comfortable. I walked into their box to visit Chris, the former Colgate legend who now lives in Buffalo, and no less than 60 seconds, Mike, the former Central Catholic tight end, had a lobster roll in my hand. Now, that’s a really “Big Show.”

NO SHOWS

1. Chandler Jones – Perhaps the rookie didn’t realize the bye week was over. No tackles, no pass rush and barely one assist for Jones. It got to a point that he came out on potential run downs. Just not a good day.

2. Jerod Mayo – My man from 2009-11 returned yesterday, chasing down Bills all over the field for big gains. Chandler down the seam for 23? Mayo on the tackle. Spiller busts through for a dozen? Mayo. A 10-yard dance by Fred Jackson? Yep, Mayo. A dozen of the most inconsequential tackles ever recorded. And the 15-yard penalty he was called for, where he frustratingly drove Jackson to the turf 10 yards out of bounds, was just the icing on the cake.

3. Brandon Spikes – Played just about every snap, and his only impact was a head-first, illegal (but uncalled) knockout shot on Fred Jackson in the last minute.

4. The secondary – Aqib Talib had better not just be Superman. He needs to be the whole Justice League (although I’m not sure if Aquaman could help, unless they are playing the Dolphins).

5. Vince Wilfork – “We made plays when we had to,” said Wilfork, and I swear his nose was growing. Vince, I love you. On the field, you were excellent. A big strip-sack, controlled the inside gaps, finished with a pair of solo tackles. But to lie and say the defense stepped up is honestly an embarrassment to a man of your honor and integrity. Devin McCourty stood right where the QB was staring, and wrapped his hands around a ball that softly split the 3-and-2 on his jersey as his man ran wide open. That’s not making, “a play.”

GRADING THE GROUPS

OFFENSE

Line (C+) … Buffalo’s defense is Swiss cheese, and Stevan Ridley was held to a mere 98 yards on 22 carries. Tom Brady had less and less time as the game went on. Injuries to Dan Connolly and Logan Mankins certainly hurt them.

Running Backs (B+) … Zero turnovers. I felt Ridley hit the holes – ones that might have been there anyway – hard. Danny Woodhead was off the charts good today. Shane Vereen never got the shot to get going.

Tight Ends (B-) … Visante Shiancoe played for the first time but managed little impact. Rob Gronkowski got defended, but it took a double-team most of the night. Gronk had three grabs for 31 yards and TD catch that was a thing of beauty.

Wide Receivers (B+) … Brandon Lloyd and Wes Welker combined for 11 catches and 119 yards. Four grabs from Deion Branch is simply a bonus. Productive day all around.

Quarterback (A) … You think Tom Brady – absolute unhurried – would have made the same dumb throw Ryan Fitzpatrick did to end the game? Of course not. Day in, day out, your guy delivers. Hit 23 of 38 passes, moved the chains, hit the open man, simply delivered the victory.

DEFENSE

Line (C+) … Big Vince was active inside. The Bills shoved around the rest of the front when they wanted to. Rob Ninkovich was a victim of massive cave-ins at the edge, allowing C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson to roll up six yards a carry. Nobody got close to Fitzpatrick after the first quarter with a four-man rush.

Linebackers (C-) … Jerod Mayo was the passive Mayo. Maybe that had something to do with scheme. Brandon Spikes had a tough day, picking wrong gaps and being sliced up by cutbacks. The coverage by both was pathetic as Scott Chandler caught five for 65, all on them. Spiller and Jackson had them missing early and often.

Secondary (C) … On a day where the Pats went small to help cover the passing game, going most often with six in the box and five defensive backs, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 337 yards and was one colossal brain cramp from pulling off a stunning upset.

Coaching (D) … Honestly, I’ve seen enough of Matt Patricia to know the guy is not coordinator material. He’s vanilla. No, he’s fat-free vanilla. No, he’s fat-free, sugar-free, vanilla-free, vanilla. Bill Belichick can propagandize. And Vince Wilfork can spew all the verbage he wants about how he “believes” and how they “make plays” and how this defense, “closed out the Jets and now Buffalo.” Until somebody realizes that this defense needs a change, this team will be the Buffalo Bills with Tom Brady instead of Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Special Teams (B) … Forget the return game. As long as Julian Edelman is the guy in punt return, you’ll get nothing there. Devin McCourty isn’t much either. But this team didn’t allow a good one in Leodis McKelvin to beat them. That is means for a solid mark.

The turning point

With 28 seconds left (plenty of time) at the New England 15, Ryan Fitzpatrick drops to pass. There is no pressure of any kind. He locks on to T.J. Graham, stares at where he’s going, drawing both safeties to the area, then underthrows him by 10 yards – right into Devin McCourty’s belly for the easiest pick he’ll ever get.

Ryan Fitzpatrick locked up the goat horns, then he and his coach made excuses.

“It changed the thought process a little bit if we would have had timeouts there,” lamented Fitzpatrick.

Added his coach, Chan Gailey: “(Fitzpatrick) played so good and then to have that happen. I’ve got to help him. I’ve got to make a couple better calls at the end there that might help him. So, if I do a little better of a job, then maybe he doesn’t have to do that by himself.”

Hey Chan, the kid, Graham, was open by seven yards. Fitzpatrick chose to throw it to the other team.

That is clearly defined as beyond help.

Bills weren’t ready to play

Hungry and desperate.

You’re 3-5, playing your 5-3 divisional leader which has already beaten you once.

The season hangs in the balance. Shouldn’t you be hungry and desperate?

In this case, the Bills flew out of the box like crazed dogs.

Well, not exactly.

Four penalties on the first offensive possession took a third-and-1 to a third-and-21.

Punt.

Then, Ryan Fitzpatrick panicked in the pocket per usual and gets stripped by Vince Wilfork, setting up a Pats Stevan Ridley TD, only after a pair of bogus pass-interference penalties.

Patriots lead 10-0 after one. Buffalo six penalties for 40 yards, Pats 0-for-0 after one.

Game over.

That’s a team fighting for its season, folks. Hmm. I wonder if Dick Jauron is available again.

Why Belichick is better

When is the last time a Patriot drew a 15-yard flag for running up the sidelines, out of bounds, to cover a punt?

Answer, during Pete Carroll’s tenure here.

Yet, it happened to Buffalo yesterday.

When is the last time an opponent put together an 82-yard TD drive, benefitting from 69 yards in penalties on the drive against the Pats?

Answer, not since the Rod Rust Era.

Yet, it happened to Buffalo yesterday.

The bottom line is the well-adjusted coach, who studies and crosses the T’s and dots the I’s, has a team get hit for 7 flags for 73 yards.

And the good-old boy/hick from Georgia with an “aw shucks” drawl and a 31-42 career mark goes out and watches his team get buried for 14 flags worth 148 yards.

His response to the issues?

“I don’t know… Should there be calls, shouldn’t there be calls? You’ve got to look at the film and decide. You always have questions about them.”

Great Chan.

Another gem from the genius yesterday: “Still a chance. Still can get there. The world champions were 7-7 last year.”

Sure, Chan. But were they 3-6 and now basically four games behind the division leader (three plus the head-to-head tie-breaker)?

I didn’t think so.

He said it

Now, you’d figure after all these defeats guys like Ryan Fitzpatrick would know how to lose graciously.

Nope. The big fella from Harvard made sure to talk about his “favorite” Patriot, Brandon Spikes, yesterday.

“I think he’s a punk … at times,” said Fitzpatrick, who was driven hard to the turf by Spikes on an illegal hit in the second half. “He took a cheap shot at Scott (Chandler) in the first game. He’s not one of my favorite players – not high on my list.”

Five thoughts as the Pats forge ahead at 6-3

1. The Bills are dead. The Jets are dead. And Miami is on life support, only awaiting a couple savage beatings by this club.

2. This defense, in my eyes, keeps the Pats from being considered elite. Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Denver and Houston are ahead of the Pats because their defenses are at least functional.

3. Who proclaimed Baltimore dead? Losing Ray Lewis, who was so mediocre at the time, was the best thing that could have happened to the Ravens.

4. I am so fired up to see Andrew Luck next week here in person. I’ll bet he’s just as excited to come here, but not to see me. He’s looking to see guys like Devin McCourty, Alfonso Dennard, Kyle Arrington, Steve Gregory & Co.

5. I swear to God, and don’t laugh when I say this: Kyle Arrington still starts for this team. I need someone to explain “How?”