FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots officially need next men up for their next men up.
Julian Edelman broke his foot last week, so Danny Amendola had to take on a bigger role Monday night against the Buffalo Bills, catching nine passes for 117 yards. Keshawn Martin still is dealing with a hamstring injury, so Aaron Dobson was forced to step in as a third receiver. Then Dobson went down with an ankle injury, and Amendola hurt his knee, so the team was left with Brandon LaFell, Chris Harper and, well, no one.
The Patriots played an entire quarter without the help of a third receiver, so forgive Tom Brady for going just 2-of-4 passing for 37 yards with an interception in the fourth quarter. And forgive him for his worst performance of the season, a 20-of-39 effort for 277 yards with one touchdown, one turnover and a 72.3 passer rating in the 20-13 win.
Brady was asked if the Patriots went into Monday night thinking it would be “tough sledding” on offense.
“Yes, we did, but I don’t think that’s an excuse,” Brady said. “I think we can play better, and some of the things we didn’t do well had nothing to do with missing some of the guys. We just have to do things better if we want to score more points.
“Now it’s just about execution, all of us being on the same page. I think there were a lot of plays out there where we didn’t do our job very well. If we don’t do it well, then no one else can make up for what you’re trying to do. There’s a lot of critical plays that we left out on the field against a good defense, and I think they do a good job challenging you, because they have good players, and they have a good scheme. If you’re not on top of everything, they make you pay. There’s a lot of plays that were uncontested, and we didn’t have much of a chance.”
Brady and the Patriots aren’t in the business of making excuses, but by the fourth quarter, they were down to a second-string third-down back and without four of their top five receivers. It didn’t help that tight end Rob Gronkowski was being eliminated from the game with double teams.
“I think it was a lot of execution that we could do better,” Brady said. “We lost Danny during the game, we lost Dobson during the game. We were down to two healthy receivers, so you get pretty limited quickly with the things you can do. We still played hard and fought hard. We have to try to review some things and play better next week.”
Head coach Bill Belichick, usually one not to discuss game planning, even admitted the injuries forced the Patriots to adjust their play-calling by the third quarter.
“We had to work around it a little bit tonight, yeah,” Belichick said. “I mean, we’ll see what it is going forward, but tonight we definitely had to work around it. I thought (Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels) did a good job managing the game. We were able to do what we could do. It wasn’t necessarily what we wanted to be, but it was good enough, so he did a good job managing it.”
Still, the Patriots came away with the win, thanks to gutty efforts by Amendola, running back James White and the defense.
Thumbnail photo via Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports Images
Thumbnail photo via Nov 23, 2015; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Danny Amendola (80) runs past Buffalo Bills strong safety Duke Williams (27) during the second half at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports