New England Patriots: Secondary Issues Hard to Ignore in Win over Buffalo Bills

Jimmy KelleyCorrespondent ISeptember 30, 2012

Sept. 30, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA;  Buffalo Bills tight end Scott Chandler (84) jumps to catch a ball while being defended by New England Patriots free safety Patrick Chung (25) during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium.  Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE
Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE

The offense had it clicking in Buffalo on Sunday, but it is still hard to ignore just how terrible the New England Patriots secondary was in their 52-28 win over the Bills in Week 4. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 350 yards and four touchdowns by attacking the middle of the field against the Patriots' weak safeties.

Before bringing up the interceptions—because there were four of them—you have to look at how the Bills got yards through the air. Time after time, Fitzpatrick attacked the safeties with Scott Chandler, and the biggest play for the Bills in the game was 68-yard touchdown pass to Donald Jones that was made possible by a missed tackle.

The biggest issue continues to be safeties, linebackers and cornerbacks all refusing the turnaround and find the ball in coverage. At this point it has become such a problem that the concern needs now to fall on the coaching staff and how they are teaching them to cover.

Two of the most glaring instances of this were Chandler's first touchdown and a sideline catch made by Fred Jackson. Patrick Chung and Jerod Mayo both got caught staring at their receivers, which significantly cut down the amount of time they had to make a play on the ball. For every time that last-ditch reach knocks a ball down, there are far more instances where a covered receiver makes a play.

With the frequency of plays like this being as high as it was on Sunday, it is clear that teams are seeing this tendency on film and putting it into their game plans. If Fitzpatrick can expose the secondary this much, imagine what Peyton Manning could do next week.

There were some positives to take away from today, however. Devin McCourty has one of his better games, and actually hauled in one of his two interceptions because he turned around, found the ball (which was underthrown) and made the catch.

On the day, the Patriots managed to register nine pass defenses, with McCourty and—incredibly—Vince Wilfork leading the way with two apiece. Even Brandon Spikes, one of the worst linebackers in pass coverage, made some plays in the passing game.

On a day where the Patriots looked like a team that could do no wrong, the biggest thing they still must improve on is just that: looking.