Patriots

Four Ups, Four Downs From Patriots’ 34-20 Win Over Bills

By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
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Bill Belichick and LeGarrette Blount (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick and LeGarrette Blount (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

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BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots were able to secure a first-round playoff bye with a 34-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

It was a rain-soaked affair, which made it a rather unique game, but the Patriots were able to overcome the elements and their opponent to finish the season at 12-4.

Here are four ups and four downs from the win.

Four Ups

LeGarrette Blount
With heavy rain falling throughout the entire game, it was clear that the Patriots were going to need to lean heavily on the running game. LeGarrette Blount accepted that responsibility in a big way.

Within the first 18 minutes of the game, he gained 101 yards and ran for a touchdown. By the end of the game, he had 189 yards and a pair of scores on 24 carries, and he also had two huge kick returns. He took the first for 83 yards, and he took the second for 62 yards.

“He was clearly the best player on the field,” Bill Belichick said of Blount after the win. “He carried the team on his back for most of the day.”

Blount also delivered the crushing blow to the Bills, breaking free for a 35-yard touchdown run to put the game out of reach for Buffalo. It was a career high for Blount on the ground, and it came at a pretty great time for him, as he prepares for his first career playoff game. Thanks to his effort, he has an extra week to rest in preparation for it.

Julian Edelman
The receiver capped off a brilliant season with nine receptions for 65 yards.

He became just the third player in Patriots history to record a 100-catch season, and the 10th Patriot to record a 1,000-yard receiving season, finishing the year with 105 receptions for 1,056 yards.

When Wes Welker went to Denver, the common belief was that Danny Amendola would have to make up for that lost production. As it turned out, Edelman handled much of that load.

Stephen Gostkowski
The kicker set a franchise record of his own for most field goals in a single season. He hit from 43, 35 and 29 in the first half for his 35th, 36th and 37th field goals of the season. That broke the franchise mark he set himself back in 2008. He kicked one more in the second half to finish the year with 38 successful kicks this season.

It’s hard to remember now, but there was minor hysteria when Adam Vinatieri skipped town for a big pay day in Indy. But the Patriots drafted Gostkowski, and he’s been one of the best in the business for eight years.

Bill Belichick
With no Aaron Hernandez and no Wes Welker all year, and with no Rob Gronkowski, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo and Sebastian Vollmer for most of the year, Bill Belichick steadied the ship and led the team to a 12-4 record. This isn’t exactly breaking news, but the man is a darn good coach. People will argue that this may be his finest work yet, but that will always be debatable. What’s not up for debate is that the Patriots are 12-4 and will enjoy a first-round playoff bye. Not too shabby.

Four Downs

Brandon Spikes
The middle linebacker is absolutely vital to the Patriots’ run defense, but he’s playing with a knee that will require surgery in the offseason, according to a report on Sunday. So when he gingerly walked off the field in the fourth quarter on Sunday after aggravating his knee, it was alarming. He’ll have that extra week to rest, but if the knee injury was affected seriously, that could be bad news for New England.

Aaron Dobson
The receiver came back last week from a foot injury which cost him a month of playing time, but he left this one early after re-aggravating the foot injury. The Patriots can survive without Dobson, but if they’re going to make it to the AFC Championship Game and beyond, they’ll likely need every bit of offensive firepower they have.

That’s About It
Logan Mankins nearly made the list when he was helped off the field after his leg gave out, but he returned because he is one of the toughest men in pro sports. So aside from the injuries, there’s not too much cause for concern from a hard-fought win in unfriendly weather conditions. For now, it’s just time for the Patriots to rest and wait to see who will be coming to Foxboro in two weeks.

Read more from Michael Hurley by clicking here, or find him on Twitter @michaelFhurley.

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