What Buffalo Bills Learned Week 17 vs. New England Patriots

By Ryan Womeldorf
Buffalo Bills New England Patriots
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

That kind of went as expected, didn’t it?

For a long time now, the Buffalo Bills have been at the mercy of the New England Patriots. The tide seemed to be turning when the Bills nearly toppled the mighty Patriots to kick off the 2013 season only to see a last-second Stephen Gostkowski field goal sail through the uprights to give the bad guys the win.

Heading into Sunday’s matchup, there wasn’t much left to play for in Buffalo other than the role of spoiler. The Patriots were playing for all-important playoff position with a myriad of possibilities in terms of seeding depending on whether they won or lost.

The Bills hung around for awhile, but in the end their greatest weakness did them in: the run defense. LeGarrette Blount steamrolled them on the way to a monster day and the rest was history.

I Don’t Even Know Anymore

I’ve never professed to being a super knowledgeable X’s and O’s football guy, so maybe the answer is right there in front of my face. For the life of me, I can’t understand why the Bills are so bad at stopping the run.

They clearly have talent all over the defensive side of the ball – from Mario Williams  to Kiko Alonso to Jairus Byrd – yet on Sunday, Blount absolutely demolished them. At 6-foot 250-pounds, Blount is obviously a load to handle, but the Bills couldn’t do anything to limit him. He ran for a career-high 189 yards on the day and, thanks to returns of 83 and 62, set a Patriots record with 334 all-purpose yards. He flat out demolished the Bills.

The run defense has been a problem over the last few years and my only inclination is that, outside of Alonso, the Bills don’t have anyone who can be an every-down, sideline-to-sideline linebacker. Whatever the case, if the Bills want to take the next step in 2014 they need to fix the run defense.

On The Other Hand

Man, the Bills need to re-sign Byrd because this pass defense is nasty. They shut down Tom Brady and not many teams can make that claim. The future Hall of Fame quarterback finished just 14-of-24 for 122 yards, one touchdown and one interception on the rainy day in Foxboro.

The Bills finish the regular season as the 4th-best pass defense in the game, allowing just a shade over 200 yards per game (the run defense finished 28th). They have a ton of talent on defense, and most of it is set to return next year with a few question marks sprinkled in.

If the Bills are going to take that step forward next year, it will be led by a fierce pass rush and one of the best pass defenses in football.

Decision Time Part Deux

The Bills will have an interesting offseason ahead of them. The big question on offense is just what to do with C.J. Spiller. Do the Bills look at the former first-round pick and accept that they will never quite get what they expected, platoon the Clemson product and hope for the best? Or do they give him the ball as much as he can handle and see if he can take off?

Spiller will be the first to admit that he’s had a down season compared to the expectations, but the possibilities are always there. He had a fine day against the Patriots with 105 yards rushing on 19 carries. Is it a matter of inconsistency or a matter of Spiller not getting enough of the workload to find that consistency?

Whatever it is, the Bills have to take a long, hard look at just what they have in the offseason.

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