The New England Patriots sure made their fans sweat the whole game as they needed a last second field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with five seconds left to come out victorious over the Buffalo Bills in Week 1. While the Patriots will surely take the opening season win, there are some things that the Patriots will need to address before the they face the New York Jets on Thursday Night. Below are some observations on both offense and defense.
The offense had its ups and downs. The good? Well, Shane Vereen looked like a really nice dual-threat running back for the Patriots. He was making plays running the ball as he had 101 yards rushing on only 14 carries and caught seven passes for 58 yards. He will definitely see a bump in touches both running and catching the ball with Steven Ridley in Bill Belichick's doghouse.
Speaking of Steven Ridley, he was having a solid day running the ball until he fumbled for the second time, this time the ball fell into the hands of of Buffalo's Da'Norris Searcy who ran it back for a touchdown. Ridley was benched and never heard from again for the rest of the game. With Vereen having a fantastic day running and receiving the ball, Ridley may have cost himself some carries and playing time.
Two notes of concern outside of Ridley was the red zone efficiency by the Patriots and the turnovers. Tom Brady and the Patriots were stopped twice in the red zone, once from the Buffalo one and once from within Buffalo's 10-yard line. The second time the Patriots were in the red zone late in the fourth quarter, Brady had four straight incompletions that featured a lot of miscommunication between Brady and his receivers. He was visibly frustrated and the possession ended in a sack.
Meanwhile, the Patriots had way three turnovers on the day. Brady had one interception and Ridley and Brady both lost a fumble. For a team that always had one of the league's best turnover differentials, this is something the Patriots will need to shore up if they hope to win another AFC East crown.
The defense looked really good for the most part and that one was of the biggest question marks heading into this season. While they did allow 21 points, the Patriots defense held the Bills scoreless for the rest of the game after the Bills scored with 11:03 left in third quarter.
The defense also forced two fumbles as well, courtesy of Kyle Arrington who was flying around the field and making plays during the first half. For a team with a young corner, this is an encouraging sign.
What wasn't an encouraging sign, however, was the one notable miscue where Buffalo capitalized off a Brady interception in two plays. Buffalo Bills rookie Aqib Talib either lost or had a miscommunication with the safety and allowed them Woods to catch a wide open touchdown pass. Talib is really the lone veteran in the secondary so that was a bit surprising.
Stephen Gostkowski nailed all three of his field goals including a 48-yarder in the first half. His last two kicks were "easy" as they were from within 35 yards each.
After some rumors out of Patriots camp regarding LaGarrette Blount taking kickoff returns, Blount validated those rumors by fielding both kickoffs. He wasn't a sparkplug by any means, but it was interesting to see Belichick use him in that manner. Considering they signed Leon Washington yesterday, it will interesting to see the both of them returning kicks.
All in all, a win on the road in the NFL is never guaranteed, so the Patriots will look at it as a nice start to the season with plenty to work on. The Patriots will also have little time to correct some of their mistakes as they play the Jets Thursday night.
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