Eight Takeaways From the Patriots Loss to the Bills in Week 17

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For example, rookie CB Alex Austin credited his preparation for a second-quarter interception. Austin told me the Patriots practiced the post-wheel concept the Bills ran on the play. With the Pats in cover-three match, Josh Allen sees LB Marte Mapu carrying the wheel and thinks Austin is occupied by the post, so he throws the wheel. Instead, Austin falls off the post by passing it off to safety Jalen Mills and uses an excellent speed turn to high-point the wheel route.

Although he’s had growing pains in a new system, Austin has the length and athleticism to develop into a boundary corner in this league. His issues haven’t been about physical ability but rather route anticipation and his grasp of the system, so there might be something there.

As for the Bills quarterback, the Patriots have made real progress with their team speed defensively and knowledge of Buffalo’s offense to battle with Allen. The Pats also held Bills star WR Stefon Diggs to four catches for 26 yards on seven targets, which felt again like confusing Allen had more to do with that than anything exotic against Diggs.

As we said in the intro, Allen looking human against the Pats defense twice this season is a positive development.

4. Patriots Sit LT Trent Brown Amidst Issues Along the Offensive Line

As always, we’ll have to review the film for an accurate assessment of the offensive line. However, another storyline from this game was starting left tackle Trent Brown being a healthy inactive. Brown, who was removed from the injury report on Friday with a mid-week illness, didn’t have a locker in the Patriots visitors locker room in Buffalo. There have also been reports that motivation has been an issue for Brown since injuries piled up for him.

Instead, the Patriots started backup OT Vederian Lowe at left tackle with two rookie guards, Atonio Mafi (LG) and Sidy Sow (RG). Post-snap movement by the defensive front continues to plague this offensive line, with the Bills registering sacks on an inside twist (Ed Oliver) and a late blitz when LB Terrel Bernard added into the rush off a play-action concept. In the second half, it felt like Zappe was hurrying to get the ball out before the pocket collapsed around him. The Patriots seem to be headed for a divorce with Trent Brown, making left tackle a major offseason need.

5. Rookie Specialists’ Struggles Continue with Multiple Miscues in Kicking Game

Although it’s not why they’re 4-12, the Patriots having shaky special teams from their rookie specialists hasn’t helped their cause this season. Rookie kicker Chad Ryland missed his ninth kick of the year on a 47-yard attempt and would’ve missed again from 53 yards, but the Pats were called for delay of game, resulting in a punt rather than another field goal attempt. For those hoping Ryland would build confidence after his game-winner in Denver, the fourth-round rookie regressed to the mean on Sunday, with his miss taking a hard left turn mid-flight.

As for rookie punter Bryce Baringer, the sixth-round pick has fared better this season than Ryland. Still, the Bills got the ball back around mid-field late in the game when Baringer booted just a 45-yard punt with a 38-yard net from the NE 11. It wasn’t an awful punt, but it didn’t flip the field, so Buffalo only needed a few first downs to ice the game.

The Patriots rode with two rookies this season, but Baringer, who needs to be more consistent, and Ryland, who has really struggled, have yet to prove their staying power in the NFL.

6. Patriots Rookie EDGE Keion White Logs Four QB Pressures, Two QB Hits

Another positive development for the Patriots is that second-rounder Keion White is starting to stack up good performances late in the season. After a highly disruptive game in the win over the Broncos, White logged four quarterback pressures and two QB hits based on live viewing. On one play, White pressured Allen in the pocket while fellow day-two pick Marte Mapu took away Allen’s read over the middle in a zone drop. Hopefully, those plays are shades of things to come. Furthermore, White also showed great reactive athleticism to chase down Allen in this one. The Pats have something with their second-round pick. If he develops a pass-rush plan and better block anticipation with more experience, White is going to be a problem.

First appeared on www.patriots.com

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