Facing the elements, a driving rain and wind gusts to 40 mph, the New England Patriots went light in the box against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Pats’ base defense featured a traditional four-man line, one linebacker (Ja'Whaun Bentley) and six – yes, six! – defensive backs.
Is it surprising in Sunday’s 24-21 Buffalo victory that the Bills’ combo of Zack Moss and Devin Singletary chunked the Pats for six yards per try – 28 carries, 167 yards?
The Patriots picked their poison and it was indeed lethal, not just here in Week 8. It has placed the season on life support.
Bill Belichick actually started a defense with Adrian Phillips, a 210-pound safety/kicking game specialist, at inside linebacker.
The question is why?
Why is a Patriots defense, that within the last calendar year had ranked at the top of the game, running out a slew of defensive backs to stop running teams on a day fit for kite-flying and little else?
Belichick answered that question, albeit cryptically last week before the game, when on Sirius XM Radio, he spoke about the obstacles this team faced when it came to depth.
The coach brought up the salary cap, Covid-19 opt-outs and injuries.
"From a salary-cap standpoint, we didn't have much flexibility at all… Then we had some opt-outs, so we lost some players there that would normally be giving us a significant amount of playtime. And then like every year, a couple guys are banged up and we've missed some guys here and there in certain games,” said Belichick when noting why younger players were showing up more regularly in the lineup.
Sunday, it was not the fact that the younger players were involved. It was the fact that New England got steamrolled by the Bills, early and often.
The vision of Moss’ 8-yard stroll in the end zone on Buffalo’s opening possession set an ugly tone. Do yourself a favor though. Watch the replay and notice safety Devin McCourty stepping up and taking on the block of a guard.
This happened way too often Sunday with the defensive backs proving to be the second level of defense.
These were not the defending NFC champion Niners doing the damage. This was the Bills, who