Monday, December 30, 2013
Patriots Clinch No. 2 Seed Thanks to LeGarrette "Walter Payton" Blount's Career Day
It wasn't pretty but what would you expect from a regular season finale vs. the Bills in a freezing rain that pounded Gillette Stadium for the entire game? The Patriots (12-4 overall, 8-0 home) wrapped up the No. 2 seed with a 34-20 win over Buffalo (6-10 overall, 2-6 away). The Pats are off until Saturday, January 11th when they will host either the Bengals, Chiefs or Colts at 8:15 p.m. in the AFC Divisional round.
LeGarrette Blount was a man among boys with 24 carries for a career-high 189 yards and two TDS. He also added two kick returns for 145 yards to set a new Patriots record for total yards by one player in a single game. Football players never make excuses for some of the absurd elements they have to play in but tonight's pounding storm affected everything, namely Tom Brady (14 of 24 for 122 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT) and New England's passing game. However Julian Edelman (9 catches, 65 yards) was still able to over 1000 yards for the season and 100 catches as well. Who would have thought he would become so indispensable?
Stephen Gostkowski also set two records: most field goals in a season for a Patriot and most points. He had two field goals in the first quarter (43, 35) sandwiched around a 51-yard kick by Dan Carpenter. Blount's 36-yard TD run in the second quarter was just the start of the best game of his NFL career while Gostkowski added a 29-yard field goal at the end of the half for a 16-3 Pats lead.
Behind the immortal Thad Lewis (16 of 29 for 247 yds, 1 TD, 0 INT)-their backup quarterback-and C.J. Spiller (19 carries, 105 yards) Buffalo hung around with a 12-yard touchdown catch by T.J. Graham in the third quarter which cut it to 16-10. Shane Vereen caught a 5-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter but the Bills answered with a 5-yard TD run by Fred Jackson.
Gostkowski's 35-yard field goal was matched by Carpenter's 37-yard kick. Blount's 35-yard touchdown run was the one that finally put away the stubborn Bills. PS the last time they made the playoffs was 1999. Where Blount's emergence leaves Stevan Ridley (12 carries, 74 yards) is anyone's best guess. He's still more talented but Blount has really come on late in the season plus can you trust Ridley in a close game not to fumble? I think not.
Of the three teams I mentioned, I believe the Pats would match up best with the bi-polar Colts. They already lost to the Bengals and the Chiefs are decent (good defense and Jamaal Charles would eat them alive). Either way, I like New England's chances in a cold weather night game against any of those three teams at Gillette. I think I speak for the entire world when I say we want Patriots-Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. Of course, that means Peyton Manning has to win one home game (which he couldn't do last year) to set it up. Regardless, see you in two weeks.