ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — We expected the New England Patriots to annihilate the Buffalo Bills on Monday night. Hands up. We were wrong, even if the score indicates we were, in fact, right.
The Patriots beat the Bills 25-6, but for much of the game, it was a grind for New England’s offense. The Patriots had no semblance of a rushing attack, and quarterback Tom Brady was having trouble finding consistency as he went 29-of-45 for 324 yards.
The Patriots’ defense won this one for the team with two big turnovers forced by safety Devin McCourty and linebacker Kyle Van Noy.
Here’s who helped the Patriots most:
FS DEVIN MCCOURTY
McCourty delivered the dagger with an 84-yard pick six. He jumped a route, snagged the ball out of the air and went untouched as he raced for the end zone.
So much for McCourty losing a step this season.
LB KYLE VAN NOY
Van Noy recorded his first sack of the season, and it was a biggie. He strip-sacked Bills quarterback Derek Anderson and the ball was recovered by safety Patrick Chung.
Van Noy had eight tackles and two sacks on the game. He typically plays on the edge, but was forced into duty at inside linebacker with Dont’a Hightower inactive with a knee injury. He had a stellar performance.
DE TREY FLOWERS
Flowers was a disruptive presence on the edge, recording two 3-yard tackles for loss, a batted pass and two quarterback hits. He helped the Patriots let up just 2.6 yards per carry to the Bills.
WR JULIAN EDELMAN
Edelman had his best game of the season. He caught nine passes on 10 targets for 104 yards and carried the ball twice for 13 yards. The Patriots were taking anything they could get out of the ground game with Sony Michel out.
SS PATRICK CHUNG
Chung recovered Van Noy’s strip sack and was dominant in pass coverage. He allowed just three catches on seven targets for 10 yards with a pass breakup. He also provided a run stuff, stopping running back LeSean McCoy for just a 2-yard gain on third-and-8.
RB JAMES WHITE
The Touchdown Machine got on the board again Monday night with a 1-yard rushing touchdown. He couldn’t get much going on the ground, carrying the ball eight times for 15 yards, but he caught 10 passes on 13 targets for 79 yards.
CB STEPHON GILMORE
Gilmore allowed a 40-yard catch to Kelvin Benjamin in the second quarter (through some possible help of a push off), but otherwise locked down the field. He let up two catches on six targets for 45 yards with two pass breakups while following Benjamin around the field. Gilmore now has 11 pass breakups on the season.