Biggest Takeaways from New England Patriots' Week 11 Win

Erik Frenz@ErikFrenzSenior Writer INovember 25, 2015

Biggest Takeaways from New England Patriots' Week 11 Win

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    The New England Patriots are 10-0. The only undefeated team left in the conference, the Patriots are on the fast track to the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. 

    Much like the 2007 team, though, the Patriots are starting to hit some turbulence in the second half of the season. They narrowly escaped MetLife Stadium with a one-point win over the New York Giants in Week 10, and in Week 11, they fought the Buffalo Bills tooth and nail for a seven-point win on Monday night.

    The Patriots are gearing up for their toughest game of the season, though, with a road trip to take on the Denver Broncos Sunday night. That will be one of the biggest and truest tests of this team so far this season. 

    There's not much time to look back, with a six-day turnaround to the next game, but here are a handful of takeaways from Monday night's 20-13 win.

The Patriots Run Defense Is Much Improved

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    The Patriots knew what they had to do on Monday night against the Buffalo Bills. They shut down the run and forced quarterback Tyrod Taylor to lead the team to victory. Taylor hasn't developed the elite pocket quarterback skills to beat a defense on his own through the air, so the Patriots focused on shutting down the Bills running backs.

    The Bills ran the ball 30 times for 94 yards (3.1 yards per carry). LeSean McCoy rushed it 20 times for 82 yards, but 27 of those yards were on one carry. Other than that, the Patriots did a fantastic job of limiting the Bills running backs and even had six tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

    The strategy worked well enough, and the Patriots got the win as a result, but this is not some new occurrence for the Patriots defense. They allowed at least 100 rushing yards in four of their first five games, and not once in the five games since. 

The Patriots Can Win When Tom Brady Isn't Putting Up Video-Game Numbers

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    There's no question that Tom Brady is the life force of the Patriots offense. Given the number of injuries the Patriots have already suffered on offense, he's by far the biggest reason for their continued success through the turbulence.

    Bills head coach Rex Ryan brought a very exotic pass-rush package that gave the Patriots offensive line fits all day. Brady dropped back to throw 40 times, and according to Pro Football Focus, he was under pressure on 20 of them. Of his 39 pass attempts, six were thrown away. On the night, Brady finished 20-of-39 passing (51.3 percent) for 277 yards, one touchdown, one interception and a 72.2 passer rating.

    All of those numbers were among the worst Brady has posted all season long. Yet, the Patriots still came out with the win. Give a lot of credit to the defense for holding the Bills to just 13 points, but they are going to have to continue to play at that level if the offense doesn't get healthy and step its game up.

James White Could Fill Patriots' Void on Third Down

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    Between Dion Lewis, Julian Edelman and Nate Solder, the Patriots have lost a lot of valuable pieces to their offense over the course of the season. Edelman will return, but not until the playoffs. At least he'll return, though; Lewis and Solder are both lost for the season. Replacing players like that is not a one-man job, and it takes time.

    But on Monday night, it appeared as though running back James White had taken the necessary steps toward becoming a replacement option for the Patriots in their backfield. White had just four touches on the game, but he scored two touchdowns, including a 20-yard touchdown reception at the end of the first half that put the Patriots up 10-3. 

    The Patriots don't need White to be the second coming of Kevin Faulk; they just need him to be a reasonable facsimile of Lewis. If Monday night was any indication, White has the potential to be exactly that.

Danny Amendola Can Carry the Load for the Patriots Passing Game

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Tom Brady completed 20 passes on Monday night. Nine of them went to one man: Danny Amendola. The next closest was Brandon LaFell with four. Amendola also had 117 receiving yards, his seventh career game over the century mark. The next closest was LaFell with 66 receiving yards. 

    Basically, Amendola was nearly twice as productive as the second-most productive receiver on the Patriots roster Monday night. 

    No one's stock is on as good a trajectory as Amendola's. In the past two games, Amendola has 19 receptions for 196 yards. That's more receptions than any other receiver in the NFL over the past two weeks, according to Pro-Football-Reference, and the third-most receiving yards.

    Julian Edelman is a hard player to replace, but Amendola has the skill set to replicate that production. 

The Offensive Line Shuffling Continues

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press

    The Patriots offensive line has taken a lot of hits this season, but as pieces come back, they have chosen to shuffle them into the lineup rather than thrust them into full-time action. 

    Marcus Cannon and Cameron Fleming got the start at left and right tackle, respectively, and Sebastian Vollmer (back from a concussion) came in off the bench at right tackle. David Andrews got the start at center, Josh Kline at right guard and Shaq Mason at left guard, and Bryan Stork played both guard and center.

    The Patriots have shuffled linemen all season long, though here, there are plenty of good reasons for the shuffling. The biggest is that it keeps the pressure off the injured players and helps prevent reinjury.

    As mentioned earlier, Tom Brady was under a ton of pressure on Monday night, facing pressure on half of his dropbacks. Whether it's finding a group of five linemen to play every down or simply playing better through the shuffling, the offensive line play needs to improve.

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