Here are the Patriots players (and some general things) that were “up” and “down” this week against the Bills.
WR Jakobi Meyers. With an opportunity to step in for the injured Julian Edelman and N’Keal Harry to contribute in a major role, Meyers stepped up big time. Meyers hauled in six of his 10 targets for 58 yards, consistently getting open and helping the Pats move the chains. He looks like the Pats’ new No. 1 receiver for now.
RB Damien Harris. The second-year pro out of Alabama had a couple of big-boy drives, one of which he capped with a touchdown. Shaq Mason delivered a nice pull block to spring Harris to the second level, and the back made one guy miss to allow himself to scamper to the end zone. He also had a nice drive on the next possession to set up Newton’s rushing TD. A nice step forward for Harris in this one, showing a different level of explosiveness and elusiveness.
LB Josh Uche. The rookie made an open-field tackle on Josh Allen on a key third down at the time, and also logged a QB hit while occasionally generating real pressure in his NFL debut. Uche is definitely a good athlete and should add some explosion to the Patriots’ front-seven moving forward.
QB Cam Newton. Essentially, Newton went from “up” to “down” in one play. When the Patriots offense wasn’t shooting itself in the foot with penalties, Newton had a solid day both running and passing the ball and – most importantly – protected the ball. But he lost a fumble at the worst possible time, turning it over to the Bills with 29 seconds left in regulation to extinguish a promising drive that could have at least resulted in a field goal. Newton gets the thumbs down for poor ball security in the most crucial moment of the game. It takes just one big oops to undo a lot of good.
LB Ja’Whaun Bentley. The Patriots’ middle linebacker and defensive captain had one of his worst games, missing a tackle on one Bills touchdown run and getting caught out of position on another. Bentley’s lack of top-end speed is hurting the Pats’ run defense.
P Jake Bailey. You can easily put this on Bill Belichick to make the call in the first place, but Bailey didn’t execute well enough on the Pats’ riskiest play-call of the game on a surprise onside kick. The ball went too high and far and landed safely in the Bills’ possession, giving the Patriots little to no chance to recover the ball. The Bills answered with a touchdown.
TE Ryan Izzo. The Patriots’ lone active tight end made a couple of catches, but he also had trouble in pass protection and had an early drop. Hopefully the rookies get up to speed as the season goes along, because Izzo still isn’t performing like a consistently reliable starting tight end.
Offensive discipline. The Patriots’ O-line blocked well in the second half to power the running game, but some bad penalties wiped out some chunk plays in the first half to keep them behind the 8-ball. There were also some bad procedural penalties, including a delay of game on the opening drive. The offense got rolling in the second half, but for a while couldn’t get out of its own way.