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Here are my observations from the first half of the Patriots’ second divisional game of the 2014 season.
Musical chairs at offensive line – With rookie center Bryan Stork out, the Patriots had to re-shuffle their offensive line once again. Dan Connolly’s head injury during the game forced the Patriots to make changes within the unit yet again. However, the line held its ground in pass protection for the most part of the first half despite struggling to create running lanes for the running backs.
Revis Island in full effect – Just like he did against A.J. Green last week, Darrelle Revis has keyed in on the Bills’ most dangerous receiver and has been following Sammy Watkins all over the field. On most plays this led to quarterback Kyle Orton not even looking towards the rookie wide receiver. After one half, Revis has kept Watkins without a single catch. The usage of Revis over the past two weeks has to be encouraging for Patriots fans as he has been playing more man-to-man than in the previous four games. This is the best utilization of the cornerback and should be the strategy going forward as well.
Danny Aiken struggles – At the end of the Patriots’ second drive, Aiken first committed a false start that forced the Patriots to move back five yards. Just a couple seconds later he delivered an inaccurate long snap to holder Ryan Allen that led to Stephen Gostkowski missing a short field goal try. It will be worth monitoring whether there will be a long snapper tryout in Foxborough tomorrow.
Dennard comes up big on third downs – Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard was in coverage on two third down targets in the first half. The first one ended up to be an incomplete pass and while the second was completed, Dennard made a crucial tackle before the receiver could reach the first-down marker. However, later in the half he was in coverage when wide receiver Robert Woods scored the lone touchdown of Buffalo. The cornerback has to make a final push for the starting job and playing time before Brandon Browner gets involved in the defense. He has mixed results so far.
Linebacker depth tested again – Due to Donta’ Hightower being out, the Patriots were already thin at the linebacker position. However, with Jerod Mayo’s seemingly serious injury the situation just went from bad to worse. The Patriots already used their one Injured Reserve with designation to return; therefore, it will be necessary to monitor how serious Mayo’s injury is. Also, you can add linebacker to long snapper on the list of potential tryouts next week in New England.