Gresh’s Grades – Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills

Editor’s Note: Andy Gresh will be part of The Providence Journal’s Patriots coverage for the season. “Gresh’s Grades” will appear each week in print, on providencejournal.com/sports, and on 630wpro.com following a Patriots game.

A win is a win, but it was an ugly win. This was the first time all season that the New England Patriots offense NEEDED Rob Gronkowski to start the engine against a Buffalo Bills defense that challenged the Patriots offensive line in a way they haven’t been this season. The Patriots defense once again showed why they are one of the best in the NFL as the versatility and aggression of that unit was on full display.

QUARTERBACK: C-
Some readers don’t think I’m hard enough on Tom Brady after games like this, but he had little room to operate in the pocket and few receivers were getting open. It’s tough for the QB to do his job, when others around him don’t do theirs. Brady isn’t going to move around much in the pocket or make plays with his legs so he needs people around him to succeed. I thought he did all he could to communicate in a loud environment. His red zone interception in the end zone was inexcusable. Brady wasn’t the biggest problem on Sunday.

RUNNING BACKS: B
Sony Michel runs hard, the issue was, there weren’t many lanes to run through. He protected the ball while running to and through contact. James White had early receiving success, but was not a factor in the running game. The Patriots are going to have to get even more creative in late game situations to get White open more consistently.

WIDE RECEIVERS: F
I think Julian Edelman’s injury showed up in the way he was utilized. They protected him from shots over the middle. I give him a bit of a pass because he, in all likelihood, shouldn’t have played as he didn’t look like himself. Philip Dorsett was neutralized all day long and Josh Gordon showed us all while he can make spectacular plays, he is not a ‘planet player’ a la Gronk or dare I say, Antonio Brown.
TIGHT END: B
My expectations for Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse are very low. I thought they competed in the run game best they could, and I don’t ever expect them to be a Brady target. For the expectations, nice job. With Ben Watson coming off suspension, it will be a welcome addition to that position.

OFFENSIVE LINE: D-
Michel did run the ball halfway decent and the offense did run it to milk the clock with the lead in the 4th quarter. But this group, like the wide receivers, lost too many one on one battles. When screen plays are getting blown up, you have a problem. They did not allow a sack, however there was constant pressure on Brady forcing his mechanics to break down. I think there may have been some communication issues when you combine the noise and inexperience at 2 of the 5 spots up front.

DEFENSIVE LINE: B+
My only quibble is getting off blocks quicker in the running game, otherwise I like how this group produced. Lawrence Guy was very active vs the run and pass all game long. I like that Danny Shelton has become the fire plug you have to run around, not through. John Simon was a pass rush monster and it didn’t mater who he was up against. He won a ton of one on one battles. Extra credit is given to this group for freeing up the second level pressure and allowing them to get constant pressure on Allen.

LINEBACKERS: A
Jaime Collins and Kyle Van Noy went the distance playing every defensive snap and they both did a nice job. KVN running free allows his athleticism to show both in space and chasing down Josh Allen. Jaime Collins for the veteran salary minimum is an absolute steal. Elandon Roberts and Ja’Whaun Bentley rotated inside to help keep the Buffalo running game in check for the most part. The coaching staff has been on point this season when using Collins and KVN in pressure schemes.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: A
The late 4th quarter yardage given up when Matt Barkley was in the game, was dictated by coverage and score. JC Jackson isn’t perfect, but the guy competes and is a ball hawk. I thought at times, John Brown gave Stephon Gilmore some trouble but nothing too alarming. The Buffalo WR’s never truly got going as this unit made it tough for Cole Beasley to get his catches and yards. And the ‘back end’ movement in the secondary showed that Josh Allen still has issues identifying coverage before the ball is snapped.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B
The only reason this is a B, is because of Stephen Gostkowski’s missed PAT. Let’s be clear here. Wasting a practice squad spot to have a kicker in reserve to ‘scare’ Gostkowski straight, is straight stupid. And bringing someone in for a workout to ‘scare’ him is impractical. He’s a vested veteran who’s proven himself time and time again in big situations. Plus, he has dollars attached to him to you’d need to find someone more reliable for way less money. So, while he’s on the radar, let’s stop the twitter insanity that the guy is a liability.

3 Things to Watch For
1) The Patriots to continue to hunt for WR help. Root for Denver to keep losing, maybe Manny Sanders will become available.
2) Unless there is an injury situation, there’s a better chance Bill Belichick makes a change at holder, before he boots Stephen Gostkowski.
3) The Jonathan Jones hit on Kyle Allen wasn’t dirty. In fact, the NFL has a bigger issue with teaching defenders how to handle QB’s who have multiple ways to ‘give thems

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