Snap Judgments: Patriots secure second seed with soggy win over Bills
|12.29.13 at 7:27 pm ET|
FOXBORO — The Patriots put the capper on the 2013 regular season and clinched the second seed in the AFC playoffs with a 34-20 win over the Bills Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
New England ends the regular season with a 12-4 mark, and will have wild card weekend off as they prepare to host a divisional playoff game the following weekend at Gillette.
The Patriots traded first-quarter field goals with Buffalo, but then tacked on 13 straight points to take command, with the highlight coming on a 36-yard touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount in the second quarter. (Blount added a 35-yard touchdown late in the fourth to put the game out of reach.) Shane Vereen tacked on a second-half touchdown when he hauled in a five-yard touchdown from Tom Brady, and Stephen Gostkowski knocked home field goals of 43, 35, 29 and 35 yards yards.
For the Patriots, Brady was 14-for-24 for 122 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Julian Edelman had nine catches for 65 yards, and Blount had one of the best games ever for a New England running back with 24 carries for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, quarterback Thad Lewis was 16-for-29 for 247 yards and one touchdown, while C.J. Spiller had 19 carries for 105 yards.
Here are a few notes on what happened at a cold and soggy Gillette Stadium:
WHAT WENT RIGHT
– The Patriots were able to take care of business. Armed with the knowledge that the Bengals and Colts both won their one o’clock games, which left the second seed still up for grabs, they were able to effectively shut down the Bills when it counted. Buffalo posted just three first-half points, and that cushion was enough to lift New England past the Bills.
– Blount put the capper on a terrific regular season with a dominant performance, particularly early on. The big fella finished the first half with 15 carries for 118 yards, including a terrific 36-yard run for a touchdown where he cut back against the grain and rumbled toward the end zone. (He also tacked on an 83-yard kick return at the end of the third quarter, the longest of the season for the Patriots.) He joined an impressive fraternity — Gale Sayers, Adrian Peterson and Blount are the only three players in the history of the NFL to rack up at least 180 rushing yards and 100-plus kickoff return yards in the same game.
– Looking at the box score, it’s tough to make an argument that this was one of the better afternoons for the New England run defense, as the Bills piled up some good yardage between the tackles all afternoon. But the Patriots defense was able to get some good stops when it counted — New England had a pair of fourth-down stops, and held Buffalo to a combined 4-for-16 on third and fourth downs.
WHAT WENT WRONG
– A sizable reason was the cold and wet conditions, but ball security was a real issue for New England throughout the contest. Brady, Edelman, Vereen and Blount all fumbled. None of the fumbles ended up costing the Patriots, but it’s something that will be discussed an awful lot going into the postseason.
– The Patriots lost offensive lineman Logan Mankins with an ankle injury in the first half, as he went down during the Blount touchdown run in the second quarter. He disappeared to the locker room for a few minutes, but was back on the field by the end of the first half. Injuries are always difficult to diagnose from the press box — it’s even tougher when you’re talking about someone like Mankins, who played an entire postseason with a severe knee injury — but in the case of the Pro Bowl offensive lineman, it was likely a case of better safe than sorry. Several other Patriots were banged up along the way, including cornerback Kyle Arrington and wide receiver Aaron Dobson (foot). The rookie receiver pulled up short on an attempted deep ball in the first quarter and did not return. In addition, linebacker Brandon Spikes left with a knee issue late in the fourth and did not return.