Thanks to a punishing ground attack, a stellar Tom Brady-engineered comeback and a few timely forced turnovers, the Patriots moved their record to 2-2 and reclaimed a share of the AFC East lead this week. Bill Belichick has to be mostly happy with his offense’s 52-point outburst in Week 4, but the defense has room to improve after allowing 28 points to the Bills. Here’s a look at some telling numbers related to the Pats’ win.
247: The number of yards gained on the ground on Sunday. Both Stevan Ridley (22 carries, 106 yards, 2 TD) and Brandon Bolden (16 carries, 137 yards, 1 TD) gashed the Bills’ vaunted defensive front seven all day long.
Of those 247 yards, a ridiculous 200 came on interior runs between the tackles, meaning the Logan Mankins-less offensive line more than held up its end. After the game, Brady claimed the Bills were "challenging" the Patriots to run by using a nickel defensive package to counter the Pats’ two-tight end, two-receiver “big” personnel grouping (Via Mike Reiss, ESPN)
1: The number of times The Franchise was sacked by a Bills defensive line that features 100 million dollar man Mario Williams. It’s hard to overstate the effort out of Dante Scarnecchia’s offensive line in the absence of Mankins, its best player. Brady was hurried on a few occasions, but his cool-as-a-cucumber presence in the pocket made him tough to bring down. No one will ever mistake No. 12 for an elite athlete, but his mental edge allows him to avoid sacks that lesser QBs wouldn’t see coming.
74-of-77: Wes Welker’s snap count on Sunday. The drama is officially over. Welker’s snap count was bested only by Brandon Lloyd’s among offensive skill players, and Brady threw Welker’s way a team-high 11 times. While Welker did fumble in the Patriots’ nightmare second quarter, he was otherwise at the top of his game with nine catches for 129 yards. He ran his patterns with trademark precision and didn’t register a drop after a few surprising ones early in the season.
6: The number of forced turnovers by the Patriots, including a CJ Spiller goal-line fumble forced by Brandon Spikes and recovered by Vince Wilfork late in the second quarter. That turnover saved the Patriots a touchdown and kept the game at a manageable one-score differential. Spikes was at his bone-shaking best on the day, also forcing a fumble by Buffalo’s Fred Jackson.
Devin McCourty also saw his stock rebound after a tough second half against the Ravens last week. The third-year cornerback picked off two passes and held his own outside all day—most of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 350 yards came over the middle, where the likes of Jerod Mayo, Spikes, and safeties Steven Gregory and Patrick Chung had trouble covering tight ends and slot receivers.
438: The number of yards allowed by the Patriots. Some of those came in garbage time when the game was already all but decided, but without the Pats’ success in forcing turnovers, the Bills would likely have scored more than the 28 points they racked up. Belichick-coached defenses do incorporate a bend-but-don’t-break strategy that relies on being opportunistic, but that’s two high-scoring, high-yardage performances by opposing offenses in a row.
There’s plenty of blame to go around, but Chung and Gregory appeared to be the main culprits, getting caught flat-footed time and again on intermediate and deep routes down the seams.
67-of-71: Rookie defensive end Chandler Jones’ snap count, supplanting Vince Wilfork’s traditional spot at the top of the list for Pats defensive linemen. Those five missed snaps came at the end of the game, with the victory well in hand. Belichick’s obvious trust in the first-round pick seems well founded—Jones notched his third sack of the season and made two tackles for a loss on Sunday.
Fellow rookie Dont’a Hightower also registered a sack before leaving the game with a hamstring injury, and rookie safety Tavon Wilson made an interception, giving him a turnover caused or recovered in three of his first four games.