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Report card: New England Patriots

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Here are the grades from the New England Patriots’ lackadaisical 17-9 loss to the Buffalo Bills on a day where the backups saw significant action.

Quarterback: Tom Brady played for one half and didn’t look comfortable. He played without Julian Edelman, Dan Connolly and, most importantly, Rob Gronkowski. Rookie backup Jimmy Garoppolo showed signs of poise and the skills needed to be a successful quarterback in the NFL. But with a tough Bills defensive front breathing down his neck and an offensive line that looked like Swiss cheese, Garoppolo was unable to make any standout plays. Grade: C

Running back: It looked like this would be a chance to take a look at rookie James White, but he didn’t get a carry and was only involved in the two-minute drill to close out the game. It was an underwhelming effort from the backfield other than LeGarrette Blount, who found a seam and made a nice shimmy move to shake off Da’Norris Searcy on a 34-yard run in the third quarter. Grade: B-

Wide receiver: Brandon LaFell displayed an impressive burst of speed on a crossing route in the first quarter, turning on the jets for 27 yards. He was the Patriots’ most consistent receiver, as was expected on a day without Edelman. Brian Tyms showed some solid route running early on and his offensive pass-interference call was suspect. Grade: C+

Tight end: It’s tough to put a grade on the tight ends considering the Patriots didn’t have their MVP, Gronkowski, on the field. Michael Hoomanawanui and James Develin (fullback/tight end) made key blocks to spring Blount free on his 34-yard run. Tim Wright and Steve Maneri each had bad drops. Grade: D+

Offensive line: The Patriots didn’t have Connolly or right tackle Sebastian Vollmer. The substitutes couldn’t swing it in the trenches with the Bills. Josh Kline was manhandled on an early sack of Brady as he just staggered backward before falling to the field. Marcus Cannon picked up a holding call and also managed to tackle Danny Amendola on a screen pass as he looked lost on the play. This has been the Patriots’ weakest link. They really need Connolly healthy because the backups are not capable of protecting the quarterback, especially on the interior of the line. Grade: F

Defensive line/linebacker: The play of the game for the Patriots came on a strip-sack and fumble recovery by linebacker Jamie Collins. Collins showed a great second effort as he tossed Bills running back C.J. Spiller around on the big play. Collins’ athleticism is something to marvel at. While used sparingly, Akeem Ayers planted Kyle Orton for a sack with some help from inside pressure forced by Vince Wilfork. Jonathan Casillas had a rough day with a crucial roughing-the-passer penalty as he went in too high and also missed a few tackles on the day. Grade: B

Defensive back: Darrelle Revis couldn’t land the pass breakup on Sammy Watkins’ 43-yard catch and run on the Bills’ opening drive. He redeemed himself later with a textbook breakup on Watkins toward the end of the second quarter on a deep route to the end zone. Malcolm Butler showed strong awareness on a run stop early in the first quarter as he ran along the line from one side of the field to the other. Grade: A-

Special teams: Stephen Gostkowski is as solid a kicker as they come as he went 3-for-3 on field goals. He also bailed out his team with a force-out tackle on a big kick return by Marcus Thigpen. Danny Amendola continues to show consistency in the return game as he had a nice 26-yard punt return. Grade: B+

Coaching: The best coaching decision of the day was sitting Gronkowski. Don’t risk it. He is essential to this offense’s success. Brady probably played a little too long considering the holes on the offensive line with Vollmer and Connolly out. The bizarre play call of the day was a designed QB keeper out of the shotgun to the left side for Garoppolo on a fourth-and-1. It failed. Grade: A-