ROTATION NOT AN ISSUE
It was difficult to watch the Patriots march down the field on their first four possessions of the second half. The toughest one was their 93-yard scoring drive that put them up by 15 points, the eventual margin of victory.
Some observers have said and written that the Bills kept their defensive line starters on the sidelines for that series. Not true.
With six minutes to play, the Bills continued their defensive line rotation, trying to keep their starters fresh. On top of that, Buffalo could reasonably expect New England to run the ball to kill the clock, up by eight points and starting at their own seven yard line. That's probably why edge-setting DE Manny Lawson was on the field for the first seven snaps of the series.
"It was rotation and run game," head coach Doug Marrone said after the game, "thinking that they're going to try to run the ball and run some time off. We put them in knowing that, when third downs and things like that come up, we can get them in."
There were ten snaps in the series (including penalties). Here's who was on the field for their ten snaps:
Photos of the week 6 matchup between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
DT Kyle Williams 6 snaps
DT Marcell Dareus 7 snaps (before he left with an injury)
DE Mario Williams 3 snaps (the last three, including two of the biggest plays for New England, a 17-yard pass to Gronkowski and a 56-yard touchdown toss to Brandon LaFell)
DL Jarius Wynn-9 snaps
DT Stefan Charles 4 snaps
DT Corbin Bryant 3 snaps
DE Manny Lawson 7 snaps
DE Jerry Hughes 1 snap
Even with the rotation of defensive linemen, the Bills starters wound up with the bulk of the workload when all was said and done. Dareus was in on 90 percent of the defensive snaps, Kyle Williams 82 percent, Mario Williams 77 percent and Jerry Hughes 75 percent.
The Bills rotation of defensive linemen has been effective. It's important to keep the linemen fresh and the Bills have some emerging talent among their D-line backups who have made important plays already this year (Stefan Charles against the Lions, for example). There are plenty of reasons to criticize Buffalo's defensive lapse in the second half Sunday, but the rotation of defensive linemen is not one of them.
As Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy always said, "If it doesn't work, you should have done the other thing."
HANDING OVER POINTS
The Bills did a great job avoiding turnovers in their first five games of the season, with just four interceptions and no lost fumbles. In the second quarter against the Patriots, that fell apart.
Kyle Orton threw an interception and fumbled once, while C.J. Spiller had a costly fumble late in the second quarter. And New England turned those three turnovers into 13 points, their only points of the first half.
Through six games this year, the Bills have turned the ball over seven times (5 interceptions, 2 lost fumbles). And their opponents have scored points on 6 of those 7 turnovers, the only exception being a Houston kneel-down at the end of that game. Bills opponents have scored a total of 34 points off Buffalo's 7 turnovers.
MISSED ON THE FIELD
The player the Bills missed most in Sunday's loss? I think it was safety Aaron Williams. Out with his hand/wrist injury, Williams would have provided another option to help handle tight end Rob Gronkowski. He's got enough size to jam Gronk at the line of scrimmage, and enough catch-up speed to stay with him downfield.
IT'S ALL NOISE
Credit Bills fans for jacking up the volume again at Ralph Wilson Stadium, especially in the fourth quarter when the game is on the line. In our new broadcast booth, with the radio headsets on, you sometimes lose track of how noisy the stadium can get. I made a point of taking off my headset briefly during a Patriots offensive series (while my broadcast partner Mark Kelso was talking) and realized he could not be heard even though he stood about five feet away. New England caught a couple of false start penalties due to the noise. It's a major home field advantage.