It took a little while, but the New England Patriots eventually took care of business and beat the Buffalo Bills 25-6 on Monday Night Football. Here are five quick takes from the game, which improved New England to 6-2 heading into next Sunday night’s showdown against Green Bay.
1. White’s historic pace
Week after week, James White has been one of the most prolific weapons in the Patriots’ offense. Monday night, he came through again with 10 catches for 79 yards, plus 15 yards and a touchdown on eight carries. He also had a crucial third-down conversion after making his man miss on a short catch from Brady, a play that eventually set up his 1-yard touchdown run, which was the team’s first time in the end zone after settling for four Stephen Gostkowski field goals to that point.
With the performance, White now has 55 catches for 459 yards and six touchdowns (plus two more rushing TDs) on the season.
2. Receivers carry the rock
With rookie Sony Michel out with a knee injury, the Patriots only had two running backs active for Monday’s game — James White and Kenjon Barner. Given that White is at his best in a receiving role, the Patriots came up with a creative solution for their run game by more heavily utilizing receivers out of the backfield, especially early.
Through the first two drives, the Patriots didn’t hand the ball off to a running back once. Cordarrelle Patterson had four of the first five carries during that stretch, and Julian Edelman had the fifth. By the end, Patterson led the team with 10 carries and Julian Edelman also had two carries, while the running backs combined for just 10 carries themselves.
3. Michel was missed
Now, while the position-less strategy was a creative solution to the running back problem, it wasn’t exactly an effective one. Patterson and Edelman combined for just 51 yards on their 12 carries, 22 of which came on a single Patterson carry, and collectively the Patriots only rushed for 78 yards and averaged 3.4 yards per carry on the game.
The performance underscores the importance of Michel, who has emerged as a reliable back after a rocky start to the season. Between Week 4 against Miami and his last full game in Week 7 against Kansas City, Michel averaged 105.3 yards on 22.3 carries per game.
4. Gordon starts, surprisingly
One of the main story lines leading into the game was the reported discipline coming for wide receiver Josh Gordon. According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, Gordon was set to be disciplined for tardiness, and word was he would be kept off the field for several series before going back to his regular playing time.
Yet when the Patriots took the field for their opening series, Gordon was on the field. Not only that, he was quite involved, playing in 19 of 20 offensive snaps over the first two drives. He was targeted three times during that stretch, although he only made one catch for eight yards while dropping a deep pass that would have gone for 40-plus yards.
Gordon finished with four catches for 42 yards.
5. Edelman is back
Since his return from a torn ACL and a four-game PED suspension, we’ve seen flashes from Julian Edelman, but the numbers haven’t quite been what we’re accustomed to. That finally changed on Monday, when Edelman broke out for nine catches and 104 yards, nearly doubling his previous season-high of 57 yards. It was Edelman’s first 100-yard performance since the 2017 AFC Championship Game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, in which he made eight catches for 118 yards.
Mac Cerullo covers the New England Patriots for the Eagle-Tribune and CNHI Sports Boston. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Mac on Twitter at @MacCerullo.