The only surprise was the score at halftime…
The Buffalo Bills hosted the New England Patriots for a good, old-fashioned AFC East edition of “Monday Night Football” in Week 8.
You’d be hard pressed to find many people who didn’t think the Pats were going to annihilate the hapless Bills. Yet the game didn’t exactly go according to plan as the Patriots went into halftime up 9-3.
Not surprisingly, Tom Brady and Co. pulled ahead in the second half to win by the final score of 25-6.
These were the biggest winners and losers from Monday night’s action.
Winner: Tom Brady keeps the Pats chugging along
Buffalo’s defense was really strong most of the night. Tom Brady was playing without any running game to speak of. Buffalo got to him a few times, and until the fourth quarter held the Pats to just 12 points and no touchdowns.
Along the way, Brady got brutally decleated while blocking for Julian Edelman.
Then you realize that Brady still gashed the Bills to the tune of 324 yards through the air. A thousand paper cuts later and they were bleeding. Utilizing James White and Julian Edelman to devastating effect, Brady’s workmanlike effort kept the Patriots churning toward yet another AFC East title.
Loser: Derek Anderson wasn’t great
In the least shocking news ever, career backup journeyman Derek Anderson wasn’t sharp in his second start for the Bills while Josh Allen remained sidelined with his elbow injury.
His lost fumble in the third quarter led to New England’s fourth field goal of the night. Then in the fourth quarter, down by 12 points in Patriots territory, he telegraphed a pass in the middle of the field that Devin McCourty pounced on for a game-sealing 84-yard pick-six.
Overall, Anderson completed 22-of-39 passes for 290 yards with no touchdowns and the two devastating turnovers. Then adding insult to injury…he actually got injured right at the end of the game.
Winner: Brian Daboll got creative
The Bills really don’t have a quarterback. They know it. Everyone they play knows it. Derek Anderson probably won’t admit it, but even he has to realize the truth of the situation.
Anyway, Buffalo’s offense has been a dumpster fire all year. Without a lot of talent up front on the offensive line or out at receiver, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll had to turn to other means of matriculating the ball down the field.
Early in the game, the Bills lined up in a plethora of odd formations and ran the ball extensively out of them. It was really entertaining, even if it didn’t produce points. Overall Daboll called a reasonable game that helped keep the Patriots’ offense off the field, and keep the game close until late.
Loser: Phillip Gaines got roasted
Bills cornerback Phillip Gaines is known for struggling downfield in coverage. Kansas City Chiefs fans know this all too well, as he was consistently torched during his tenure with that club.
Gaines got roasted a few times Monday night. Rob Gronkowski’s incredible tight-rope, circus catch in the third quarter came at Gaines’ expense. So also did Chris Hogan’s 29-yard catch down the left sideline in the fourth quarter that led to the game’s first touchdown.
Brady knows how to attack the weak link. Gaines certainly was that on Monday night.
Winner: Lorenzo Alexander got to Brady
Lorenzo Alexander has been playing in the NFL since 2007, and for most of his career he’s been a role player and nothing more. He had a breakout campaign in 2015, racking up 12.5 sacks, but his high mark other than that has been three sacks in a season.
Coming into the game with 2.5 sacks to his credit, the 35-year-old pass rusher had his best game since 2015. He registered two sacks on Brady, had five solo tackles, including one for a loss. His efforts spearheaded a Bills defensive effort that held Brady and Co. in check most of the night.
Loser: LeSean McCoy couldn’t find anywhere to run
Fantasy football coaches and Buffalo Bills fans everywhere must have been doing mental cartwheels when LeSean McCoy ripped off a 12-yard run early in the first quarter. He’s either been injured or largely ineffective most of the year, so it was a welcome sight to see him looking like his old self again.
Any excitement that may have percolated early was quickly squashed. McCoy carried the ball 11 more times the rest of the game for a grand total of one yard. Granted, he did catch six passes and gained 82 yards through the air. But his inability to make plays on the ground really hurt the Bills.
Winner: Kyle Van Noy and Trey Flowers feasted
Overall, the Patriots did an outstanding job keeping the Bills from gaining any real momentum offensively. Kyle Van Noy and Trey Flowers led the charge, wreaking havoc on Buffalo’s side of the line of scrimmage.
Van Noy forced a fumble late in third quarter when he sacked Derek Anderson, which led to a field goal. Overall he had eight tackles, including seven of the solo variety, and two sacks.
Flowers made six solo tackles of his own, including two behind the line, and he hit Anderson two times.
Loser: Gronk looks old and slow
It seems like Rob Gronkowski is always battling through one injury or another. He played on Monday after skipping the Bears game with a back injury. And honestly, he looked beaten up.
Sure, Gronk had the incredible circus catch in the third quarter. But aside from that play, he had just two other catches for 21 yards and far too often got pushed around by smaller defenders.
We’re halfway through the 2018 season, and Gronkowski now has 29 catches, only one of which was hauled in for a score. Hopefully he can really get healthy. Right now, he just looks old and slow.