BOSTON (CBS) — For pretty much the entire first half, it looked like the Patriots were back to being the early-season Patriots: A questionable offensive line, a lack of fire, a struggling offense and, perhaps, a loss.
But the team, led by Tom Brady, stepped on the gas pedal after halftime and never let up, scoring 24 second-half points en route to a 37-22 win in Buffalo.READ MORE: Bill Belichick Stiff-Armed Kendrick Bourne In Locker Room Celebration
As a result, the Patriots stand alone atop the AFC East with a 4-2 record, ahead of 3-3 Buffalo, 2-3 Miami and 1-5 New York.
Here are all the ups and the downs from the impressive victory.
Considering Bryan Stork was out with a concussion and Dan Connolly left the game early with a head injury of his own, Brady deserves immense credit for putting his trust in his O-line, standing tall in the pocket and delivering his best performance of the year. While it looked like Brady’s confidence in the line wavered late in the second quarter, he showed no hesitancy at all after halftime.
Brady completed 73 percent of his passes on the day and an absurd 88 percent (15-for-17) of his passes in the second half. He finished with 361 passing yards and four touchdowns, by far his best game of the season. That included a 43-yard deep ball to Brian Tyms coming out of halftime and a 56-yard back-breaker to Brandon LaFell in the fourth quarter.
After yet another week filled with needless talk about the end of Brady’s career in New England, it was quite the showing from the best Patriot of all time.
The big-money cornerback was nearly perfect in this game, holding Sammy Watkins to zero catches (on zero targets) in the first half. Watkins didn’t make a catch until midway through the third quarter, when he fooled Revis on a route breaking toward the sideline, but overall Revis clearly owned the rookie receiver in this matchup. As a result, Kyle Orton was left without the option of throwing to his best receiver, greatly stifling the Buffalo offense.
Chandler Jones, Devin McCourty
The first half was not an offensive showcase for the Patriots, but thanks to Chandler Jones and Devin McCourty, New England was able to pull off the dreaded “double-score” — that is, putting points on the board before halftime and scoring again in the opening drive of the second half. In fact, they were able to pull off a triple score.
Jones got it started by rushing off the right edge with 2:15 left in the second quarter and the game tied 7-7. Jones outmuscled left tackle Cordy Glenn before leaping in the air to swat the ball out of Orton’s hands. Incredibly, Jones landed on the loose ball in one fluid motion with the strip, and the Patriots turned that turnover into a field goal.
Two drives later, Bills running back C.J. Spiller broke free for a 15-yard gain, but Devin McCourty (with a little help from Revis) knocked the ball loose. Brady came onto the field and threw a quick 5-yard out to Edelman, and Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 53-yarder as time expired.
Those six points off turnovers, followed by the Tyms touchdown in the third quarter, made all the difference in this game.
The Patriots won the turnover battle 3-0, and they’re now plus-9 on turnovers this year.
Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman
The Buffalo boy was exceptional yet again in his homecoming, as Gronkowski caught seven passes for 94 yards. He came up with a catch on perhaps the biggest play of the game, a third-and-16 with less than 4:00 remaining in the game and the Patriots clinging to an eight-point lead. Gronkowski found space over the middle, adsorbed a shove to the back and secured Brady’s pass while on the turf to move the sticks. On the next play, Brady delivered the long touchdown pass to LaFell, and the game was over.
Edelman, meanwhile, was his usual reliable self. He was targeted a team-high 12 times, catching a team-high nine passes for 91 yards and adding a 10-yard rush for good measure. It was the third or fourth time this year that you could really wonder where the Patriots would be without him.READ MORE: Justice Breyer Rejects Mass General Brigham Employees' Request To Block Vaccine Mandate
Extra Point: Brian Tyms
The 25-year-old receiver was one of the biggest stories in training camp, as he forced the Patriots to keep him on the roster with his preseason performances. He finally got to make his debut on Sunday, and he made a truly impressive catch on a deep ball from Brady while covered tightly. Tyms popped up in the end zone and celebrated after his first career touchdown, as it was a long time coming.
Going For Two: Brandon LaFell
The receiver was mostly a spectator in last week’s win over the Bengals, but he showed he belonged in this game. He caught four passes for a team-high 97 yards and two touchdowns.
It’s unclear what exactly Jerod Mayo hurt, but it was clear that whatever it was, it was not good. The linebacker left the game midway through the second quarter after tackling Anthony Dixon. Mayo stayed down on the field, grimacing in pain, before the cart had to come on to take him off. Mayo is, as usual, leading the Patriots in tackles this year, and if he’s out for a while (it looked serious), that’s a huge loss for the defense.
The running back gained just 23 yards on 10 carries, but he’s on this list because he, too, suffered what looked like a bad injury. He ran off the left tackle and jumped to try to avoid Stephon Gilmore’s diving tackle attempt. He absorbed the helmet hit with his knee and landed awkwardly on his ankle, and he left the game. The television broadcast showed Ridley on the bench, and he was clearly distraught, which could mean he suffered a serious injury as well.
Ridley has twice as many rushing attempts as any other Patriot this year, so if he’s indeed out, that changes the offense dramatically.
The Patriots play next on Thursday night, so their work schedule this week is going to be a bit different from normal. That’s stupendous news for Nate Solder, because it may mean he won’t have to sit through a film session in front of the whole team.
The left tackle had a brutal first half, as Jerry Hughes consistently got the better of him. On one play, Solder slid to his right, blocking nobody and giving Hughes a clear lane to Brady. Hughes walloped the quarterback, and Solder struggled so badly that he was replaced on at least one series by Marcus Cannon.
Solder recovered for a better second half, but giving up free shots on the 37-year-old quarterback is a sure way to draw some negative attention.
As mentioned earlier, Dan Connolly left the game early with a head injury. Connolly has a history with concussions, so any time he suffers such an injury, it’s cause for great concern. The veteran lineman has been one of the few bright spots this season, and if he’s out, it’s back to square one for the Patriots’ offensive line.
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