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Patriots 2nd half blitz buffaloes Bills

Sunday, September 30, 2012

 

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.

With apologies to Charles Dickens, the New England Patriots’ game at Buffalo Sunday certainly could have been considered a sports sequel to “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Call it “A Tale of Two Halves.”

Trailing the Bills 21-7 early in the third quarter, the Patriots proceeded to bombard Buffalo with 35 unanswered points before the Bills could score – or breathe – again. By the time they did both, however, the tale was told. In all, New England put an incredible 45 second half points up on the scoreboard (matching the franchise record for one half) to beat Buffalo 52-28.

But as overwhelming as the 2nd half may have been, the first half was just as underwhelming. After an opening 90-yard drive gave the Patriots a 7-0 lead, several opportunities presented themselves to a New England offense that couldn’t seem to get out of the way of its own shadow. The defense was able to force two turnovers that the offense could not generate any points from – conversely, the Patriots turned the ball over on two fumbles (Rob Gronkowski and Wes Welker) that the Bills were able to eventually convert into two Ryan Fitzpatrick touchdown passes to Scott Chandler.

It would have been worse than a 14-7 Buffalo lead at halftime, had Vince Wilfork not come up with a fumble inside the Patriots’ five yard line with less than 2:00 to play.

Perhaps that was a sign of things to come. But the first half still left a lot to be desired, especially from the offense.

The 2nd half actually began where the 1st half left off…with Buffalo striking over the top…or rather, up the middle of the soft New England defensive underbelly. Fitzpatrick found Donald Jones for a 68 yard score on the Bills’ first possession, and Buffalo grabbed a 21-7 lead with less than four minutes gone in the 3rd quarter.

Nothing else went right after that, however. Buffalo combined for just two first downs and 31 yards on its next four drives, two of which ended with turnovers. Fans might also recall some symmetry here, with the Patriots leading 21-0 at Buffalo a year ago before the Bills bounced back to get a win in New York. And, the Bills led 21-0 in last year’s rematch in Foxboro last season, only to have the Patriots run up 49 unanswered points to gain their revenge.

Yogi Berra might say – it was “déjà vu all over again.” Starting with an eight play, 80 yard drive that ended with a Tom Brady-to-Danny Woodhead 17 yard scoring pass, the Patriots scored touchdowns on six straight second half possessions – a streak broken only by a rather meaningless Buffalo TD with 6:32 to play. It was an offensive blitzkrieg that ended up with 580 yards of total offense (2nd most ever allowed by a Buffalo defense in a single game)…358 of those coming in the second half alone, along with the franchise-record-tying 45 points.

The Patriots’ defense got into the act as well, forcing a total of six Buffalo turnovers in all, including four interceptions of Fitzpatrick (two by Devin McCourty). Gronkowski and Welker, seemingly bent on atoning for their first half fumbles, combined to torture the Bills secondary for 14 combined catches and 234 yards…but that wasn’t the real body blow delivered. New England running backs ran over, around and through a rebuilt Buffalo defensive front to the tune of 247 rushing yards, with both rookie Brandon Bolden (137 yards) and Stevan Ridley (106 yards) going over the century mark.

The offensive rampage was nearly unprecedented – as New England became just the 2nd team in NFL history to have two different running backs and two different receivers EACH go over 100 yards in the same game.

By the time the wheels stopped spinning, Buffalo had been thoroughly beaten. The Patriots improve to 17-1 in their last 18 games against the Bills, and a remarkable 22-2 against Buffalo since 2000. And this one, like so many of the others before it over the past decade, was a dominant day for the team in Patriot blue.

Scary to think what it might have been like if the first half hadn’t been such a different story.

Post Game Notes

With the victory over Buffalo, the Patriots improve to 2-2 on the season and avoid their first 3-game losing streak in 10 years (Buffalo is also 2-2); they also own a 54-15 (.783) record in regular season AFC East games since the beginning of the 2001 season, which is the best intra-division record of any team in the NFL… with Bolden and Ridley both rushing for over 100 yards, it’s the first time for that to happen since since Nov. 23, 1980 (at the Baltimore Colts) when Don Calhoun (106) and Vagas Ferguson (100) each went over 100 yards rushing…with the two 100-yard rushers and receivers, the only other NFL team to ever accomplish the feat was Green Bay in 2008…four rushing touchdowns tied the franchise record (7th time overall, 1st since 1983), and the 45 points match the 45 put up in the first half against Tennessee in 2009, in Foxboro… Welker, with 6,485 receiving yards, moved past Troy Brown (6,366) into second place on the New England all-time receiving yards list on a 9-yard reception from Brady in the second quarter. Stanley Morgan is in first place with 10,352 yards…
 

 

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