FOXBORO — WEEI.com’s Mike Petraglia and Chris Price discuss the important takeaways after the Patriots lost to Buffalo Bills, 17-9, in season finale for both teams at Gillette Stadium. The game had no playoff impact on the Patriots, who finished 12-4 and will enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed in the AFC. Tom Brady played just a half and was replaced by rookie Jimmy Garoppolo to start the second half. Brady completed just 8-of-16 passes for 80 yards while Garoppolo was 10-of-17 for 90 yards.

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia
Despite not playing his best Sunday, Tom Brady and the offense "confident" going into the postseason. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Despite not playing their best Sunday, Tom Brady and the offense “confident” going into the postseason. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — It wasn’t ideally how Tom Brady and the offense wanted to go into the postseason.

While priority No. 1 was getting into the postseason healthy — which for the most part the Patriots did with only Nate Solder getting banged up in the game, along with a number of premier players being inactive — the offense led by Tom Brady didn’t have the best of days in their 17-9 loss to the Bills in the regular-season finale.

Brady played only the first half in the loss and went 8-for-16 for 80 yards. Four of the five drives led by Brady went for 18 yards or less — the longest was a 80-yard drive at the end of the first quarter, which eventually stalled and ended with a Stephen Gostkowski 24-yard field goal.

The offense was missing valuable pieces in Julian Edelman, Rob Gronkowski, Dan Connolly and Sebastian Vollmer, but there was never any flow or rhythm with Brady in the game, as the team finished with just 121 net yards at the half. Even with their performance Sunday, Brady is confident in the offense going into the postseason.

“We’€™re confident. We have a lot of confidence as an offense,” Brady said. “We’€™ve been able to score points against a lot of good teams, a lot of good defenses. Nothing that we’€™ve done this past season is going to help in two weeks from now. What’€™s going to matter is how well we prepare this week and how well we prepare next week and how ready we are to go whenever we play. We’€™ll have a lot of confidence. I’€™m not worried about us lacking confidence going out there and executing. We’€™ve got a lot of good players.”

The game did not matter in terms of postseason positioning, as the team had already clinched the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC, so ultimately losing the game was not a big deal in terms of playoff positioning. It did snap a few personal streaks, as Brady’s 43 straight home winning streak against AFC opponents was snapped, and the game marked the first regular-season game at home where he failed to throw a touchdown pass since Sept. 7, 2008, also the game he tore his ACL. Before that was Dec. 16, 2007 against the Jets.

As a team, the loss snapped an NFL record 35 straight home wins against the AFC, a 17-game home winning streak against the AFC East and a 16-game winning streak at home overall.

“I think we tried to go out there and give a great effort,” Brady said. “They’€™re a good team. They make it tough on you. They made it tough on us down there when we played them and they made it tough today. They’€™ve got a good team, but we’€™re looking forward. It’€™s tough ‘€“ we always hate losing, absolutely. We didn’€™t make enough plays to win, but hopefully we make them in a couple weeks.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

A healthy Rob Gronkowski will make the difference for the Patriots this postseason. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)FOXBORO -- All snaps are not created equal.



Nick Caserio has reportedly been extended by the Patriots through to 2020. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)FOXBORO -- Continuity is everything in Foxboro. So is familiarity and trust.



MIKE PETRAGLIA

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FOXBORO — It was an usual couple of minutes at Gillette Stadium following the Patriots’ 17-9 loss to the Bills in the regular-season finale, as coach Bill Belichick did not speak to the media at the podium immediately after

Bill Belichick said after missing his usual postgame press conference Sunday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Bill Belichick said, “I’ll be alright” after missing his usual postgame press conference Sunday. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — It was an usual couple of minutes at Gillette Stadium following the Patriots’ 17-9 loss to the Bills in the regular-season finale, as coach Bill Belichick did not speak to the media at the podium immediately after the game.

It was announced that he would hold a conference call later in the evening because he was meeting with the trainers, but it was nothing serious.

Belichick held a conference call with the media at 5 p.m. — about 45 minutes after he normally would have spoken — saying everything was OK.

“I just want to apologize to everybody,” Belichick said. “I didn’€™t want to hold anybody up here today. I had to spend a few minutes in the training room after the game — nothing serious, just a little thing to look at with the trainers and a doctor. Like I said, I didn’€™t want to hold up everybody’€™s story and all that.”

When asked to expand on what forced him to the trainer’s room, Belichick didn’t have much to add.

“It’s no big deal. I don’t want to get into it,” said Belichick. “I’ll be alright.”

As for the game itself, the team went into it without many of its key players, as Rob Gronkowski, Jonas Gray, Julian Edelman, Sebastian Vollmer, Dan Connolly, Brandon Browner and Dont’a Hightower were all inactive. Tom Brady played just a half  before turning it over to Jimmy Garoppolo for the second half. Brady went 8-for-16 for 80 yards, while Garoppolo went 10-for-17 for 90 yards, and the Patriots didn’t reach the end zone for the first time in a game since Oct. 7 of last season against the Bengals.

Defensively, most of the starters played just a half as well, with Chandler Jones, Vince Wilfork and Rob Ninkovich being a few exceptions playing into the third quarter.

“It was a competitive game,” said Belichick. “We just couldn’€™t make enough plays, really at any point in the game — the beginning or the end, in any phase of the game to ever really take control of it or be in a position to win it. [I’€™m] looking forward to moving ahead this week to work on things that we need to work on. Once we find out who we’€™re going to play then obviously we’€™re looking forward to the postseason. We just have to take it as it comes, but certainly there are things that we can do this week that will help us in the long run so we’€™ll try to hit on some of those.”

As for the decision in making Gronkowski specifically inactive — preventing him from playing a full season since 2011 — Belichick spoke of the team as a whole.

“We had some guys that have played a lot of football for us,” Belichick said. “We felt like today would be an opportunity for us to have some guys who haven’€™t played as much to get an opportunity to play. That’€™s kind of the way we managed the team. We tried to create opportunities for some guys that the experience I think will benefit them going forward. Based on that, that’€™s how we handled the playing time and the inactives.”

Prior to the game, it was reported that the Patriots’ extended Nick Caserio, their director of player personnel’s contract through the end of the 2020 season. Belichick noted just how important he is to the organization.

“I think Nick does a great job for us,” said Belichick. “He probably does more than any other person in his position in the league in terms of his amount of responsibility, the number of different things he does on the coaching and the scouting level. He’€™s really a valuable guy that has great working knowledge of really everything that we do on the scouting end and the coaching end. So he’€™s able to really interface with everybody and not only evaluate players, but has a great understanding of our schemes and the coaches and coaching points and so forth –€“ what would fit those, to be able to identify the type of fit that guys have coming in here, or lack of fit as the case would be, whatever it happens to be.”

 

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — Brandon Spikes’ biggest impact on the game Sunday wasn’t anything he did during the game, as he was virtually a no-show, finishing with zero tackles, but it was his emotion before the game that fired the Bills up in their 17-9 win over the Patriots, snapping a 13-game road losing streak against the Patriots.

Brandon Spikes returned to Foxboro for on Sunday in the Bills' 17-9 win over the Patriots. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

Brandon Spikes returned to Foxboro for on Sunday in the Bills’ 17-9 win over the Patriots. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — Brandon Spikes‘ biggest impact on the game Sunday wasn’t anything he did during the game, as he was virtually a no-show, finishing with zero tackles, but it was his emotion before the game that fired the Bills up in their 17-9 win over the Patriots, snapping a 13-game road losing streak against the Patriots.

It was Spikes’ first game back in New England since signing with the Bills this past offseason.

“It was an awkward experience, but a lot of love,” Spikes said. “All the fans showed the love and to get this victory it feels great.”

The middle linebacker said he spoke to a number of his former teammates both before and during the game, as he was seen constantly joking around with Patriots players after plays. Spikes did catch up with coach Bill Belichick after the first meeting in Buffalo, but did not get a chance to catch up with him this time around.

“Every play, guys talking to me, laughing and I miss those guys,” said Spikes. “I am still in contact with a lot of those guys.”

Spikes’ time with the Patriots didn’t end peacefully, as he was put on injured reserve late in the season last year, thus missing the playoffs. Spikes felt like it was a suspension from Belichick.

He said he has moved on from that and is at “peace.” He also added he will be cheering on his former team in the postseason.

“Absolutely. I wish them the best of luck, their health and everything,” Spikes said. “I am all set with that, man. I am at peace, honestly. I am cool.”

The Florida product signed a one-year deal with the Bills, so he will be a free agent following the season. He finished with 54 tackles and a sack this season. With it being only a few moments following the season, he hasn’t even thought about his future.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” said Spikes. “When I get some time I will sit down with my agent and we will go from there. Right now I just want to celebrate with my teammates, this Bills organization. To finish up with a winning record is awesome here and it is something to build off of with the ownership and stuff like that.”

No matter what happens, the linebacker will cherish his time spent in Buffalo.

“Honestly, I am the happiest I’ve been since I’ve been in the NFL,” said Spikes. “I would say that. I look forward to coming to work, I look forward to seeing guys in the locker room in the morning. It’s been real and I loved every second of it. Even the grind and the times we were out in camp, all of that in the dorm rooms, it was all great. I embraced it and they embraced me from day one. I love this place. I will definitely remember this place if I were to move on. This would be a special place for me. I love the game again.”

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

FOXBORO — In a contest that had a distinct preseason feel, the Bills ended up taking a 17-9 win over the Patriots in the regular-season finale for both teams Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was sandwiched by Buffalo defenders on this second-half sack. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo was sandwiched by Buffalo defenders on this second-half sack. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

FOXBORO — In a contest that had a distinct preseason feel, the Bills ended up taking a 17-9 win over the Patriots in the regular-season finale for both teams Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium.

The Bills end their season 9-7 — the best record for the franchise since 2004 — while the Patriots head into the playoffs with a 12-4 mark and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. It was the first win at Gillette Stadium in franchise history for Buffalo.

The Patriots sat a large number of starters in this one — right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receiver Julian Edelman, guard Dan Connolly, linebacker Dont’a Hightower and cornerback Brandon Browner were all inactive for the contest. And many of the starters who did play were done by halftime. As a result, backups like wide receiver Brian Tyms, linebacker Jonathan Casillas, wide receiver Danny Amendola, tight end Steve Maneri and cornerback Malcolm Butler got plenty of time out of the gate in this one.

In terms of actual game action, the Bills were able to connect for touchdowns on two of their first three drives of the game, taking a 17-6 halftime lead on the strength of a touchdown pass to Robert Woods, a 1-yard run from Boobie Dixon and a 48-yard field goal from Dan Carpenter. Orton finished 16-for-23 for 176 yards and a touchdown.

Meanwhile, the Patriots got three field goals from Stephen Gostkowski (35, 44 and 24 yards). Quarterback Tom Brady — who was yanked after two quarters — finished up 5-for-9 for 64 yards. Jimmy Garoppolo played the second half, and ended 10-for-17 for 90 yards. Brandon LaFell had four catches for 70 yards.

Here’s what we learned about the Patriots:
Jamie Collins is amazing.

Not really breaking any news here, but in the context of this game, it’s worth noting that the young linebacker provided one of the defensive highlights of the season. With just over eight minutes left in the first half, he busted up the middle on a second-and-8 situation. He was briefly slowed by running back C.J. Spiller, but Collins was able to elude that block. Delivering a really impressive second effort, he circled back around and punched the ball loose while tackling Orton, forcing the fumble. One of the most impressive defensive plays of the year, and another sign that in his second season in New England, Collins has emerged as a true defensive playmaker.

It appears that Vince Wilfork hit his incentives.

We’ll have to wait for official confirmation on this one when it comes to snap counts, but given the fact that he played most of the first two-plus quarters, it appears that the veteran was able to hit the 70 percent playtime mark for the season. That guarantees he’ll net a sizable incentive package, based on his 2014 contract. It’s been an impressive season for Wilfork, who has come back nicely from the Achilles’ injury that brought his 2013 season to a premature end.

They have some offensive flexibility.

The Patriots ran what is believed to be their first wildcat snap of the season in the third quarter, utilizing running back Brandon Bolden as the signal-caller, who ended up going for five yards. Late on the same third-quarter drive, New England went with a read-option style play fake, as Garoppolo faked the handoff and kept it, running for a four-yard gain. The plays were likely nothing more than showing something different on film, but they were still interesting to see from the Patriots offense.

Jimmy Garoppolo is pretty nimble.

The backup quarterback, who displayed some nice quickness over the course of the preseason, flashed some speed in the fourth quarter on Sunday against the Bills. The Buffalo pass rush did a nice job getting after him, but he also spun out of near-sacks on back-to-back plays in the fourth, picking up a nine-yard gain on one play and eliciting a big cheer from the Gillette Stadium crowd. He ended up as one of New England’s leading rushers on the afternoon, and did as well as could be expect scrambling for his life behind the Patriots’ backup offensive line in the fourth quarter.

Brian Tyms has some versatility in his game.

Heading into this week, the young receiver has flashed exceptional speed with a series of go routes. Sometimes, they paid off (he hauled in a touchdown catch in an October win over Buffalo on a play that showcased his terrific quickness) and sometimes, it didn’t. But on Sunday against the Bills, he saw lots of action early, and was asked to run a variety of routes. He finished the first half with a team-high four targets, and ended up with three catches for 31 yards in the win. A nice afternoon for the young receiver, and something to build on going forward.

They did not get out of this one completely healthy.

Left tackle Nate Solder suffered what the team referred to as a knee injury in the late stages of the first half, and was seen seriously limping just before halftime. In the third quarter, the Patriots announced that his return was questionable, but he did not return to the game over the course of the second half. Marcus Cannon got the bulk of the snaps in his place, and the TCU product could be in line for more work if it turns out to be a significant injury for Solder. In addition, defensive lineman Sealver Siliga was slow to get up following a fourth-quarter scrum.

The second season will start for the Patriots in two weeks.

New England will host a divisional playoff game in two weeks. The energy level at Gillette Stadium should be significantly different for that one than it was Sunday afternoon.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price