BOSTON (CBS) — Anyone who watched the display on the field at Gillette Stadium on Sunday afternoon knows that it was not a real, live NFL game. From the moment the Patriots listed Rob Gronkowski on their inactive list 90 minutes before kickoff, the meeting between the Patriots and Bills immediately took on the feel of the fifth preseason game.
Tom Brady played just one half, Julian Edelman was held out of the game completely, and everyone in a Patriots uniform was distinctly in by-all-means-do-not-get-injured mode.
Yet technically, the game counted, and technically the Bills won. Which, fine, good for them. Finishing 9-7 is a lot better than finishing 8-8, especially when you’re a franchise that hasn’t had a winning season since Jimmy Garoppolo was 13 years old and hasn’t made the playoffs since Tom Brady was a senior at Michigan.
So yes, there hasn’t been too much reason to celebrate in Buffalo for the past decade-plus. But this … this was ridiculous.
That’s a franchise that is thumping its chest to tell the world that it is now 1-12 at Gillette Stadium. Rather than trying their hardest to prevent anybody from knowing that it took them 13 years to win at a divisional opponent’s stadium, they’re seemingly proud of it.
How does this happen?
It speaks, in a big way, about the Patriots’ complete and utter dominance of the AFC East over the past 14 seasons. In Foxboro, you’ve got a Bills team adding a check mark that rightfully should have been checked a decade ago. Meanwhile down in Miami, you’ve got the Jets giving Rex Ryan a Gatorade shower after the team won to finish the year 4-12.
These are the actions of teams that have been psychologically damaged by Bill Belichick and the Patriots. They revel in the teeniest of tiny accomplishments, because really, the Patriots hog all of the good stuff — like winning the division, making the playoffs, earning byes and No. 1 seeds and so forth.
Of course, the Patriots haven’t used any of that to win a Super Bowl in quite some time, which leads to them hardly celebrating accomplishments that would be considered major in Orchard Park, East Rutherford or Miami Gardens. It all ends up creating this great disparity from one team that just chugs through the division like a buzz saw and the others, who cling to whatever “accomplishments” they can.
But hey, at least Buffalo stopped short of carrying Jim Schwartz, the ultimate loser, off the field.
Bills Mafia, indeed.
Despite the fact that it was a nothing game that didn’t count, there’s still plenty to talk about, because let’s face it — this is football and there’s always something to talk about. Let’s waste no more time in getting to the leftover thoughts from the Bills’ thrilling 17-9 victory over the Patriots.
–Nothing sums up this game better than the fact that this die-hard Patriots fan in the front row was shown on TV for about five seconds, and the most excitement he could muster was this thumbs up.
That’s the kind of enthusiasm that just screams, “Eh, this is all we got for two weeks. I wish I had the RedZone on my phone. Harrumph. … Maybe I’ll get some nachos at halftime. Yeah, nachos, all right!”
–If you read this regularly, then you know that I like to include a weekly image of Rob Gronkowski dragging multiple human beings on his back as well as a weekly shot of Julian Edelman getting ripped in half. With both players inactive, that’s not possible, so instead you get images from consecutive plays of Steve Maneri dropping a pass off his chest and Brandon Bolden trying to move a pile but getting knocked backward five yards:
–The 43-yard completion to Sammy Watkins on the opening drive was pretty clearly just a case of Darrelle Revis making a high risk/high reward attempt to break up the pass or pick it off. No big. But later on that drive, on the touchdown pass to Robert Woods, I feel like, I don’t know … I feel like there was a coverage breakdown:
–Considering the game had a preseason vibe, it’s appropriate that Brian Tyms starred. That guy is a Preseason Pro Bowler.
His accidental “Whoops, I went out of bounds when I could have probably picked up a first down on third-and-26” move is probably why he’s not a regular season Pro Bowler.
–It was fascinating to see the small differences that make the difference between a starting NFL player and a backup NFL player. It was evident on Anthony Dixon’s goal-line touchdown run, when Darius Fleming should have fired toward the ball carrier as quickly as possible but instead broke down a yard deep in the end zone.
It was an obvious mistake on replay, but in real time, it was a matter of a fraction of a split-second. And it’s one that Dont’a Hightower probably wouldn’t make.
–I feel compelled to mention Brandon Spikes, just because his mug adorns this lovely story. But there’s nothing much to say about Spikes. He finished the game with zero tackles and zero impact.
I thought he’d flourish with the Bills, but instead he finished the year with 54 total tackles, which was 35 fewer than his average over his last two seasons in New England. I find that odd.
–I’m pretty sure all of New England could have done without the flashback shots to Wes Welker tearing his ACL in Houston in Week 17 in 2009. That’s not exactly what people want to see in between Brady dropbacks.
–If there was one reason for Patriots fans to get excited on Sunday, it was on Jamie Collins’ ridiculous one-man effort in the second quarter. Collins let Kyle Orton slip free from a sack, but the linebacker popped himself off the turf, chased down a scared-as-hell Orton, stripped the ball and then for good measure came up with the recovery himself.
Collins is such a disruptive force that Orton stopped looking downfield and instead decided to locate Collins.Lot of good that did.
–Hi, I’m an NFL offensive lineman … LOL, JK!
Hi, I’m going to block you … JK!
–What could Brady and Josh McDaniels possibly have been going through after that sack?
“Well here’s where Josh Kline got abused like a small schoolchild. Yeah, it’s pretty violent stuff. Not safe for work. Yeesh. Hey, at least I’m not the worst Josh on the Patriots though, am I right??!!”
–I know this game wasn’t important, but frankly I found it to be disrespectful for Devin McCourty to be playing Angry Birds on the sideline:
–I’m always in the camp that as an outside observer of a football team, you look like a real dingus when you act like you’re smarter than the people in charge. But for the life of me, I can’t understand what the team sees in Marcus Cannon. I don’t know why they signed him to an extension. Maybe he puts in the right amount of work behind the scenes, but on the field there have been no results.
Which is fine, I accept that I may be wrong. But him being a jackass after a game doesn’t really make him seem like a great catch.
–Last week, I joked that there was a new sheriff in town, and his name was “Deathwish” Danny Amendola. Well after the man jumped into the air in order to get rocked into next weekend yet again, I think it’s time somebody tells this guy that it’s a bad idea. When you’ve got a history of fighting injuries your whole career, it’s not wise to give up 100 percent of your leverage as 11 men in opposing jerseys fly down the field trying to break you in half.
Amendola also tried to start a fight after seemingly every single play. I suppose he’s trying to harness his inner rage.
If you’re keeping track, Amendola’s full-season stats through two seasons:
2013: 12 games played, 54 receptions, 633 yards, 2 TD
2014: 16 games played, 27 receptions, 200 yards, 1 TD, 8.25 yards per punt return
How are you liking that five-year, $31 million ($10 million guaranteed) deal now??
–At one point in the broadcast, Spero Dedes said, “Jerry Hughes, the Pro Bowl snub.”
That’s the most Bills description of a player I have ever heard.
–Malcolm Butler! Dude!
My man! Where did you go?!
–The penalty call on Ron Brooks was lame, just like Brandon Browner’s penalty in San Diego. The difference in this one was that unlike Ladarius Green, who bobbled the pass for 10 yards before being hit, Tim Wright was actually defenseless in the actual sense of the word. So that’s to be expected.
What’s also to be expected, sadly, is that breathing on the quarterback gets you a 15-yard penalty.
Football is dumb.
–Kyle Orton’s retiring. That’s cool. I guess that explains why he was demonstrably celebrating after drawing that roughing the passer penalty?
A once-promising quarterback (7,400 yards, 41 TDs, 21 INTs from 2009-10) who ended up getting unseated by Tim Tebow and released by the Cowboys. He filled a role for a Bills team that didn’t trust its young quarterback, and he spent his final day in the NFL celebrating weak-ass roughing-the-passer penalties and then speaking to three reporters at an uncomfortably empty postgame press conference while your organization tweets typos in your quote.
Farewell, Kyle. Good luck in your future as the frontman of the Foo Fighters. I really think you guys might make it.
–I don’t have much to say about Jimmy Garoppolo’s work as the starting quarterback. It’s hard to judge a man behind that offensive line, using the backup receiving and running options, against a very good Buffalo defense.
I will say that Josh McDaniels’ play call on fourth-and-1 was atrocious, as it left the rookie quarterback all alone in space with no blockers. Granted, Prince Aladdin did an awesome job handling himself by de-helmeting Rob Brooks, but as an offensive coordinator you probably want to avoid getting your kid killed in some of his only game action of the season.
–With the regular season complete, there are some significant facts and figures to run through. Well, “significant” in the sense that you keep in mind that sports aren’t very important and that we’re all going to die some day so who really cares? So with that much established, here we go:
*The Patriots have won 12 or more games for five straight seasons. They’ve won 12 or more games nine times in franchise history, with all of those seasons coming from 2003-14.
*The loss means the Patriots’ 35-game home winning streak against AFC teams is over. It was the longest in NFL history, beating Miami’s run of 21 straight home wins against the AFC.
*Tom Brady declined this season, going from a 60.5 completion percentage to a 64.1 completion percentage and going from a 2.27-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio to a 3.67 TD-to-INT ratio. He finished fifth in passer rating after ranking 17th last year. He is a bum and is washed up and is declining … or he just had no offensive line last year and through the first month of this season, and once he got some protection, he was his normally excellent self.
See y’all in the playoffs, nerds.
Screen shots from NFL.com/GameRewind.
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