GRADING THE GROUPS
Line (A) ... It’s been a long grind. They held together through a series of both serious and nagging injuries. They come off an emotional win at Baltimore and they take care of business here against an aggressive Bills’ front. The backs averaged 6.9 yards a carry. There were big cutback holes all day. Physical, nasty, resilient and durable. It might be the best line in the game heading to the playoffs.
Running Backs (A+) ... You have to go back to 2004 with Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk for a better all-around performance as a unit.
Tight Ends (C+) ... Nothing but crickets and some solid blocking from these guys.
Wide Receivers (C-) ... I know they beat the Bills yesterday in the rain. But can you win a playoff game in today’s NFL when your wideouts catch 11 balls on 17 targets for 80 yards? I say no.
Quarterback (C-) ... The one pick wasn’t his fault. Otherwise, it was as miserable a day as Brady is going to have, hitting 14 of 24 for 122 yards.
Line (B) ... Buffalo backs ran 33 times for 165 yards, so it’s tough to heap praise on this front. But anything Belichick gets from the immortal Sealver Siliga has to be considered gravy, and the kid had a team-best five solo tackles with a sack. Chandler Jones continues to bring it from the edge, as does Rob Ninkovich, who had a sack and two tackles for loss.
Linebackers (Inc) ... I believe the Pats’ linebackers got caught in the puddles out there on the turf. Jamie Collins highlights the group, but he was stung on a couple coverages for big gainers.
Secondary (D+) ... I hate to be redundant, but may I quote myself when I say, “Buffalo rolled up 393 yards of offense (257 in the second half) with Thad Lewis at the QB position and Stevie Johnson in a rain slicker.”