Challenges Ahead for 4-2 Patriots

NFL: Oakland Raiders at New England PatriotsSep 21, 2014; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) in the huddle during the second quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports


The New England Patriots made it back-to-back wins since their humiliation on Monday night in Kansas City with a 37-22 triumph over Buffalo on Sunday. Most of the glaring weaknesses the Patriots faced early in the season appeared to be healed with a 4-2 record and a lot of momentum.

This game felt more like the Bills lost it than the Patriots won it. The host team continually made mistakes, and New England took full advantage. All of the Patriots’ 13 first-half points came directly off of Bills turnovers. Aside from missing a short field goal at the end of the first quarter, the Patriots did not beat themselves. For the second straight week, the Patriots did not commit a single turnover.

Early in the second quarter with the game scoreless, Julian Edelman drew a 29-yard pass interference penalty that put the ball at the 1-yard line. That came a few plays after a Kyle Orton interception at midfield. The very next play, Tim Wright caught his second touchdown of the season.

Other mistakes swung the tide in the Patriots favor. With the score tied 7-7 with two minutes left in the first half, Orton was strip-sacked by Chandler Jones, which led to a field goal. New England got another free three points when CJ Spiller fumbled with seconds left in the first half.

With a lead coming out of the halftime break, New England executed a perfect drive to put the game away. Tom Brady threw a perfect pass into double coverage to unheralded receiver Brian Tyms, who came down with the 43-yard pass that increased the lead to 20-7. New England rode that lead to a comfortable win.


 

Oct 12, 2014; Orchard Park, NY, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Brian Tyms (84) catches a pass for a touchdown while being defended by Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. New England beats Buffalo 37 to 22.  Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports
New England Patriots wide receiver Brian Tyms (84) catches a pass for a touchdown while being defended by Buffalo Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore (24) during the second half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. (Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)

Meet Brian Tyms: Tyms (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) had an anonymous senior season at Florida A&M.  He opened many eyes at the Rattlers’ pro day in 2012 with a 4.48 40 time, a 10-foot-10 broad jump and a 39 1/2-inch vertical. Although he went undrafted, Tyms landed on a few practice squads – including appearing in a game with Cleveland last year – before signing with New England over the summer. Soon after signing, it was announced that he was suspended four games for PEDs.

After a big preseason, Tyms was activated last week against Cincinnati before catching the touchdown against Buffalo. His size, strength and athleticism provides Brady with a big target that could prove to be a viable asset.

Tom Brady was outstanding again this week and played even better than his strong stat line (27-for-37, 361 yards and four touchdowns) suggests. The Bills have one of the best interior pass rushers in the NFL with Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams, and Brady was under constant heat. Brady was sacked twice in the first half but avoided going down in the second. Many of his throws were under duress or into tight spaces.

 

 

December 11, 2011; Landover, MD, USA; New England Patriots middl
December 11, 2011; Landover, MD, USA; New England Patriots middle linebacker Jerod Mayo (51) follows the ball against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field. (Geoff Burke-US PRESSWIRE)

The Patriots lost Jerod Mayo to a season-ending knee injury in the second quarter, which could be costly. Through six weeks, Mayo is ranked eighth in the NFL with 53 tackles. A two-time Pro Bowler, Mayo was also injured for the season in Week 6 last year and leaves a massive gap in both the run and pass defense. Core pieces like Mayo are difficult to replace and decrease the long-term prospects of the Patriots as title contenders.

Also lost for the season was running back Stevan Ridley, but this is comparably minor. Ridley has been a solid back since being drafted in the second round in 2011, but his 4.3 yards-per-carry career average and lack of receiving ability out of the backfield are replaceable. Brandon Bolden and James White should be able to fill that role with little dropoff.

Next up for the Patriots is a Thursday night matchup with the New York Jets. New England owns an 18-6 record over its AFC East rivals dating back to 2003, including the playoffs. The Jets are an absolute mess at 1-5 and should offer little resistance to the rejuvenated Patriots. It is a divisional game, and funky things can happen.  Three of the last four games between the two teams have been decided by three points, including the last meeting (a 30-27 Jets overtime win last October).  More often than not, the Patriots should dominate the Geno Smith-led Jets.

The contest with New York starts a three-game stretch at home and also ends a favorable first half schedule. Should the Patriots take care of business against the Jets, a 5-2 record entering the tough stretch that includes games with Denver, San Diego and Detroit – isn’t all that bad.

The preseason is about to end for the Patriots. We will not know much about them until the real season begins.

 

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