By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
Final, 16-0 Bills: While it would’ve been reasonable to expect an offensive struggle with Brissett at QB and the Bills having had time to prepare for him, nobody saw this coming — a complete blanking on home turf. It’s the first time the Patriots have ever been shut out at home in the Bill Belichick era, which tells you all you need to know about the rarity of such an occasion.
That’s the bad news. The good news for the Patriots? Tom Brady gets back to work tomorrow. They’re going to be all right in the long run.
Fourth quarter, 1:06, 16-0 Bills: The Patriots’ chances may be ever so small, but they still technically exist, as Buffalo is now forced to punt. The Patriots are out of timeouts, so it’ll take a few miracles for the Patriots here. But, you know, 60 minutes and all of that.
Fourth quarter, 2:26, 16-0 Bills: Brissett looked at Gronkowski — and only Gronkowski — on fourth-and-6 but he couldn’t get the pass to big No. 87 before the coverage came. Turnover on downs. Ballgame.
Fourth quarter, 2:56, 16-0 Bills: It’s third-and-6 from the Buffalo 21-yard line. The Pats converted on a fourth-and-1 to stay alive, but this one remains a longshot for the home team.
Fourth quarter, 4:51, 16-0 Bills: Let nobody say Bennett isn’t tough, as he’s already back in the game. The offense desperately needs him, too. He’s been their entire offense, basically.
Fourth quarter, 5:10, 16-0 Bills: Martellus Bennett just came up with a 14-yard catch and run but came down hard on his right shoulder. He left the game in obvious pain.
Fourth quarter, 7:02, 16-0 Bills: If the Patriots have are going to have a chance, they’ll need points now. They take over with seven minutes left and 70-plus yards to go to the end zone.
Fourth quarter, 9:50, 16-0 Bills: The Patriots just had two clean shots at the quarterback, but both times let Taylor slip away. The first came from Jabaal Sheard, who broke in from the left end on second-and-24, but couldn’t tackle the QB. Taylor broke free, ran left, and hit Clay for 14 yards up the left sideline. On the very next play, Jamie Collins had Taylor fully wrapped up, but Taylor simply slipped free, ran right, and connected with Powell, who was left unaccounted for in the middle of the field.
He was ruled down a few feet shy of the first-down marker, but the Bills challenged the call and had it overturned. So it’s first-and-10 from the Buffalo 36-yard line, with more precious time set to come off the clock.
Fourth quarter, 13:03, 16-0 Bills: The Patriots look like they’re going to get blanked this afternoon. It’s just not happening.
Rob Gronkowski did make his first catch of the year, a fingertip grab along the left sideline to pick up 11 yards on third-and-8. But that was it for the drive, which featured an Edelman false start from the slot position, and the Patriots punted yet again.
The Bills start at their own 15 after a fair catch. If they can just secure the football for the rest of the game, they’ll win.
Third quarter, :28, 16-0 Bills: It’s still a two-score game. Just two very big scores, after an 11-play, 44-yard drive ends with a 44-yard field goal by Carpenter, who did not miss this time around.
The Patriots’ defense looks absolutely gassed, and with good reason. Being unable to get off the field tends to have that effect. There were no huge plays on that drive, just a slow and steady attack that’s been the story all afternoon long.
Third quarter, 4:55, 13-0 Bills: Brissett had Amendola wide open on a third-and-19. Wide open. He missed him badly.
That’s the way it’s been going today for the Pats offense, who faced a first-and-25 after a chop block penalty on Solder. They almost got out of the hole, but that misfire on third down was a big one.
The Bills take over at their own 30-yard line after an 18-yard return by Brandon Tate.
Third quarter, 7:15, 13-0 Bills: It’s apparently a tough day to be a kicker, as Carpenter’s 47-yard attempt just took a sharp left turn on its way to the uprights, clanking off the left upright. The kick was no good and the score remains the same.
The Patriots gave up a 23-yard pass to Woods to open the drive, and then Taylor hit Goodwin (Butler in coverage) for a gain of 12 on a third-and-10. But the drive stopped there, leading to the long field goal attempt.
With 22 minutes left in the game, the Patriots need point.
Third quarter, 10:27, 13-0 Bills: Jacoby Brissett really did all he could on that drive. But it ends with no points after Stephen Gostkowski pushed a 48-yard field goal wide right. That’s a downer after a pretty good drive.
Bennett got things rolling with a 19-yard catch-and-run, with Brissett later hitting White on a fourth-and-2 near midfield to move the chains. Brissett scrambled on the next play and took a huge hit from Lorenzo Alexander, but he got up and delivered a beautifully perfect deep ball to Brandon Bolden up the right sideline. Bolden couldn’t make the catch while diving. Brissett got away with trying to force a deep ball to Amendola in double coverage in the end zone on third down, leading to the field goal attempt.
It was an encouraging drive from the offense, but the lack of points is a killer.
Third quarter, 14:07, 13-0 Bills: The Patriots open the second half with something they couldn’t do once in the first half — forcing a three-and-out. Trey Flowers clobbered Taylor just as he got the pass away on third down, helping lead to an incompletion.
Amendola’s return went nowhere, and it’s Patriots ball at their own 24-yard line.
Third quarter, 15:00, 13-0 Bills: With the second half underway, let’s see if the Patriots’ defense comes out with a renewed sense of something, or if it’s more of the same. The Patriots need to force a turnover in the worst way.
Halftime, 13-0 Bills: Jerry Hughes came in unblocked off the left end on first down, and he had Brissett dead to rights. Hughes took him down for a loss of 14 yards, backing the Patriots up to their own 6-yard line. Buffalo called timeout after the next two Blount runs, leading to a punt from the 8-yard line with 8 seconds left in the half on fourth-and-22.
Allen’s punt bounced harmlessly up the right sideline, and this game will head to halftime.
The numbers are ugly. The Patriots have just 98 yards of offense. More than half of that total came on one play. That would be problematic enough, but the defense can’t stop anything. Buffalo is dinking and dunking the Patriots to death, gaining 251 yards, picking up 15 first downs and going 4-for-7 on third down. The Patriots, meanwhile, are 0-for-5 on third down.
It’s not over, obviously, because it’s only a two-score lead. But the offensive and defensive effort from the Patriots in the first half certainly isn’t encouraging for the home team.
Second quarter, 1:13, 13-0 Bills: We have seen it. We have seen a … third-down stop by the New England defense. Barely. But it counts, as Taylor’s dive came up a foot short of the first down marker, leading to a Buffalo punt. Amendola returned it out to the 20-yard line.
Considering Belichick burned two timeouts to get the ball back with time left, we’re expecting some attempts to move the football here.
Second quarter, 5:00, 13-0 Bills: If anything can kill your chances, it’d be red zone turnovers. Unfortunately for Brissett, he may have just learned that the hard way.
Facing a third-and-11 from the Buffalo 18, Brissett scanned his options and decided to run with the ball. He picked up eight yards but had nowhere else to go, and he didn’t secure the football as Zach Brown drove his helmet right into the QB’s chest and popped the ball right out. Buffalo recovered and … the Patriots still haven’t scored.
That drive got off to a promising start when Brissett threw a perfect deep ball to Bennett, who broke two tackles after making the catch for a 58-yard catch-and-run. But a David Andrews hold on third-and-1 pushed the Patriots back, leading to the play where Brissett coughed it up.
Second quarter, 7:46, 13-0 Bills: The defense had a chance to step up, flip the field, and put the offense in a position to succeed.
The defense failed.
The Bills moved out of their own end of the field with ease, driving 71 yards over 4:41, tacking on another field goal. It could’ve been worse, too, if Taylor hadn’t badly missed a wide-open Woods on second down from the 24-yard line.
Down 13 points, the Patriots presumably have no choice but to actually hand the keys to Brissett and see what happens.
Second quarter, 12:30, 10-0 Bills: The boo birds are out here at Gillette, after the Patriots opted to run the ball on a third-and-17 instead of trying to keep the drive alive, and the boos aren’t entirely unwarranted. Obviously this is a rookie QB running the show, but they haven’t even thought about letting him throw the ball more than five yards down the field.
They did move the chains to start that drive, as Brissett hit Bennett in the right flat for a gain of 10. But that was it. Solder tripped through the hole on a Blount rush, and Thuney jumped early prior to the next snap, leading to the third-and-long.
After a booming punt by Allen and an unsportsmanlike penalty on Buffalo for blocking out of bounds, the Bills start with their worst field position of the day at their own 5-yard line. The Patriots’ defense really needs to wake up, or this one might slip away early.
Second quarter, 14:49, 10-0 Bills: Another long scoring drive for the Bills, but this one ends in a field goal, thanks largely to a post-whistle personal foul by Richie Incgognito. (“Post-Whistle Personal Foul” is actually Richie’s legal middle name, if you were curious.)
Oddly, on third-and-21, Rex Ryan declined a neutral zone infraction by the Patriots, a penalty which would’ve given the offense another crack at a first down and/or the end zone. Odd … but the Bills did gain 13 yards, and Rex must have liked the short field goal option. Carpenter hit it, and the Bills are up two scores.
The Patriots’ defense looks pretty awful. No pressure, no coverage, no tackling. That’s a rough combination.
First quarter, 3:47, 7-0 Bills: The Patriots’ offense is stuck in the mud. James White picked up seven yards on a first-down misdirection pass, before Julian Edelman stepped in to take a snap at QB. He faked a handoff and ran left, but he only gained one yard running left. On third down, Brissett tossed an option at White, who bobbled the ball. The bobble stopped him cold, and he couldn’t even get back to the line of scrimmage.
Terrible start all around — offense, defense, special teams — for New England. This is exactly what the Bills wanted.
It is — as you can plainly see — not at all what this Bill wanted:
First quarter, 5:31, 7-0 Bills: The Bills took advantages of some spots over the middle, both on the ground and through the air, to put together a very solid offensive drive.
They ended up getting down to the Patriots’ 19-yard line for a third-and-7, needing to burn a timeout before getting the snap away. On the third down, they came out with five wide and Tyrod Taylor in the gun all alone. He connected with Robert Woods on an in-cut, looking at Woods the entire time, to gain 11 and move the chains to get inside the Patriots’ 10-yard line.
LeSean McCoy lost a yard on first-and-goal. On second down, the Bills motioned Taylor out wide and let McCoy take a shotgun snap. He ran it up the gut but was stopped at the 6-yard line. On third-and-goal from the 7, Taylor hit McCoy on an out to the right side. McCoy won the footrace with Butler to the pylon and scored the game’s first touchdown.
That was a huge drive for Buffalo. It chewed up more than seven minutes on the clock and was methodical. Charles Clay caught two passes for 20 yards. Woods caught one for 11, and McCoy caught two for 20 yards and the touchdown. McCoy ran for 10 yards, while Mike Gillislee ran for 16 yards on his lone carry.
First quarter, 12:45, 0-0: After the costly penalty, the Patriots leaned heavily on LeGarrette Blount — three straight times in fact. He picked up 13 yards on the three carries, but was tackled a yard shy of the sticks on third down.
The Patriots punted and the Bills take over at their own 35-yard line after some solid punt coverage by the Patriots.
First quarter, 14:36, 0-0: Bad start for New England, as Cyrus Jones took the ball a yard out of the end zone before deciding to take a knee. You can’t do that. He eventually popped up and ran but only to the 9-yard line.
Making matters worse for the Patriots, a hold on Chris Hogan and a pass interference penalty on Hogan negated a ridiculous 91-yard catch-and-run by Edelman.
Rough start for New England.
1 p.m.: Buffalo won the toss and deferred. The Patriots and Brissett will start this game with the football.
12:58 p.m.: It’s just about that time, folks.
12:27 p.m.: We’re still a ways away from kickoff, but emotions are running hot down on the field.
Rookie Patriots receiver Malcolm Mitchell ended up surrounded by five or six Bills players near the 50-yard line. It started when Jacoby Brissett and Mitchell were jogging up the field. Safety Robert Blanton decided to give the Patriots’ starting quarterback a shove. Mitchell stuck up for Brissett and ended up being on the receiving ends of multiple shoves from the Bills players. Some Patriots coaches got shoved by Bills players as well.
Watch the exchange here:
It appeared to be receivers coach Chad O’Shea in the hat who got the hardest shove from the Bills players. I’d imagine some fines will be coming the Bills’ way after that. They clearly instigated and remained the aggressors throughout.
11:30 a.m.: Well, so much for that. Despite optimism throughout the week on Jimmy Garoppolo, the QB won’t be able to play today. He won’t even be able to dress, as he’s officially listed as inactive for the game. That’s too bad from a personal standpoint on Garoppolo, because he probably wouldn’t have minded getting some more work in to either make a case to be the Patriots’ QB of the future or to be a starter for another team sooner than later.
Nevertheless, it’s Jacoby Brissett at QB today, presumably with Julian Edelman as the backup.
On the positive side of health news for the Patriots, Dont’a Hightower will be active for the game, which should provide a much-needed boost to the linebacking corps.
Here’s the full list of inactives:
Jonathan Cooper, G
Eric Rowe, CB
D.J. Foster, RB
Greg Scruggs, TE
Jimmy Garoppolo, QB
Elandon Roberts, LB
LaAdrian Waddle, T
Cardale Jones, QB
Greg Salas, WR
Justin Hunter, WR
Reggie Bush, RB
Gabe Ikard, OL
Patrick Lewis, C
Cyrus Kouandjio, OL
10 a.m.: Good morning from Gillette Stadium, on what is the final day of one Mr. Tom Brady’s suspension. But before the world moves on to No. 12, we’ve got one more game for No. 10. Probably.
The Patriots, as always, have been mysterious about their QB availability this week, just as they were last week. Considering Bill Belichick listed Brady on the injury report for about 10 years straight, getting not one but two damaged quarterbacks at the same time must have felt like Christmas in September.
But, it’s likely that we’ll see Jimmy G. under center today as the Patriots look to finish off the Brady-free month with a perfect 4-0 record.
Now, had the Bills come into Foxboro last week, we’d all be laughing them off. They did appear to be the NFL’s worst team through two weeks. Yet they put forth a strong showing at home vs. Arizona last week, so that’s helped go a long way in limiting the number of people looking past this game entirely.
It ought to be an interesting one, and I’ll have updates right here all day, from pregame news and notes (including who will be the Patriots’ starting quarterback), to the inactive lists, to all the big plays from the opening kick to the final whistle. Check back early and often.