Hit by a rash of injuries, the Patriots entered Ralph Wilson Stadium already bruised.
By the end of the day, they were battered.
Playing without Pat Chung and Ras-I Dowling, the secondary got burned by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Once again, the defense was picked apart by a non-elite quarterback (see Chad Henne).
However, the problems weren’t limited to the defensive side as Tom Brady threw an uncharacteristic four interceptions after throwing only four the entire 2010 season.
The Pats suffered a demoralizing 34-31 loss, their first against Buffalo since 2003.
1. Kyle Arrington: After being relegated to the fourth corner, Arrington rose up the depth chart due to Dowling’s absence. The third-year pro recorded two early interceptions. He also recorded six tackles and defended three more passes. One of the rare bright spots in the Patriots terrible secondary.
2. Wes Welker: Brady’s No. 1 target simply destroyed Buffalo’s secondary to the tune of 16 catches, 217 yards and two touchdowns. Welker abused rookie Aaron Williams early on and came up with a clutch fourth-quarter touchdown to tie the score.
3. Rob Gronkowski: The Gronk makes the risers list for the third consecutive week. With Aaron Hernandez sidelined with a sprained MCL, football’s best tight end continued his torrid pace, catching seven passes for 109 yards and a pair of scores. The big man already has five TDs after catching 10 as a rookie.
1. Pass defense: Apparently there isn’t much difference between the 3-4 and 4-3. No matter how you slice it, the Patriots cannot defend the pass. While they were missing some key players in Chung, Dowling and Albert Haynesworth, the performance was inexcusable. Playing against one of the worst offensive lines in the league, the Patriots front-seven recorded a mere two quarterback hits and ZERO sacks. Pro Bowl corner Devin McCourty had another poor performance, defending only one pass while allowing a 13-yard touchdown to Stevie Johnson. Safeties Josh Barrett and Sergio Brown made little impact.
2. Chad Ochocinco: If not for the loss, Ochocinco would be the clear-cut biggest disappointment. The former Pro Bowler looks like a shell of his former self in this offense. For the second time, Ochocinco’s penalty negated a Gronkowski touchdown and his poor route running was the biggest factor in Brady’s second pick. To top it off, Chad dropped an easy touchdown, prolonging the Pats’ final drive.
3. Defensive ends: The shift to the 4-3 defense was supposed to signify attack mode. The results so far? More dancing with the tackles. Veteran additions Mark Anderson, Shaun Ellis and Andre Carter have been quiet in the pressure department. Even more disappointing is the fact Jermaine Cunningham, the 53rd pick in the 2010 draft, can barely get on the field. The Pats NEED this group to step up to alleviate the pressure off a weak secondary.