By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
Tom Brady and the Patriots offense really needed the other two phases of the game to step up on Sunday in Buffalo, and they certainly did.
On an afternoon where the Pats' offense frequently sputtered, the defense and special teams picked up the slack. Defensively they allowed just 10 points and J.C. Jackson made the difference in the game with a blocked punt that resulted in a Matthew Slater touchdown, as the Patriots beat the Bills 16-10 to improve to 4-0 on the season.
An early interception by Devin McCourty set the tone for the defense. Jackson made two interceptions of his own to go with the blocked punt, adding up to one of his most impactful games as a Patriot. Slater's blocked punt touchdown was the first of his career.
As for the offense, it looked good enough early when a James White 26-yard catch on a wheel route set up a first-and-goal. Brandon Bolden ran a jet sweep easily into the end zone to make it 6-0 Patriots, and it stayed that way after a missed extra point by Stephen Gostkowski.
For the rest of the game, all the Pats could muster offensively was a Gostkowski 23-yard field goal. They punted nine times.
But fortunately, the defense mostly came to play. Besides a sharp touchdown drive by Josh Allen to start the third quarter, the Bills offense had trouble moving the ball. And when it had an opportunity to take a lead with fourth-and-goal, the Pats came up with a goal line stand.
Allen had to leave the game in the fourth quarter after a hit from Jonathan Jones made helmet-to-helmet contact. Backup QB Matt Barkley had a chance to lead the Bills on an improbable TD drive with under two minutes to go, but linebacker Kyle Van Noy disrupted a throw to pop the ball straight in the air and it landed in the hands of Jamie Collins for the game-clincher.
Brady on the day went 18-for-39 (46.2 percent) for 150 yards, no touchdowns and an end-zone interception. His 45.9 passer rating was his worst since the last time he faced the Bills, a 24-12 win last December in which he had a 48.3 rating. It's the sixth-worst single-game passer rating of his career and the lowest since Nov. 5, 2006 against the Colts (34.0).
The Bills look to have Brady's number defensively. But as the Patriots have proven in recent games going back to last season, football has three phases and they all matter.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].