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Posted: Sunday, 29 December 2013 9:12PM

Sideline Reactions: Patriots 34 - Bills 20



Foxboro, MA (WGR 550)  -- With a new general manager, a new head coach, a new quarterback and a host of new starting players all over the field, the Buffalo Bills turned around and had the same record as they did in 2012. It's a different feeling 6-10 in 2013 than it was at the end of last season, but the results remain the same.

In their final week, the Bills were run over by the New England Patriots for yet another loss at Gillette Stadium. 

Blount bludgeons Bills
- Add New England running back LeGarrette Blount to the long list of players that have had humongous days against the Buffalo Bills after being an afterthought by most. Blount pounded his way through Buffalo's defensive line all game long and ended up with 189 yards on the ground, averaging 7.9 yards per carry.  The tone was set early on when Blount busted two big gains for his initial runs of the season, where the Bills just couldn't wrap him up and bring him down. The trend continued on kick coverage in the second half, with Blount taking two straight kickoffs for huge yardage to help the Patriots to additional points on the board. He was far and away the best player on the field.

Dareus costing his team dearly
- For the second straight game, the tardiness of Bills defensive lineman Marcell Dareus forced him to be benched for a period of time as punishment. Last week, he was only benched for the first quarter and then for this game he missed the entire first half. The Bills missed his absence in a very large way. The Patriots set the tone early on in the game by dominating the line of scrimmage and pushing the Bills back to set up huge gains on the ground. Dareus, who has been playing at an extremely high level all season long, could have helped prevent that. Instead, the Bills went into the game shorthanded along the defensive line because he couldn't get to a meeting on time. Later on in the game that he made a mistake that killed him on the inside. It didn't crush the Bills in the grand scheme of things, but Dareus jumping offsides on a 4th-and-1 where the Patriots were lined up to attempt a field goal gave them new life, and nearly a two touchdown lead after they converted. Dareus has all the talent in the world, the mental side of the game -- including getting to things on time -- is still something he must master.

Special teams needs a new coordinator
- From a scheme perspective on kickoffs, kick returns, punt coverage and punt returns, the Bills are unequipped to put a stop to teams or even bust a game wide open. Special teams have been a strength to the Bills for quite some time and the overall regression of that unit is incredibly conceding, considering the fact that they have two returners that can be very deadly and potentially bust a big play (Leodis McKelvin and Marquise Goodwin). That is why Danny Crossman, the Bills current special teams coordinator, needs to be relinquished from his duties. Blount's two big kickoff returns in the second half falls at the feet of Crossman. The bad part, however, is that he may not get fired. He has a long-standing relationship with head coach Doug Marrone, and even Marrone alluded to getting a good core of special teams players in Buffalo as opposed to a change of the coach. Crossman hasn't been successful in the league in some time, and Buffalo hasn't been an exception in that regard.

Spiller with a quiet 100
- With what is likely to be his most frustrating NFL season to date, running back C.J. Spiller led the way in both carries and yards against a very susceptible New England front. Spiller ended the day with 105 yards and an average of 5.5 yards per rush, but that isn't close to being a consolation prize to what he was billed to be in 2013. Spiller went from being the focal point for Doug Marrone and offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, to being a timeshare running back that can't be trusted on third down to pick up the blitz. Even still, the 100-yard effort has to be one that Spiller will look at and yearn for what could have been in 2013. With only one year left on his deal, his future with the team will be one of the hottest topics as the off-season rages on.

Second-chance yardage all over the field
- With both Blount and Stevan Ridley having an immense amount of success running the ball, the question that begs to be asked is simple. Where did the defense from Week 16 go? Well, the defense was still there, but the Patriots made them play into their own tendencies. The Bills have been known to overrun plays defensively which have led to big cutback lanes for backs. It happened once again to the Bills and some of their young and hungry defenders. Secondly, the second-chance yardage was outstanding for New England and abysmal for Buffalo. When it seemed like the Bills had either Blount, Ridley, Shane Vereen or Julian Edelman boxed up for a minimal gain, the players either made one cut or broke a tackle and kept right on going to burn the Bills even more. The defense has certainly flashed some brilliance, but now it must learn to not be a victim of their own aggressiveness.

Their own worst enemies
- The Bills had ample opportunities to get back into the game. But where the Patriots capitalized on those opportunities, the Bills shot themselves in the foot. New England put the ball on the ground four separate times and Buffalo couldn't come up with the loose football, despite having the first crack at it on at least two of them. Adding to that frustration were the penalties, when it seemed like the Bills were gaining a bit of momentum they got saddled with either an offsides penalty (Marcell Dareus) or two straight unsportsmanlike conduct penalties to put New England in scoring range. It was just a frustrating day for a team that got run out of the building, literally.

Bills' MVP: HB C.J. Spiller - 105 yards on 19 carries. Too little, too late?

Bills' LVP: DL Marcell Dareus - Missed the entire first half due to tardiness and then took a devastating penalty late in the game.

Draft Order Update: With both Tennessee and the New York Giants winning, the Bills will be selecting 9th in the 2014 NFL Draft in May with a 6-10 record.

Up Next: Locker room clean out, free agency, the draft, figuring out where it all went wrong.

Final Thoughts
- The base of the rebuilding project has been laid down at One Bills Drive. They have a lot of interesting pieces to the puzzle already and have shown flashes of being a good team every so often. The problem for them and for most teams that finish the season with a record slightly below the .500 mark is that they'll never get over the hump unless they play with the necessary level of skill to win consistently in the NFL. How will the Bills go about that? Figuring out how to get quarterback EJ Manuel to take the next step would certainly be a start, and surrounding him with  more playmakers on the field that are conducive to his success would be another. Whatever they end up doing, the Bills have a few holes that need filling. If they fill the right ones, there is potential for this team. But if their quarterback doesn't take the next step, and continues the 2013 trend of only showing flashes here and there, 2014 could be just as frustrating as it's predecessor. The one thing that's certain, like every year, it's going to be one very interesting off-season at One Bills Drive.

Twitter: @JoeBuscaglia

All photos courtesy of AP
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