Gresh's Grades: Well-earned week off
Well-earned week off
There was only one objective Sunday and that was to win by any means necessary. And that's exactly what the Patriots did. The offense started out with a physical mindset and it showed in the first half: The Pats gained nearly 200 yards rushing in the first two quarters alone. Defensively, they played a nice first half; while they had some issues in the second half, overall they held Buffalo to 20 points, which will get this team a win 90 percent of the time. A big day out of the kicking and return game led to their 12th win of the season, a bye week, and at least one home playoff game. Doing that with all the injuries is amazing.
The running game was magnificent, but once again we saw the Pats go away from the run in the red area/inside the 25. That led to field goals and not touchdowns, which lowers this grade. This week showed they can run the ball against ANYONE. If the opposition loads up to stop the run then they're daring Tom Brady to throw, and that's not a good idea. The offensive line had a lot of pressure to carry this one, and they did. There is a need for more production from the wide receivers not named Julian Edelman.
This was a tough game to evaluate for TB12 because the horrible weather conditions didn't allow him to really get in rhythm. The interception on the pass intended for Shane Vereen wasn't on TB. as it hit Vereen in the hands. We never saw the play-action game get going at all, and Edelman again was Brady's binky. There was a lot of second-down passing, just not a lot of yards or chunk plays to be made passing. As usual TB12 was spot on with managing the game and handling the weather.
RUNNING BACKS: A
From the opening drive, where they pounded the ball with LeGarrette Blount and then mixed in with Stevan Ridley, to the end, when Blount had the long TD run to seal the win, the game plan was to run, run and run some more. The north-south style running game is working as these backs run with great power, ball security, and determination. Vereen chipped in with a red-area TD. Big day for this position group.
WIDE RECIEVERS: C+
Edelman is really the only player of note out of this group. TB12 had 14 completions, 9 to Edelman. Danny Amendola had a big drop early, as did Aaron Dobson (who didn't finish the game once again with a foot issue). I did think their ability to block in the run game was consistent and everyone gave great effort. The weather didn't help the passing game, but this group has to do a better job overall catching the ball, and creating separation to give TB12 a window to throw. And it's time for Kenbrell Thompkins to start showing up again.
TIGHT ENDS: A
Good blocking by Michael Hoomanawanui, Matthew Mulligan from Maine, and DJ Williams. No penalties. Don't know what more I can say.
OFFENSIVE LINE: A
The only sack on TB12 was because of a fumbled shotgun snap and isn't on the big guys up front. They ran the ball 40 times for 270 yards (removing the kneel downs), including runs of 36 and 35 yards by Blount and a 29-yarder for Ridley. Logan Mankins got dinged and it didn't look good at first, but he came back quickly. They were stout, physical, and played well as a unit. Pound that rock, baby.
If this group holds people to 20 points in the playoffs, the Patriots have a chance to win on the road in the tournament. They gave up two long drives that went for touchdowns where there were some breakdowns, but given the conditions -- and the fact that the 'D' is full of young guys they need to count on -- it was just a great job. I hope that this week there is a lot of work on not only getting healthy but tackling, because that will be the key for this defense moving forward.
DEFENSIVE LINE: B+
Sealver Siliga has done an outstanding job the last two weeks at the nose and his production is way up . . . including Sunday, when he had nine tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble. He's done a much better job than Joe Vellano at keeping blockers off the linebackers, which allows them to make plays. Chris Jones keeps on having a nice year with four tackles, a sack, and good push inside. And it always nice to see other guys step up when a team throws some extra people Chandler Jones' way.
I thought Dont'a Hightower was active for a second straight game; he had six tackles and is playing more instinctually. Brandon Spikes got hurt as a toe got stuck in the turf, but I don't think it's a catastrophic injury. Jaime Collins is on the come with three tackles, including a big fourth-down stop, and two QB Hits. We're seeing him around the football more and more and he's someone who they're going to count on.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: B+
Logan Ryan is a keeper and his play will make the Pats think long and hard about their contractual commitment to Aqib Talib. In Year 2, Ryan will be less likely to get beat by double moves. Talib looks good and will benefit from the extra week's rest. They need him to be the guy who lines up against an A.J. Green or Demaryius Thomas in the playoffs. Duron Harmon held his own, as did Steve Gregory. This game doesn't exactly fit their styles of play but, all in all, they did a nice job.
SPECIAL TEAMS: A+
WOW, what a day for 'teams'. Let's start with ball handling. Snaps, spots, and handling long snaps . . . everyone was excellent. Ryan Allen has gotten so much better the last four weeks with kicks inside the 20 and pinning teams back. If there wasn't a misplay on downing his other punt, the net yardage would have been amazing. Stephen Gostkowski nailed all four field-goal attempts and hammered his kickoffs deep, with only one of seven being returned. And then there was Vereen and Blount in the return game. I still don't like 'The Beef' back there, but if he's that productive, who am I to complain? This phase helped them win this game.
"It ain't broke"
1) The offensive line. Playing very well and getting much-needed rest. 2) Winning in December. They just know how to do it. 3) Special teams. All phases.
"But it needs fixing"
1) Better tackling. At all levels. 2) Need a WR to step up on the outside. 3) Health. That comes with rest that they now get. ———- Andy Gresh is a talkshow host on 98.5 The Sports Hub and for nine years has worked pre- and postgame analysis on the Patriots Radio Network. He is also co-author of the recently released book "The Great Book of Boston Sports Lists." Follow him on twitter @greshandzo.