Gridiron Audibles: Patriots Stand at 10-0, Despite Injuries

Week by week, despite losing key players, the Patriots refuse to lose football games. A 20-13 win over the Buffalo Bills on Monday night was another example of the teams uncanny ability to suffer key losses to the 53-man roster and yet time-after-time have the next man on the depth chart step up and contribute.

GRIDIRON AUDIBLES by Christian A. Guarino
GRIDIRON AUDIBLES by Christian A. Guarino

Two weeks after losing running back Dion Lewis for the season and a week after receiver Julian Edelman went down with a broken bone in his foot, the Patriots lost two more offensive targets as receivers Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson both went out with what appeared to be knee injuries. “We’ll see what it is going forward but tonight we definitely had to work around the inuries,” said Head Coach Bill Belichick. “We were able to do what we could which wasn’t necessarily what we wanted to do, but it was good enough. We had to work around injuries.”

The gravity of these injuries was uncertain at the time of this article. The win brings the Patriots record to 10-0, marking the 13th straight year the team has won at least 10 games in a regular season.

On a night when Brady has harassed relentlessly by the Bills defense, the Patriots D did its’ part to keep the team in the game until Brady and the offense finally started rolling in the 3rd quarter. Key contributors to the cause were corner Logan Ryan and end/linebacker Jabaal Sheard whose post-game numbers (6 tackles for Ryan, 3 for Sheard) fail to demonstrate their impact. End Rob Ninkovich tallied two sacks while the rest of the pass rush kept constant pressure on Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

The game was not without controversy as a third quarter Brady completion to Amendola was halted after a referee “inadvertently” blew his whistle. Up 10-3, Brady was making his way toward the sideline, but before stepping out of bounds, fired a pass to a wide open Amendola which had the potential of going for six-points. The referees would convene and award the Patriots a first down at the spot of the catch. The scene looked eerily similar to the State Farm commercial featuring a muffed call by inept officials. “It was just one of those plays,” said a sober Tom Brady after the completing 20-of-39 pass attempts for 277 yards with a touchdown and one interception. “I wish we could have converted that into more points.”

Rex Ryan’s Bills hung tight, giving the Patriots all they could handle and more but were eventually done in when Leodis McKelvin fumbled a punt return which was recovered by the Patriots and converted into a field goal. The play sent a reminder to Buffalo that they are not quite ready to dethrone New England.Back in 2009 in the season opener at Gillette Stadium, McKelvin was also victimized by the Patriots special teams unit, coughing up the football on a kickoff return which ignited the Patriots comeback win. “It’s football,” McKelvin said. “Things happen. S— happens. I guess it just happened to me at this place. Luck of the draw.”

Aside from coming away with the win, a positive for the Patriots was the play of running back James White who will be called upon to replace the aforementioned Lewis. White finished with 2 catches for 32 yards and two touchdowns, the first at the end of the second quarter on a dump-off pass from Brady which gave the Patriots a 10-3 lead at the half. The play was demoralizing for a Bills defense which had stymied each and every Patriots drive to that point.

Injuries won’t derail Brady and his expectations for the season. “Any way you can get these wins is a positive. Whoever is in the game we have confidence in what they’re doing.”

Christian A. Guarino, a Boston North End resident, writes about football and soccer for the Boston Post Gazette.