If we learned one thing about the New England Patriots on Saturday, it's that you should never write off Tom Brady which is actually something all of us should have probably learned at some point over the past 20 years. After struggling for nearly the entire season, Brady and the Patriots offense finally came back to life on Saturday and they did it against one of the best defenses in the NFL in a gutsy 24-17 win over the Bills.
The Patriots said all week they were going to treat Saturday's showdown like a playoff game, and as the Bills found out, there's no stopping Brady in the playoffs. Although the 42-year-old quarterback has looked his age for most of the season, Brady channeled his inner-39-year-old against Buffalo in what was easily one of his most impressive performances of the year based on the competition he was going up against.
Going up against a Bills defense that was giving up the third fewest yards in the NFL per game this year, Brady was nearly perfect, completing 26 of 33 passes for 271 yards and a touchdown. After the game, Brady was asked if he thought this offensive performance was extra rewarding given the team's struggles and due to the fact that it came against such a good defense.
Week 16 began with some action-packed Saturday games and there's a lot to go over. Fortunately Will Brinson, John Breech, Ryan Wilson and Sean Wagner-McGough are here to break everything down on the Pick Six Podcast. Listen below and be sure to subscribe right here for daily NFL goodness fired into your eardrums.
"I don't think too many of us thought about the season or much," Brady said. "It was really just one game, and what we needed to do to try to move the ball and score points against a pretty good team."
The great ones are great because they save their best performances for their biggest games, and that's what Brady did on Saturday. Although he's struggled at times this season, what the Bills saw was a rejuvenated Brady who was going to do anything it took to win.
You want Brady N'Keal Harry on an 18-yard run for the receiver in the second quarter.? The Bills saw that when Brady helped clear a path for
That Harry run ended up leading to a field goal by Nick Folk that gave the Patriots a 10-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
You want Brady the QB sneak master? The Bills also got a taste of that in this game when he converted a key third-and-1 with just under 5:40 left to play in the fourth quarter.
Nobody's better at sneaking for one-yard than Brady and he proved that again in this game.
If Brady hadn't converted, there's a chance that Bill Belichick would have kicked the field goal on fourth down. Belichick had already called for a short 20-yard field goal earlier in the game, and kicking at that point would have given New England a 19-17 lead with just five minutes left. Instead, Brady made the decision moot, because he got the first down, which was followed by a Rex Burkhead touchdown just two plays later.
You want Brady doing what he does best? The Bills also saw that. What Brady does best is throwing the ball to Julian Edelman, and although the Patriots receiver ended up missing for more than a quarter of action due to an injury in the second half, the two didn't miss a beat when he returned. On his first play back, Brady immediately found Edelman for a 30-yard gain.
Despite missing a quarter of the game, Edelman still managed to catch five passes for 72 yards.
It's no secret that the Super Bowl.has been the team's biggest weakness this year, but if the Patriots have perfected one thing under Belichick, it's fixing all their problems before the playoffs start. The Patriots have had their flaws over the years, but by the time the postseason rolls around, they're generally running on all cylinders, which is why they almost always end up playing in the
"I think it was more balanced than we've been, and we ran the ball good and effectively against a really good defense," Brady said when asked if Saturday's performance will give the offensive confidence going forward. "So, that's always good. I think one game doesn't always necessarily lead to the next, so I think you just have to keep building week-to-week on some things that maybe we did good that worked out, and the things that didn't, you kind of move on from them."
The win on Saturday was big for multiple reasons. For one, it's almost certainly going to give the offense a lot more confidence going forward. The Patriots put up 414 yards, marking the first time since Week 6 that they put up more than 400 yards in a win. The win also clinched the Patriots' 11th AFC East title in a row, and put New England one step closer toward clinching a first-round bye.
New England has always been the one team you don't want to bet against in the playoffs, and if Saturday's game was any indication, that rule is also going to apply to the 2019 version of the Patriots.
New England 24-17 over Bills
|This game might have been different for the Bills if their offense didn't get off to an ice cold start. With 35 seconds left in the first half, Buffalo had totaled just 50 yards of offense, and its only points had come on a field goal that was set up by a Patriots turnover. Although the Bills offense looked much better in the second half, it didn't really matter, and that's because that's when Buffalo's defense fell apart. Not only did the Patriots score on three of their first four possessions in the second half, but the Bills ended up surrendering 414 yards, which is the most yards they've given up to an AFC team all season.|
|Tom Brady wasn't the only offensive player who had a big day for New England. If the Bills defense has one big weakness, it's stopping the run, and New England took advantage of that in this win. The Pats fed Sony Michel early and often as he finished with 96 yards on 21 carries. The Patriots ability to run the ball is a big reason why Brady was able to have such a successful day. As for the defense, although they gave up a few big plays, they did a good job of keeping Josh Allen in check. The Bills quarterback was sacked four times with 1.5 of those coming from Dont'a Hightower.|
Houston 23-20 over Tampa Bay
|With a chance to clinch the AFC South title on Saturday, Houston's offense fell flat on its face, but that didn't matter as the Texans were still able to pick up a win in Tampa and claim the division title thanks to an impressive effort from their defense and special teams. The Texans forced a total of four turnovers in the first half, and they needed all of them, since they ended up scoring 17 of their 23 points off those first-half Tampa miscues. The biggest play came from Bradley Roby, who picked off Jameis Winston's first pass of the game and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. Jahleel Addae also came up with a big interception, which came with just 1:31 left to play and ended up icing the game. On special teams, the Texans came up with a blocked field goal, which obviously ended up making a huge difference in the three-point win. The win means the Texans can rest their starters in Week 17, which is good news for Houston, because Deshaun Watson looked banged up and Will Fuller left with a hamstring injury.|
|In this season of giving, Jameis Winston basically gave the game away to the Texans. Winston got off to an ugly start with three interceptions in the first half, including a pick-six, and then he capped off the loss with an interception late in the fourth quarter that iced the win for Houston. Overall, the Bucs turned the ball over five times, and this game could have turned into a blowout, but Tampa was able to keep this game close thanks to a gutsy performance from a defense that forced two turnovers while sacking Deshaun Watson five times, with three of those coming from Jason Pierre-Paul. The Buccaneers also held the Texans to just 229 yards, which was the fewest they've given up all season. So yes, thanks to Jameis Winston, the Bucs lost despite getting their best defensive performance of the year. |
San Francisco 34-31 over L.A. Rams
|Rams coach Sean McVay clearly saw a weakness he liked in the 49ers defense, because he spent nearly the entire game calling short passes and screens that San Francisco just couldn't stop. Thanks to McVay's game plan, the Rams offense got rolling early on a night where Jared Goff ended up throwing for 323 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Tyler Higbee, who's been on a roll over the past few weeks, continued to stay hot with his fourth-straight 100-yard game (Higbee finished with 104 receiving yards). Although the Rams offense had some serious success, it wasn't enough to overcome the multitude of mistakes that L.A. made in the game. The biggest one came from Goff, who threw a pick-six just before halftime. The Rams defense also completely collapsed down the stretch. Not only did they give up a 46-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders on the 49ers game-winning drive, but they also let the 49ers convert two third-and-16s on the drive, which ended with Robbie Gould hitting the game-winning field goal for San Francisco. It was an ugly sequence for the Rams defense, and it's likely going to leave a bad taste in their mouths since the loss officially eliminated the Rams from playoff contention.|
|The 49ers offense wasn't anywhere close to perfect in this game, but it did come through in the clutch. On a night where Jimmy Garoppolo was sacked six times and on a night where he threw two interceptions, the idea of the beaten up 49ers quarterback leading a comeback didn't seem possible, but that's exactly what he did. On the 49ers final two offensive possessions, Garoppolo combined to go 6 of 8 for 134 yards while leading the 49ers to 10 points, including Robbie Gould's game-winning field goal as time expired. Garoppolo's magic included a 7-yard TD pass to George Kittle that gave the 49ers the lead with 6:06 left and a 46-yard pass to Emmanuel Sanders that set up Gould's kick. Before the final two possessions, Garoppolo had only thrown for 114 yards in the entire game. With Garoppolo struggling early in the game, the 49ers got some major help from their defense and special teams. The defensive help came from Fred Warner, who got a pick-six off Jared Goff right before halftime and the special teams help came from Richie James, who set up the 49ers first score after he returned a kickoff 82 yards to the Rams' 18-yard line in the first quarter.|