Bills vs. Patriots: Grading New England's Performance in Victory over Buffalo

Tony Santorsa@@TonySantorsaSenior Writer IIJanuary 1, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 01:   Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots celebrates a touchdown by teammate BenJarvus Green-Ellis in the fourth quarter against the Buffalo Bills on January 1, 2012 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

It may be a new year, but it was almost an identical game to last week's Christmas Eve matchup against the Miami Dolphins, where the New England Patriots trailed 17-0 at halftime but managed to score 27 unanswered points to escape with a victory. 

Now a week later, but against the Buffalo Bills, it was the same exact scenario—except it was a bit more extreme. 

The Patriots entered the scored quarter trailing 21-0, but rather than waiting for the third quarter to start, New England started scoring in the second quarter as they entered halftime trailing 21-14. 

In the second half, New England simply exploded as they scored a whopping 35 points and ultimately escaped the Week 17 season finale with a 49-21 victory. 

With the win, the Patriots have improved to 13-3 and have clinched home-field advantage throughout the playoffs as they're now the No. 1 seed in the AFC. 

Here are my weekly grades of New England's performance in their victory over the Buffalo Bills. 

Pass Offense: B+

Tom Brady and the New England passing attack started off pathetically slow but finished strong. 

Brady concluded Sunday's game completing 23 of his 35 passes for a whopping 338 yards while tossing three touchdowns but was picked off once. 

As Brady accumulated 338 yards, he has now passed Dan Marino's record mark of 5,084 yards back in 1984 as he will now finish the 2011 season with a phenomenal 5,235 yards—but he is only second all-time as Drew Brees finished the season with an unbelievable 5,476 yards. 

Rush Offense: A

This was one of the most impressive games of the season in terms of New England's rushing attack.

The Patriots had a lot of touches going around, as they accumulated 138 total rushing yards while averaging 4.8 yards per carry.

New England's leading rusher on the day was rookie Stevan Ridley as he ran for 81 yards on just 15 carries.

Pass Defense: B

In the first half, New England's secondary was pretty pedestrian but they finished strong as they forced four interceptions out of Ryan Fitzpatrick.

This group is definitely a work in progress but definitely had signs of improvement especially with safety Patrick Chung making his return to the lineup after missing the last seven games.

Rush Defense: B+

The Buffalo Bills may have been without Fred Jackson, but C.J. Spiller is certainly more than capable of causing a lot of trouble against opposing defenses; however, the Patriots rose to the occasion. 

Spiller ran for only 60 yards on the day as he was held to only a 4.6 yards per carry average. 

Special Teams: A

All in all, this was a pretty good day for New England's special teams.

They didn't miss any field goals, Zoltan Mesko had a couple booming punts and their coverage teams did not allow any big plays. 

Coaching: B

It's kind of alarming that the Patriots have been starting off the last few weeks a bit sluggish but have been finishing strong in each game. 

The way that New England starts off will not fly so well in the playoffs, as a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers of the Baltimore Ravens will simply build too much of a lead that the Patriots will be unable to comeback against. 

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