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Five to the finish ...

Posted by Albert Breer  December 20, 2009 08:55 PM

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Five quick hits from The Ralph ...

1) Everyone behind No. 39: This offense's identity is shifting, and it's no longer the spread-heavy, pass-happy attack it was in 2007 and '08. All you have to do is look at the shift to multiple-tight end and multiple-back sets and Tom Brady being under center, rather than in the shotgun. And it only works with Laurence Maroney running the way he has over the last month. His 81 yards on 23 carries won't jump off the page, but his approach and physicality did Sunday.

2) Big-shot Brandon: It's hard to excuse Brandon Meriweather's attempt at a kill shot in the fourth quarter. He lined up Josh Reed, drove a shoulder into him, and watched the veteran receiver bounce free and race up field. Had he wrapped up Reed, he would've thwarted the Bills' attempt at converting a vital fourth and 8. As it was, Reed broke free for 29 yards. Meriweather's had a good year, but that's the second pretty critical mistake in as many weeks for the ascending young safety.

3) Randy Moss, Possession Receiver: The Patriots used Randy Moss in this game a little more like they employed him against Atlanta, running him underneath to get the ball in his hands. They took shots downfield too -- even got a 41-yard interference penalty out of one of them -- but seemed to be more focused on clearing out for Moss to run drags and slants, and get him in space with a chance to turn it up. So not a bad bounceback effort for No. 81 ...

4) Answers up front: The Bills made a concerted effort to run the ball on their first drive, and shoved it down the Patriots' throats, making the injury-depleted defensive line look inept. From there, a plethora of penalties put Buffalo in bad down-and-distance situations, and kept the Bills from really recommitting to the running game. The Patriots also made adjustments to stop them, but it's pretty clear that this team needs Vince Wilfork on the field. And having Ty Warren back won't hurt either.

5) And as for the leader: Brady posted subpar numbers for the second straight week, and his downfield accuracy looks like it's being affected some by his finger injury. Plus, the Patriots went three-and-out on four of their seven second-half possessions, which is rather alarming. But give the QB points for guts, and credit for coming up big when it mattered most. He delivered the dagger in the fourth quarter. His 8-yard pitch-and-catch with Wes Welker converted a third down that set up the Patriots to go into Victory Formation.
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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