TAMPA - Computer issues. I don't even want to talk about it. The first half. It was 20-7 at the break with Tampa scoring on its opening drive, a methodical nine-play number, an interception return (we'll get to that) and two 50-plus field goals. Assorted notes. The initial dime defense featured Devin McCourty, Tavon Wilson, Nate Ebner, Kyle Arrington, Ras-I Dowling and Steve Gregory on the field. Ebner played at the linebacker level. He showed nice coverage ability dropping on Dallas Clark on one play. On the Bucs initial drive, Doug Martin went in from the 1 and Jerod Mayo, who tried to time his leap to meet Martin at the goal line, got flipped over the pile dangerously but was fine. The starting offensive line featured Dan Koppen at center. The second offensive line had Dan Connolly in there. Ryan Wendell also took a series there. The rotation continued through the game. Marcus Cannon gave up a costly sack. He got beat off the edge by Michael Bennett after making an initial push to redirect Bennett then Cannon kinda stood there and Brady got lit up. His fumble was recovered by Spencer Larsen. On the ensuing third-and-14, Brady got picked by rookie Mark Barron who returned it for a score. And Cannon's weak summer continues. Stevan Ridley ran very well for most of the first half. He finished with 52 yards on 10 carries including a 29-yard run well-blocked by Donald Thomas and Deion Branch. Ridley had a blitz pickup mistake that led to another Brady sack. Long snapper Danny Aiken had a shaky snap that was well-handled by holder Zoltan Mesko on a PAT attempt. Daniel Fells saw his first action of the preseason at tight end. Marquice Cole came in to play the "Star" position on a few nickel defense plays and was very competent. Julian Edelman had a solid 15-yard punt return where he buzzed straight upfield. Logan Mankins played a portion of the first half before Thomas went in for him at right guard. The Patriots used a fleet of return options. Devin McCourty (twice) and Kyle Arrington returned kickoffs. Sketchy decision on the first one by McCourty to bring out a bouncing kick. Aaron Hernandez was in for a punt return late in the first half. (STRAY THIRD QUARTER NOTES) Chandler Jones got himself a third-quarter sack and Brandon Bolden was on the field for the first series of the second half at running back.
FOXBORO – Four quarters left in Tom Brady’s suspension, an undetermined (but also dwindling) number of days remaining in Rex Ryan’s tenure as a head coach, this game is intriguing for a lot of reasons. The Patriots can close out a remarkable quarter-season performance without Brady and put him back in the driver’s seat with a three-game edge over the Bills simply by taking out Rex. How they manage that – and which quarterback manages that – is the question that’s swirled all week.
WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
Traditionally, the Patriots have thrown over and around the Bills’ front-seven with great success. Tom Brady’s good at that. Jimmy Garoppolo, with a bad shoulder, or Jacoby Brissett, with limited experience, may not be able to pull off the same act. Which means this could be a day for LeGarrette Blount who so far is leading the league in rushing. Many of those yards have come at the closeout juncture of games. This week, he may asked to do the damage early. The Bills have allowed five touchdowns on the grounds this season but only 3.4 yards per carry.
WHEN THE BILLS HAVE THE BALL
Without Sammy Watkins and dealing with issues at left tackle, the Bills are going to have to get a productive, 25-to-30-touch game out of running back LeSean McCoy. He’s handled the ball 59 times so far in three games (11 catches) and has been by far the focal point of the Bills offense. But with the Patriots having the chance to fixate on McCoy, Buffalo and newly-minted offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn better have a backup plan if and when the Patriots send multiple players to dog him. The Bills’ will be in a position where it’s on Tyrod Taylor to figure something out. The Patriots aren’t going to aggressively rush him. If the rush gets past him, it was done by mistake. Force Taylor to be a passer, find Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and ailing tight end Charles Clay. Meanwhile, the Patriots figure to have Donta Hightower back to help with quarterbacking the defense. The Patriots are in a position defensively to really put the screws to a Bills team that doesn’t seem to have a lot of options.
THE KICKING GAME
Old friend Brandon Tate is the Bills’ return guy on both punts and kickoffs. He’ll get a good test from the Patriots special teams corps which has been a major story this season. Ryan Allen had a career game last week against Houston with six punts inside the 20 and one sitting on the 20. There were no return yards. The Patriots kick coverage created two turnovers last game against Houston and hasn’t allowed a return past the 25.
PATRIOTS MEDICAL REPORT
QUESTIONABLE: QB Jacoby Brissett (thumb), QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder), T Marcus Cannon (calf), G Jonathan Cooper (foot), LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder), TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring), LB Dont’a Hightower (knee), CB Eric Rowe
BILLS MEDICAL REPORT
OUT: WR Sammy Watkins (foot), T Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle), C Patrick Lewis (knee) and WR Greg Salas (groin) QUESTIONABLE: S Colt Anderson (foot), TE Charles Clay (knee), CB Ronald Darby (hamstring), T Cordy Glenn (ankle), QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder), S Jonathan Meeks(foot) and S Aaron Williams (ankle)
GAME WITHIN THE GAME
The speed with which Buffalo adjusts to the Patriots offensive game plan and whether or not the Patriots have an adjustment to the adjustment. The uncertainty of the Patriots quarterback situation has been a distraction for the Bills and Rex Ryan this week and – given the Bills leaky pass defense – how Buffalo decides to deploy will matter a lot depending on who’s at quarterback.
BILLS GOTTA STOP
Jannyris Edeldolagan. That’s just an amalgamation of the three wideouts of similar talent, pallor and quickness that kill defenses in the receiver shell game the Patriots play every week. Just when a defense thinks it’s got it figured out on a key third down and has set itself to take away Edelman, for instance, the dagger gets inserted by Amendola or Hogan. It’s like a shell game.
PATRIOTS GOTTA STOP
LeSean McCoy. That’s the whole damn game. Cuz you. Don’t wanna mess with Shady. Cuz Shady. Will … cause big problems.
THAT SUMS IT UP PATRIOTS STYLE
“I fly around every day. You can’t land this jet, you know what I’m saying? It’s like having a private plane, wherever I want to go, I just go. I don’t have to worry about no jet fuel. I would say Gatorade but they don’t sponsor me so I’ll just go get me some good ole’ something to drink, and Gatorade can have the plug.” – Martellus Bennett, Patriots tight end, on the team flying around in September.
THAT SUMS IT UP BILLS STYLE
“It’s more of a ‘this is still a game.’ It’s a billion dollar industry and things but it’s still a game and you’ve got to be true to yourself and I’m true to myself. To me it’s just a thing where, you know, I enjoy Belichick’s press conferences and everything else because he’s true to himself and he does a great job. It’s pretty funny to me because you guys can never get anything out of him and I just think it’s great. It’s kind of funny that way. I pulled it knowing that every question is going to be about who’s the quarterback and all that. One thing I know for sure is that Tom Brady is not the quarterback and I feel good about that.” – Simple Rex, after being asked why he mimicked Bill Belichick during his week-opening press conference
THE WINNER IS...
Patriots 23, Bills 13
Fullback Marcel Reece, cut by the Oakland Raiders earlier this week, was one of five players who worked out Friday for the Patriots, ESPN's Mike Reiss reported
Patriots workouts: G Jake Bernstein, G Chase Farris, C Robert Kugler, FB Marcel Reece, TE Greg Scruggs.— Mike Reiss (@MikeReiss) September 30, 2016
Reece, a seven-year NFL veteran, all with the Raiders, was suspended last December for the final game of the 2015 season and the first three games of this season for violating the NFL performance enhancing drug policy.
Reiss reported that guards Jake Bernstein and Chase Farris, center Robert Kugler and tight end Greg Scruggs also worked out for the Patriots on Friday.
More on Reece from CSNBayAea.com.