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It wasn’t overly exciting. It wasn’t overly pretty. And it wasn’t overly convincing. But it was exactly what the Patriots needed on Sunday. A win.
Without a handful of key players, New England was still able to beat up on an inexperienced quarterback for a second straight week, delivering a 17-10 win up in Buffalo. The victory marked the first win away from Foxboro in the U.S. for the Pats this season.
Heading into the game, Pats fans had to be worried. This game had “upset special” written all over it. With both Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren out of action on the defensive line, Stephen Neal and Nick Kaczur sidelined from the offensive line, and Tom Brady playing through rib, shoulder, and finger injuries, the Pats certainly had things stacked against them before kickoff. But the team was able to overcome a very pedestrian effort from Brady and the offense, instead controlling the game with the running game and solid defense, emerging from Buffalo with a much-needed division win.
The win turned out to be that much more valuable, after both the Dolphins and Jets lost their respective games Sunday, meaning the Patriots extend their division lead to two games over both foes. This brings the Pats’ magic number down to just one. The loss for Buffalo also officially knocks them out of playoff contention.
While several individual players stepped it up in the win over the Bills, here are three that I felt were worthy of this week’s “PATS on the Back”…
After a week full of everyone questioning his effort and desire, Randy Moss responded on the field Sunday with a very respectable stat line. Nothing over the top, nothing eye-popping, but a five catch, 70 yard, one touchdown day for the veteran receiver, which is a far cry from the string of stinkers Moss had been putting up over the last month or so. His 13-yard catch from Tom Brady early in the second quarter proved to be the game-winner, giving the Pats a 7-3 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. New England will need #81 to perform at least like he did against Buffalo in the final two games against Jacksonville and Houston in order to stay on the winning track. Sunday was nothing but a positive step on the right direction for the future Hall of Famer.
It’s hard to consider Mike Wright a “backup,” since he always seems to play more snaps than he sits out on, but in a game where the Patriots were without two of their key defensive linemen, Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren, Mike Wright had one of the best games he’s had in his five-year career. Wright, especially in the first half, seemed to be near the ball more often than not, snuffing out running plays or causing havoc for Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick in the backfield. Wright finished the day with six tackles, two for a loss, including one sack of Fitzpatrick. It was a day that Buffalo had hoped to run all over the depleted New England defense, but Wright and the D stood their ground admirably all game long.
Sunday marked the first time in a long time where the Patriots featured a legitimate pass rush, and that rush was led by linebacker Tully Banta-Cain. The Pats mixed up their looks quite a bit in an effort to confuse Fitzpatrick and the Buffalo offense, often using formations with zero down lineman, making it difficult for the inexperienced Buffalo offensive line to determine who was doing what on the defense. Banta-Cain took full advantage of this with six tackles of his own, including three huge sacks in the fourth quarter, helping to squash any hopes of a Bills comeback. This pass rush is hopefully something Banta-Cain and the New England defense can build from, as it will definitely be needed come January.