Patriots - Bills: Game Balls & Goats

Each week we hand out our Game Balls (good things) and Goats (not good things) for the performances on Sunday. Here are the GB&G from Sunday's Patriots win over the Bills.

GAME BALLS

1) Tully Banta-Cain - TBC single-handedly put the heat on the Bills offensive line to disrupt Buffalo's offense. TBC finished the night with a team-high 3 sacks. The team also finished with three. Banta-Cain now has 8.5 sacks on the season, a new career high.

2) Randy Moss - even after a week of criticism, some of it undeserved, Moss managed to find a way to get back into the game plan on Sunday. Though his stats were not awe-inspiring (5 rec. 70 yards, 1 YD), a deep pass intended for him resulted in a crucial pass interference play that setup New England's first score. The score was an impressive fingertip, toe-tap catch in the back of the end zone two plays after the PI call.

3) Laurence Maroney - Critics of Maroney have been merciless in their evaluations of his performances in seasons past. Those same critics have been slow to praise give him approval this season, despite the obvious improved effort he has shown on the field. Maroney fights hard for yards after contact, often carrying a defender or two an extra yard as he fights for a longer gain. Maroney finished Sunday with 23 carries for 81 yards and a touchdown (his 9th of the season).

Honorable Mentions:

Wes Welker - Punt returns, catches in traffic and another crucial first down, which allowed the team to seal the game.

Mike Wright - Stepped in on the defensive line in place of the missing Ty Warren and Vince Wilfork. Finished with 6 tackles (5 solo) and a sack, earning praise from his head coach.

James Sanders - After not starting most of the season, Sanders has turned in back-to-back solid performances for New England. Solid on special teams, Sanders added 6 tackles and a forced fumble on Sunday.

Jonathan Wilhite - Nice job of staying in bounds while breaking on the ball to make an interception at the NE 36. Gave Pats momentum to go up 14-3 at the half.


GOATS

1) Patriots Run Defense - The Patriots fared relatively well against the Bill's running game, but too often, the Bills were able to get 4 to 5 yards at a clip. The first drive Buffalo had no problem marching down the field behind a rag-tag offensive line. Buffalo ran 10 of their 14 plays to move the ball to the NE 2 before a false start ruined another run which should have been a TD. Buffalo finished with 203 carries for 105 yards (4.6 avg.).

2) Fourth Quarter Offense - The Patriots fourth quarter offense was anemic, going three-and-out on 3 out of their 4 opportunities. Compounding the situation was Brady's decision to try to tried hit receivers deep when a first down would have sufficed. IN the first series, Brady missed Randy Moss deep on a 3rd-and-4 from NE 15. The next series Brady underthrew Wes Welker short on a 3rd-and-6 at NE33. The next series, Brady threw deep to Sam Aiken (who couldn't hold on) on a 3rd-and-11 at the NE 10. That gaffe led to Buffalo's first TD of the game on Buffalo's next possession turning the game into a one-score contest.

3) Special teams - The Patriots coverage units allowed Buffalo an average starting position of their own 38, while New England's return units could only muster average field position of their own 25. The gaffe by Sam Aiken on the onside kick late was negated by an offside penalty vs Buffalo. Else, this unit could have been responsible for a the play that allowed Buffalo a final chance to tie the game.

Dishonorable Mentions:
Ron Brace - facemask negated a sack by Gary Guyton and his struggles holding the point of attack on the first drive at NT, gave Bills momentum in running game.

Sam Aiken - a late drop on offense and the muffed catch on Buffalo's onside kick, could have been huge negatives.

Tom Brady - a subpar outing in the second half almost gave Buffalo enough life to get back into the mix. Throwing deep balls when short passes would have sufficed has hurt the team time and again. The results indicate that Brady needs to gamble less when the game is on the line. Brady's INT gave Buffalo life early.


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