BOSTON (CBS) – That was ugly, but when it’s all said and done the Patriots walked out of Buffalo with a 23-21 win, and that’s what matters most in the NFL.
It was the Patriots’ 10th straight opening day win, with Tom Brady leading another comeback to improve to 10-1 on the first day of the season.
But aside from the W in the standings, the Patriots have plenty to improve on after Week 1 of the 2013 season. The offense was non-existent at points, downright sloppy at others, and it really shouldn’t come down to a last-second field goal against the Bills.
Most of their issues were self-inflicted on Sunday, and a part of the growing pains a young team will go through throughout a season. But the bottom line is, the Patriots have to be better on the offensive side of the ball. When was the last time that was an issue?
Here are the Ups and Downs from the Patriots’ season-opening win in Buffalo:
We’ll hear all about the time he spent on the sidelines with a groin injury in the second quarter, but Amendola came through when it mattered most on Sunday.
He led all New England receivers with 10 catches for 104 yards, including clutch third-down grabs to move the chains on the Patriots’ final drive. He was Tom favorite target throughout the afternoon, and IF HE REMAINS HEALTHY, will put up career numbers with #12 throwing him the ball.
There is always the question of health with Amendola, but he was on the field making plays when it mattered most on Sunday.
Defense Holds Their Own
Aside from the breakdowns on the two touchdowns (Talib took a nap on the Bills’ first touchdown), the defense was the reason the Patriots stayed in this game.
Kyle Arrington forced a pair of fumbles in the first half that the offense turned into touchdowns, and the run-defense held CJ Spiller and Fred Jackson in check.
More importantly, when it mattered most the D didn’t give the Bills much to work with. After Buffalo took a 21-17 lead in the third quarter, the Patriots defense held them to drives of 3, 6, 6, and 3 plays. Buffalo had a chance to kill the clock when they got the ball back with 5:51 in the fourth, but the Patriots defense forced a quick three-and-out to set up the game-winning drive.
Edelman Fills In
With Rob Gronkowski out, Julian Edelman is the veteran guy as far as repertoire with Tom Brady, and that showed on Sunday.
Edelman hauled in two touchdown grabs in the first half, and finished the day with seven catches for 79 yards.
He also helped in the return game, returning three punts for 32 yards. He now has 975 yards on 75 returns for his career, and is first in team history with a 13-yard average per return.
Vereen Steps Up
With Stevan Ridley getting a timeout from Bill Belichick for his fumble(s), Shane Vereen stepped up to fill the void.
The versatile back did it with his feet and his hands, rushing for a career-high 101 yards on 14 carries while adding seven catches for 58 yards.
The running back has had a history of putting the ball on the ground, and he did it twice on Sunday. Ridley’s first fumble won’t show up in the books as the play was whistled dead, but he fumbled again in the second quarter when he tripped over himself. Buffalo’s Da’Norris Searcy picked it up, and 75 yards later the Bills were on the board and within three points.
Ridley didn’t see the field the rest of the afternoon.
Nothing From Tight Ends
Aside from a five-yard catch from Michael Hoomanawanui, the New England tight ends didn’t do anything in Buffalo.
For all the hype around rookie Zach Sudfeld, he only saw one pass go his way on Sunday. And after tripping off the line Sudfeld could only get a fingertip on that pass, which ended up in Buffalo’s hands and later turned into their second touchdown. Sudfeld played limited snaps after the play.
Thompkins Looks Like Undrafted Rookie
Another hyped-up rookie in the preseason didn’t look very good on Sunday. Thompkins had a Brandon Lloyd-esq 14 passes go his way on Sunday, but could only get his hands on four of them for 42 yards.
The rookie had trouble creating space, getting both feet down and in bounds, and dropped a few of those passes that went his way. These are the growing pains you’d expect out of an undrafted rookie, but with a lot riding on his success, he’ll have to step up in the coming weeks.
Production from their punter was never an issue with Zoltan Mesko on the team, but now with rookie Ryan Allen taking over, it might be something to keep an eye on.
Allen was inconsistent in his debut, averaging just 39.3 yards on his six punts. He had a 19-yard punt to begin the second quarter, and then a 35-yarder late in the third quarter when the Patriots were pinned deep in their zone.
These could just be rookie jitters though, so we’ll give the kid the benefit of the doubt. He also had a big play on Stephen Gostkowski’s first field goal of the afternoon, corralling a low and errant snap to get the hold down and kick up.