Pick Six:  Observations from Game Eight

The Patriots defeated the Bills 25-6 on Monday Night Football at New Era Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo kicked a field goal midway through the 3rd quarter to cut the New England lead to 9-6 before the visiting team scored 17 unanswered points to finish the game. There is reason to be concerned about the right side of New England’s offensive line as guard Ted Karras and tackle LaAdrian Waddle struggled in injury replacement for Shaq Mason and Marcus Cannon. Waddle was called for two penalties and gave up a sack to linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, while Karras seem to get fooled on a stunt, allowing defensive tackle Kyle Williams a free run up the middle to force a third down incompletion in the 3rd quarter.

Six Observations from Game Eight

1. The Patriots’ offense seemed to take a step back without injured running back Sony Michell. Tom Brady’s squad drove the ball inside the Bills’ 25 yard line five times but scored only one touchdown. One factor was that Cordarrelle Patterson, Kenjon Barner, and James White averaged only 1.8 yards on their six carries inside the Buffalo 25 yard line. In his last four games played, Michell averaged 3.5 yards on his 22 runs that close to the opponent’s goal line, which put the team in more favorable down-and-distance situations.

2. Perhaps knowing that quarterback Derek Anderson was going to struggle in a conventional passing offense, Buffalo’s coaches opened their offensive attack with three “Wild Cat” formations in their first four plays. Running back LeSean McCoy took the Bill’s first shotgun snap and ran behind right guard John Miller’s dominating block on defensive lineman Lawrence Guy for 12 yards. To New England’s credit, they seemed to adjust quickly and held McCoy to just one yard over his remaining 11 carries in the game.

3. Defensive end Trey Flowers – who generally aligns over the opponent’s right tackle – had an impressive game on Monday. Late in the 1st quarter Flowers fought off tight end Charles Clay’s block and caught LeSean McCoy for a three yard loss. On the very next play, Flowers kept his feet on tackle Jordan Mills’ cut block attempt and knocked down a quick pass intended for tight end Jason Croom. Midway through the 3rd, Flowers split a Bills’ double team from tight ends Logan Thomas and Charles Clay to tackle McCoy for another loss of three yards.

4. New England’s defense has struggled much of this season, so it’s noteworthy that they were at least able to close out a beleaguered offense on Monday Night. Buffalo’s three drives in the 4th quarter ended because of (1) a Devin McCourty pick six, (2) a Stephon Gilmore pass break up on fourth down, and (3) back-to-back sacks by defensive end Adrian Clayborn and linebacker Kyle Van Noy. ESPN’s broadcast showed that on McCourty’s interception the Patriots were in a “cover two, man” look and the cornerbacks were forcing their receivers to look inside for the ball. Instead of dropping back deep as a quarterback would expect, the safety McCourty was lurking in the middle of the field and broke perfectly to intercept a pass to tight end Charles Clay.

5. Receiver Julian Edelman had his most productive game since returning to the Patriots, with nine receptions and 104 pass yards. Edelman also chipped in two jet sweeps for positive yardage, including a six yard run that was sprung open by Tom Brady’s “block” on linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. Brady also found Edelman when facing a third-and-six at his own 19 yard line at the start of the 4th quarter. On that play the Patriots’ ran a “hi/low” route combination with Chris Hogan on the short out and Edelman on the deep out. “Edels” found a void in the defense and kept his feet inbounds as he caught the 26 yard completion.

6. Credit to the Bills’ coaches and players for identifying – and blowing up – one of the Patriots’ favorite goal line plays. After registering their first touchdown to make the score 18-6 in the 4th quarter, New England went for two with the same play Danny Amendola ran to score the tying points in Super Bowl 51: Edelman went in motion with the intent of catching the quick pass and running the three yards into the end zone behind blocks from Josh Gordon and Cordarrelle Patterson. Bills’ cornerback Tre'Davious White smartly blitzed Edelman behind the line, got on the backside of the intended blockers, and forced Brady to thrown an interception into the middle of the end zone.

Originally published at PatsPulpit.com

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