Patriots Rest Starters, Set Sights On Playoffs
While a win was in the hopes of the Patriots, the loss was rather meaningless. The team had already locked up the top seed in the AFC and home field advantage throughout the playoffs when the Broncos lost the the Bengals, Monday night.
New England went into the game rather short handed, as the rested a number of key players. Offensive starters Rob Gronkowski, Julian Edelman, Dan Connolly and Sebastian Vollmer were all inactive for the contest. The defense was also without starting middle linebacker Dont'a Hightower and cornerback Brandon Browner, who were both held out for precautionary measures.
As a result the Pats were left with some wholes on both sides of the ball. The Bills took advantage early with a quick scoring drive to start the game.
Quarterback Kyle Orton completed three passes on the opening drive tallying 67 yards and adding a score to put New England on its heels. Buffalo added another touchdown on a 1-yard Boobie Dixon run and a field goal in the second quarter which proved to hold up as the difference in the game.
The win marked Buffalo's first victory in New England since the 2000 season.
While the Pats' defense played well in the second half, the offense never got it going and settled for just three field goals on the day. Quarterback Tom Brady played the first half and threw for just 80 yards. Rookie Jimmy Garoppolo came on in the second half to allow Brady to rest up for the upcoming playoffs.
The rookie completed 10 of his 17 passes for 90 yards and showed mobility in being able to get out of some tough spots. He was sacked three time largely because the makeshift offensive line was not up to the task of stopping the dominant Buffalo front four.
As for the rest of the Patriots backups who saw extended time in the otherwise meaningless game, no one really stood out from the pack. While there were no previously unrecognized diamonds in the rough discovered, there weren't a lot of wholes found either. With the exception of the offensive line's struggles, no one else seemed to play poorly.
All in all, the Pats set themselves up to be well rested when they host the divisional round playoff game either January 10 or January 11, depending on who they'll match up against. Only time will tell if the players who saw limited or no action Sunday will be ready to go in two weeks.