Bills' rush attack highlights sloppy defensive day for Patriots

Bills' rush attack highlights sloppy defensive day for Patriots
November 13, 2012, 12:52 am
Share This Post

After New England narrowly escaped the Bills, 36-31, this weekend, Vince Wilfork said, "The biggest stat is to win."
Well, sure; the bottom line for every team is its record. But all that stood between this team and certain Sunday doom was a Devin McCourty end zone interception with 28 seconds left to play.
It's unlikely anyone in the Patriots locker room thinks Bill Belichick skipped into his office at Gillette Stadium Monday morning.
The coach confirmed as much on his weekly conference call."I think we missed a number of opportunities in every area of the game," he said. "We couldnt get the ball in on the goal line, gave up yardage in the running game and the passing game, had a couple tipped balls that we got away with that were pretty dangerous plays, didnt do well on third down defensively. You can go through the game and pick them out. There were a number of things that we can certainly work harder at to get better."
One weak spot was somewhat surprising: The Patriots run defense.
Going into the weekend, the Patriots had surrendered just 88.6 ground yards per game. They gave up season-high 162 rushing yards to Buffalo. Though the Bills are lucky to tout the likes of C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, other talented backs -- Chris Johnson, Steven Jackson, Willis McGahee, Marshawn Lynch -- have come and gone without much damage done.
Why the breakdown? And can any problems be solved before San Francisco's rushing attack, the NFL's best at 170.2 yards per game, thunders into town?
Linebacker Jerod Mayo admitted Monday that the win couldn't cover all cracks."Throughout some of the series we had some good plays, some negative plays. We had two or three sacks in the game. Guys were out there playing physical. Those are some of the things that you can take away and build on," he said. "But at the same time its hard to look at those things when you give up 30-something points in a game."
The 31 points, the 337 passing yards allowed to Ryan Fitzpatrick -- defensive shortcomings that nag and frustrate despite the final score. But Belichick was displeased with more than that."Our overall consistency in all three phases of the game There were just a number of things that we didnt do to the level that we want to or need to do them at consistently. We have to find a way to bring that up or eventually its going to cost us. It already has cost us at times this year, but it will cost us again. Were lucky that yesterday we were not really at our best but still able to win and make enough plays to win. Weve also been in a couple games kind of like that that we didnt win."
The 20-18 loss to Arizona in Week 2. The 31-30 loss to Baltimore in Week 4. The 24-23 loss to Seattle in Week 6. All games where victory was within reach. But when the win was left to a last-seconds field goal, the kick was missed; when it came down to the defense holding its ground, it handed the opponent 27 penalty yards on one go-ahead drive, and it yielded a 46-yard game-winning touchdown on another.
Each game is built on many moments, not just these few mentioned. Still, when there comes a deciding moment, a time when New England is presented with an opportunity to close out, Belichick wants his team to be able to reach out and grab it.
"You hate to leave it to come down to one play like that, have a little more control of the game than that. Thats the National Football League, too. There are an awful lot of games that come down to that one possession, one play, whatever it is. The fact that we made it against the Jets or made it against Buffalo or didnt make it against Arizona, thats kind of the nature of the NFL a little bit too."
Complete control may not be possible, but you can bet the Patriots want more than what they've had this season.