Monday, September 09, 2013

New England 23, Buffalo 21

The storyline: New England was bad, and very lucky to pull out a victory over a weak Buffalo team.

The reality: If not for two unforced errors on the part of the Patriots, the Bills are never in that game. Stevan Ridley put the ball on the ground entirely on his own, with no Buffalo defenders nearby, and that was Buffalo's first touchdown. A pass into the hands of Zach Sudfeld was virtually placed into a Bills' defender's hands, and that directly led to the second.

On the game, the Patriots ran 89 plays to the Bills' 61 and outgained them 431-286. Yes, New England had 50% more offense than Buffalo. They had more 1st downs (26-15), more yards rushing (158-136) at a better yards/carry average, more yards passing (273-150) and a huge time of possession edge (37:43-22:17). New England converted 11-of-20 3rd down opportunities, the Bills only 4-of-13.

Buffalo had 13 drives and scored on 2 (15%). Their average drive covered 21 yards on 4.6 plays. The Patriots had 15 and scored on 5 (33%). Their average drive covered 30 yards on 6.1 plays.

The Ridley play, in particular, completely changed the game. The Patriots had a 10-0 lead and were in scoring position again when an untouched Ridley just dropped the ball and the Bills scored. Instead of going up 13-0 or 14-0, it was suddenly 10-7. Before that, Buffalo had five drives, and had run a total of 19 plays for 69 yards (3.63 average). The Patriots five drives had resulted in 33 plays for 142 yards (4.30 average). New England was in control, and driving for a bigger lead, and Ridley just dropped the ball, untouched. Buffalo ran it back for a touchdown, and the game was completely changed.

Other than the turnovers, New England completely controlled the game. (Yes, yes - "other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play." The turnovers are part of the game, all New England mistakes. They explain the final score, which was close despite the Patriots outplaying the Bills badly.) Buffalo had one good drive, 80 yards for a touchdown to start off the second half. Their other 12 drives averaged 4 plays for 16 yards.

The first storyline: New England screwed Wes Welker, who's a much better and tougher player than Danny Amendola.

The revised storyline: New England screwed Wes Welker, who's a much better and tougher player than Danny Amendola.

The second revised storyline: New England screwed Wes Welker, who's a much better and tougher player than never hurt, unlike Danny Amendola.

The reality: Wes Welker is a great player. He was a great player in New England, and Patriots fans should (and, for the most part, do) have nothing but good things to say about him. And he is a tough player, who has done a better job staying in the lineup than Danny Amendola. Partly by being hurt less seriously and/or less often.

But partly from "lucky" timing of his serious injuries. As we listen to the paeans to Welker fly, to the toughness tributes, and how he always got back up and never missed a start, go back and check his stats from the 2009 playoffs. Hmm, 0 catches on 0 targets. Why was that? Well, it was because he didn't play. But he started all 16 games in 2009? Yes, and tore his ACL in game 16. If he'd done it in game 1, he would have started 1 game in 2009, just like Tom Brady in 2008. And, having missed an entire season to injury, the Amendola commentary right now would be significantly less toxic.

The storyline: The Patriots' rookie receivers had a bad game.

The reality: The Patriots' rookie receivers had a bad game.

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