By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
It was a tale of two sides of the ball for the Patriots on Sunday in Buffalo. It’s no surprise that, after Tom Brady had one of the lowest passer ratings of his career, that the “ups” would all be on defense and special teams and the “downs” would be comprised of the people responsible for scoring the points.
Generally, we avoid Tom Brady either way in these lists. He’s obviously a “down” for today, just as he’d be an obvious “up” on a better offensive day. He’s just kind of a given. Here’s who rose (and fell) other than No. 12 in Buffalo.
— CB J.C. Jackson. Arguably Jackson’s most impactful game as a Patriot. His blocked punt that led to a Matthew Slater touchdown proved to be the difference-making play in the game. He also came up with two interceptions in a game that was tight for much of the runtime due to sloppy, sputtering offenses for both teams.
— LB Kyle Van Noy. You could name all of the Patriots’ linebackers here, as this group really stepped up in a game they had to play without Dont’a Hightower. Van Noy made two sacks, three QB hits, and two forced fumbles on the day. And his biggest play came on the final drive of the game for the Bills, when he forced a tipped throw straight in the air that landed in the hands of Jamie Collins for the game-clinching interception. Collins and John Simon also had strong games in Hightower’s absence, but Van Noy was a monster.
— S Devin McCourty. The veteran safety is playing some of the best football of his career to start the 2019 season. He set the tone for the Patriots defense with an early interception, his fourth in as many games to start the campaign. The Patriots have forced a lot of bad decisions and errant throws with their pressure and coverage, and McCourty has been back there to clean a lot of it up for them.
— K Stephen Gostkowski. This is becoming all-too familiar. Gostkowski missed an extra point for the fourth time in as many games, and this time it almost came back to haunt them. It came back to haunt anyone who bet the Patriots (-7) to cover. I mean Gostkowski will probably be hitting everything by the end of the season just because everyone is concerned right now. But there’s more than enough reason to be concerned about Gostkowski’s misses. This many missed PATs has to be a mental issue.
— WR Phillip Dorsett. Take your pick, but none of the Patriots’ receivers could make a difference in the game. Usually “Mr. Reliable” for Brady, Dorsett caught just two of nine targets for 10 yards. At times he and Brady looked out of sync, and other times he couldn’t get separation. But it’s not totally fair to single Dorsett out; Julian Edelman (four catches for 30 yards) and Josh Gordon (three catches for 46 yards) could have made the cut here too.
— TE Ryan Izzo. Just like Dorsett took the bullet for the receivers here, you can basically do the same for Izzo and all of the blocking up front. But Izzo is not getting the job done as a run blocker. The hope is that Ben Watson can provide even a marginal improvement, but he’s never been elite in that department. The Patriots’ sputtering run game can at least be partially attributed to the drop-off from the loss of Rob Gronkowski as a blocker. And it also hurts that Izzo offers virtually nothing as a pass-catcher.
More ups and downs coming after Week 5’s road contest against the Washington Redskins.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.