1- Third down defense kept Bills in the game
Buffalo’s third down defense on the season did not look pretty on paper. They came into the Monday night game against the Patriots with the 26th ranked third down defense allowing conversions at a rate of almost 44 percent (43.6%).
Against Tom Brady and the Patriots offense they were downright stingy.
The Bills held the New England attack to just three third down conversions in the first half on eight attempts. Buffalo was particularly effective on third down inside their red zone.
On a 3rd-and-goal at the Bills seven-yard line Matt Milano had great coverage on Brady’s intended receiver Rob Gronkowski at the goal line and knocked the pass away to force an incompletion. New England had to settle for a field goal.
Early in the second quarter on New England’s next possession, Buffalo was facing defending a 3rd-and-11 at their own 26. Brady hit Julian Edelman in the slot off a quick snap. Defensive tackle Jordan Phillips reacted quickly and pursued from the back side to hold Edelman to just a four-yard gain. It again forced New England to settle for a field goal and went to halftime with a 9-3 lead.
Come the third quarter, the Bills defense held on third down on three consecutive Patriots possessions to force a pair of punts and another field goal, when Lorenzo Alexander and Kyle Williams pressured Brady into an incompletion on another 3rd-and-goal from the Bills seven-yard line.
“Guys made some good plays,” said Lorenzo Alexander, who had a pair of sacks in the game. “We had some tight coverage. We were able to get to (Tom Brady) a little bit too and make him uncomfortable. So it was a good combination of rush and coverage today, but it wasn’t good enough. We needed to create some kind of turnover for an extra possession and take some points off and find a way to score like they did to put us in position to where we could’ve won that game at the end.”
Though the Patriots finally broke through in the fourth quarter with a 10-play, 94-yard drive that included a pair of third down conversions, Buffalo’s defense played valiantly in holding their team in the game as long as they did.
“I think they were 5-for-14,” said head coach Sean McDermott of New England’s conversion rate in the game. “I just thought Leslie (Frazier) had a good game plan. Guys executed and played hard but give them credit they won the game. They’re a good offense. So, we’ll look at this tape and learn from it and move forward, get ready for the Bears.”
2- Edmunds and Anderson injured
The signal callers on both sides of the ball for Buffalo were injured in the Monday night game. Middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds suffered a concussion when he lowered his helmet to put a hit on New England FB James Develin to make a tackle. The collision happened right before halftime and forced him from the game.
He did not return for the second half as he was replaced by Julian Stanford.
Coach McDermott confirmed that Edmunds is in the concussion protocol.
Quarterback Derek Anderson left the game following back-to-back sacks with two minutes remaining. After being examined on the field by a team doctor and athletic trainer he was escorted to the locker room as he walked there under his own power.
Coach McDermott did not have a diagnosis on Anderson’s condition during his postgame press conference as he was still being evaluated by team doctors.
3- Hauschka provides all the points
Buffalo came into the Monday night game averaging 11.6 points per game. Against the Patriots they managed just a pair of field goals for a total of six points.
“It’s clearly not good enough,” said McDermott. “Offensively, we shot ourselves in the foot at times. We just couldn’t get it going enough. We had some first downs, but we couldn’t sustain it. We have to continue to go back and find answers and solutions.”
Buffalo had just 99 yards of total offense in the first half, managing to get close enough for Stephen Hauschka to kick a 47-yard field goal into the wind.
For Hauschka it was a kick that reached a career milestone as those three points gave him 1,000 in his career, making him the 58th player in league history to reach 1,000 points.
Hauschka also added a 51-yard attempt in the second half.
“He’s big for us,” said McDermott. “Everything from the way he approaches the game during the week with his preparation. It affects the young players with the way they see him prepare and the results he gets because of it.”
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