Same old story for the Buffalo Bills in what continues to be a lopsided AFC East rivalry.
The team dropped a 23-3 decision to the New England Patriots on Sunday, their 10th loss in the last 12 meetings against their interdivisional foe. It’s the team’s worst margin of defeat to the Pats in five years with their three points scored the lowest output in the series since December 26, 2010.
The result means that the Bills drop to 6-6 on the year and fall a game behind the Baltimore Ravens for the final playoff spot in the AFC. Baltimore took care of business at home, defeating the Detroit Lions in decisive 44-20 fashion. If Buffalo wants to remain in postseason contention, they must move on from this fairly comprehensive loss and take care of business for the remainder of this three-game home stand.
But for now, the team must live with the reality that they remain far behind a Patriots team who clinched 10 wins in a season for the 15th straight year. That’s only one behind the San Francisco 49ers‘ run between 1983-98 for most all-time. As the Bills look to move on, what are the biggest takeaways from Sunday’s defeat?
Week 13 Buffalo Bills Takeaways
No Answer for the Pats Run Game
Buffalo made massive strides defending the run in last week’s 16-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs. They limited K.C. to 55 yards on the ground and completely shut down rookie Kareem Hunt, holding him to the lowest yardage total of his young career. But suffice it to say that they suffered a severe regression against the Pats.
New England gashed the Bills for 191 rushing yards on Sunday. It included Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead functioning as a two-headed monster of sorts. The two running backs accounted for 89 percent of the Pats rush yardage on the day, with Burkhead registering two touchdowns. Both came in the third quarter and epitomized Buffalo’s struggles at that point in the game. In their last five games, opposing teams have outscored the Bills 65-6 during the third period.
Four of those five have seen the Bills turn in atrocious efforts in run defense. And including Sunday’s loss to New England, the Bills have given up more than 190 rushing yards in three of them. That needs to change in their next two games against the Indianapolis Colts and Miami Dolphins. Both those teams are in the bottom quarter of the league when it comes to running the football.
Rob Gronkowski Impacts the Game in More Ways Than One
For the most part, Buffalo limited Tom Brady‘s ability to hurt teams downfield. He managed just two passes of more than 20 yards, didn’t throw a single touchdown pass and finished with his third lowest passer rating of the season. But ultimately, he didn’t need to be particularly effective given the aforementioned struggles defending the run on the part of the Bills.
Where Brady victimized the Bills was in his utilization of Rob Gronkowski. Though he didn’t find the end zone, the eighth-year tight end hauled in nine catches for 147 yards, including Brady’s longest toss of the game. The combination of a bruising run game and Gronk making play after play down the middle kept Buffalo’s defense on their heels all day. It all manifested itself in costly fashion on those two third quarter drives which inevitably sealed the deal for New England.
But Gronkowski’s impact wasn’t limited to the Pats passing game. It came in a different and sufficiently more negative manner during the fourth quarter. After Bills corner Tre’Davious White came up with an interception while covering him, Gronkowski then proceeded to plow into White’s back and head while he was prone on the ground. The despicable cheap shot left White noticeably woozy, with the team evaluating him for a concussion afterwards.
Gronk wasn't ejected for this because…Patriots pic.twitter.com/X0VTDhjcRK
— NFL Retweet (@NFLRT) December 3, 2017
Though Gronkowski received a personal foul, there needs to be even more repercussions moving forward. If the NFL is truly serious about reducing head injuries, players who cause one due to vicious behavior need to be punished both on the field and in their pocketbook. That necessitates Gronkowski receiving a fine and a one-game suspension at the very least. Anything less is hypocrisy.
The Nathan Peterman Era May Have Definitively Begun
Sunday’s contest marked Tyrod Taylor‘s second straight start after Nathan Peterman‘s disastrous debut in Week 11 against the Los Angeles Chargers. On the Bills’ first offensive possession of the game, Taylor rolled out in an effort to evade pressure. But David Harris wrapped him up for a sack and afterwards, he clearly was favoring his knee walking back to the huddle. Still, the seventh year man out of Virginia Tech soldiered on and played all the way into the fourth quarter.
Taylor lasted just four plays in the final stanza before he re-aggravated the injury. It led to Peterman checking into the game while a distraught Taylor got carted to the locker room. The rookie fifth round pick clearly had the memories of that five interception outing from two weeks ago in his mind. Most of the 15 passes he threw in the fourth quarter sailed over their intended target. In the end, he completed just 40 percent of his passes for 50 yards.
This injury situation surrounding Taylor is favorable to Peterman remaining the starter for two reasons. The first is fairly obvious. If Taylor misses an extended period of time, the only other quarterback on the roster other than Peterman is Joe Webb. Other than his incompletion today, Webb hadn’t thrown a pass in the NFL since 2012. Secondly, Taylor’s injury may give Sean McDermott a convenient excuse to stay with Peterman as long as he doesn’t replicate his performance against the Chargers.
All things considered, Peterman as the starter for the remainder of the regular season is a very real possibility. Consequently, a long term injury for Taylor means he may have played his last down in a Bills uniform.