On Sunday the New England Patriots took on the Buffalo Bills on the road in a divisional matchup. The Patriots entered the Week 13 matchup on a 13 game road win streak (second longest all-time) and with a 9-2 record (first in the AFC East). The Bills came into Sunday’s game with a record of 6-5 (second in the division).
New England has had the upper hand against Buffalo since Tom Brady took over under center. On Sunday Brady recorded his 27th win (27-3 record) over the Bills and those 27 victories are the most for any quarterback over one single team in NFL history. Check out this piece on Brady’s dominance over the Bills by fellow Last Word on Sports NFL writer Elijah McMaughton. Below are some takeaways from the Patriots win on Sunday.
Week 13 New England Patriots Takeaways
Eric Lee is Making An Impact in New England
Eric Lee went undrafted out of South Florida in 2016. He then spent his rookie season on the Houston Texans practice squad. Lee was released by Houston, but then picked up by the Bills and signed to their practice squad.
The Patriots picked up Lee last week and he subsequently registered a sack of Miami Dolphins quarterback Matt Moore in his NFL debut. Lee was on the field for 25 plays against the Dolphins last week and he played impressively and showed he already has some chemistry with his Patriots teammates.
On Sunday, against the Bills, Kyle Van Noy was back after injuring his calf last week, but Trey Flowers was still out with an injury (ribs) so Lee saw the field for the second week in a row and he once again made his presence known. In the first half Lee recorded two tackles, one sack, one quarterback hit and an interception when he picked off a Tyrod Taylor pass in the redzone on the Bills first drive of the game. Lee ended the game with four tackles, 1.5 sacks and two passes defended, along with his interception. The Patriots make a habit of taking players who didn’t necessarily perform on other teams and giving them a chance to make their mark and it working out. Lee is the latest example of that.
Mike Gillislee is Odd Man Out in New England
The Patriots have used a running back by committee approach this season, but it seems that Mike Gillislee won’t be anywhere near a focal point of that committee going forward. Gillislee was the lone healthy scratch for the Patriots on Sunday, his fourth straight healthy deactivation, and the Patriots only healthy scratch in the last three games.
Back in April the Patriots signed Gillislee as a restricted free agent from the Bills. At first it seemed like his power running style could be useful in New England, but it has become readily apparent that the Patriots just don’t need him, at least not right now. Gillislee does not contribute on special teams and Brandon Bolden does and both Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead have passed Gillislee on the depth chart.
On Sunday Lewis had 15 carries for 92 yards and Burkhead had 12 rushes for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Burkhead also added three receptions for 25 yards. It’s certainly possible that Gillislee sees the field again in a Pats uniform, especially if Lewis or Burkhead fall out of favor with Bill Belichick, but as of now he’s the odd man out in New England.
Offense Found the Endzone in Second Half
In the first half the Patriots moved the ball on offense (226 total yards) but they had to settle for three field goals off the foot of Stephen Gostkowski and they took only a 9-3 lead into halftime. New England was successful at getting the ball into the redzone in the first half and giving themselves opportunities at touchdowns, but they simply couldn’t convert and they had to settle for field goals.
In the second half the Patriots were able to find the endzone multiple times and pull away. Both of Burkhead’s touchdowns came in the second half and the Patriots put up 23 points. Luckily, the Patriots defense played well on Sunday and held the Bills to only three points, but New England will probably need to be more successful in the redzone when they take on the Pittsburgh Steelers on the road in Week 15.
Brady played well on Sunday, but he didn’t light up the stat sheet (21-of-30 for 258 yards with no touchdowns and one interception), but he made the plays needed to get his team the win. The interception wasn’t really an issue since the Patriots were in control of the game and Brady is usually great at taking care of the football.
But Rob Gronkowski cannot behave like he did after the interception. Yes, Gronk was held on that play, and the interception shouldn’t have stood, but the Pats tight end needs to be better and controlling his emotions. He’s just lucky his WWE style behavior didn’t cost his team on Sunday.
That being said, the Patriots are the best team in the AFC (only the Steelers have a shot at coming out of the AFC instead of the Patriots).