The New ‘A-Team’ Large In Patriots’ Opening Day Win
With all the talent that the Patriots have on both sides of the ball, certain games will inevitably come down to the same guys making key plays at opportune times. In Sunday’s Opening Day win over the Bills, however, it was a couple of the bottom two guys you might expect, but ones near the top of the roster, who were key assets in helping the team pull out the two-point win.
Everyone will remember Tom Brady going 6-for-6 on the eventual game-winning drive and steer his pre-halftime interception that cost the team seven points to the back of their minds. Many of us will also point to the reliability of Stephen Gostkowski as a big factor in the win since after all, he went 3-for-3 and was right down the middle on the game-winner with five seconds left. Finally, the productiveness and toughness of newcomer, Danny Amendola, was sure to have stood out in the minds of some, but in my opinion, that is what he was brought here to do – to be that No. 1 receiver and spend a good deal of time in the spotlight.
Two of the more impressive guys on Opening Day, however, arguably were Kyle Arrington and rookie punter, Ryan Allen. In case you forgot, two of the most critical factors in the outcome of an NFL game are turnovers and field position. These two were at the center of both these departments for the Patriots on Sunday.
Let’s start with Arrington. Yes, he was beaten on Steve Johnson‘s third-quarter touchdown reception that gave the Bills the lead for a while, but he could have gotten a little bit better safety help on the play. Other than that, he was all over the place – especially compared to what we are used to seeing from him as a nickel corner.
He forced both Bills’ fumbles, the first of which was a result of good form tackling the bigger C.J. Spiller and punching the ball out at the same time. Giving the Pats starting field position at the 16-yard line of Buffalo all but guaranteed a score for the Brady-led offense. Arrington also made five tackles on the day, including four solo and one for a loss. He then forced another fumble late in the first half that led to Brady’s second touchdown pass and Julian Edelman‘s second touchdown catch as he finished the day with more tackles than Dont’a Hightower, Aqib Talib, Brandon Spikes and Devin McCourty, while not being used as an every-down player.
Aside from getting beat on the Johnson touchdown, Arrington also had a solid day in coverage while he was on the field. He picked up his first pass deflection of the season and played a role in no Bills’ receiver having more than 41 receiving yards on the day. Also, E.J. Manuel was able to throw for just six passing first downs due to the tight coverage across the board. Fred Jackson, their leading receiver and a running back, would have been the responsibility of a linebacker most times, anyway.
If he can keep up a certain level of play and contribute somewhere close to what he was able to do on Sunday, it bodes well for the Patriots’ secondary. Should Alfonzo Dennard end up missing any time (though unlikely) due to his legal troubles, Arrington could be a viable replacement for him at starting corner. If not, based on Sunday’s performance, he is not a bad third option in the nickel defense.
As for Allen, I know it was just one game, but he looked more like a veteran than a rookie on Sunday. His 39.3 yards per punt (six punts) are near the bottom of the league after one week (30th), but he was still able to fill the shoes of Zoltan Mesko pretty nicely as he consistently pinned the Bills deep.
Allen pinned the Bills inside their 20 three times, including one touchback and had a long of 65 yards. Their average starting field position was their own 24-yard line, but that was aided by two New England turnovers on their end of the field as well. They began drives inside their own 20 five times, including another six at the 20-yard line.
Buffalo began their first drive at their own 10-yard line following an Allen punt on New England’s first drive of the game. Two plays later, Spiller fumbled (Arrington) and New England took over inside the red zone. On third and three, Brady was able to take advantage of his placement on the field, which opened up the play book a bit, and found Edelman just in the right spot in the endzone. It started with Allen.
It was a good start for Foxboro’s new A-Team. Throw Amendola in there and you got a nice AAA spark for the new faces and young guys. Any contributions they can ontinue providing will only add to the talent the team already has.
Follow me on Twitter @RealAndyLarmand.