Patriots Buffalo the Bills
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Sometimes, it takes awhile to knock the rust off.
After all, it stands to reason that after taking a week off, like the Patriots did last week, offense won't come instantly. Or defense either, for that matter.
But these are the New England Patriots we're talking about, and after whipping Buffalo on the road at the end of September by 24 points, they wouldn't really need much help to repeat the feat, would they?
Of course they would. These are the Patriots we're talking about...as they held on for a closer-than-it-looked 37-31 win at Gillette Stadium.
After opening the game with a 43 yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal, the New England defense made it's presence felt. A strip sack by Vince Wilfork on Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and fumble recovery by Jermaine Cunningham set the Pats up at the Bills' 13 yard line...and after several defensive penalties the Patriots pushed it in on a 1-yard Stevan Ridley run to make it 10-0 with 3:58 to play in the first quarter.
Buffalo got a 41-yard field goal from Rian Lindell to pull within 10-3 as the second quarter opened, only to have the Patriot offense then kick into high gear. An eight play, 84 yard drive was completed with Danny Woodhead's 15 yard TD run to make it 17-3...and the Bills seemed poised to go down without much of a fight.
And that's when the fight started.
The Bills jumped right back into it with a six-play, 80 yard march, finished off by Fred Jackson's 14 yard scoring run. But their defense gave the Patriot offense a huge push on the ensuing drive, with a face mask penalty and an end zone interference call that chewed up huge chunks of yardage. Tom Brady hit Rob Gronkowski with a three yard pass for the score, and New England assumed control with a 24-10 lead just before the half.
Fans might recall, however, that in each of the last three games between these two teams, the first side to reach 21 points on the scoreboard lost the game. Buffalo bounced right back and scored on a 3-yard TD pass from Fitzpatrick to Scott Chandler with :31 seconds to play in the half, and all of a sudden, it was 24-17 at the break.
With the football to start the third quarter, the Patriots appeared to be in position to assume command, once again. But a Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams sack of Brady snuffed out the opening drive, giving the Bills a chance to pull even. Jermaine Cunningham came to the rescue, sacking Fitzpatrick for a six yard loss to keep Buffalo pinned deep. And following a personal foul penalty on the punt, NE started their next drive in great shape at the Buffalo 39...where it took only four plays to punch in another score. Brady hit Woodhead, avoiding a sack in the process, for an 18-yard catch and run touchdown. 31-17 Patriots, with 7:06 to play in the third quarter.
But the Bills weren't about to go down without a fight. An 11-play, 84 yard drive was capped off by Jackson running into the endzone for a three-yard score, and it was 31-24 Patriots as the quarter came to an end.
Gostkowski hit a 49-yard field goal to put New England back up by 10 early in the 4th at 34-24, with 14:10 remaining. But Buffalo was not going down easily. Helped by a roughing-the-passer call against Brandon Spikes on Fitzpatrick, the Bills were poised to take it in until Jackson lost the ball on a second-effort run to the endzone from 13 yards away. Kyle Arrington recovered the loose ball at the one yard line after an official review, and the Patriots dodged a big-time bullet.
For one of the few times in the game, the offense failed to produce a first down, giving Buffalo another shot with great field position at the NE 45...and 9:16 still to play. C.J. Spiller gained 14 yards, and another 15 yards tacked on with a late hit out-of-bounds call on Jerod Mayo. Four plays later, Fitzpatrick hit Donald Jones from two yards out, and the Bills were very much alive, pulling within 34-31 and 7:47 left in regulation.
This time, the offense answered the call. Brady found Wes Welker for a huge 23 yard gain to set up a Gostkowski 27 yard field goal, and a 37-31 advantage. It wasn't quite over, however.
The Bills began a drive, 80 yards away from a potential game-winning score, with 2:06 left. Fitzpatrick hit Johnson for 21 yards on a 3rd and 9, and on a 3rd and 3 play from the NE 37, Fitzpatrick hit Chandler for a first down, then found Spiller at the 15. With :28 seconds left, Devin McCourty made the big play, intercepting Fitzpatrick in the end zone to end the threat. And the game.
And the rust as well.
Post Game Notes
The Patriots have swept the season series against the Bills for the 10th time in the last 12 years and earned their 22nd series sweep of Buffalo. New England has now won their last 12 games against the Bills at home, including an 11-0 record against Buffalo at Gillette Stadium...Tom Brady is now 20-2 all-time against Buffalo as a starting quarterback. The Patriots improved to 10-3 under Bill Belichick after a bye week...Danny Woodhead scored two times with a 15-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter and an 18-yard reception in the third quarter. It is his first two-touchdown game of his career...the Patriots own a 56-15 (.789) record in regular season AFC East games since the beginning of the 2001 season, compiling the best intra-division record of any team in the NFL...the Patriots have 3,873 net yards through the first nine games in 2012 and are on pace to finish with 6,885 yards, a total which would rank fourth in NFL history and set a new franchise record...Stevan Ridley finished the game against Buffalo with 98 rushing yards on 22 carries and added his sixth touchdown of the year...Gillette Stadium hosted the New England Patriots Team Championship for the 2012 NFL Punt, Pass & Kick program prior to the game, and among the winners of the competition were Anya Zub of Franklin, MA in the 6/7 Girls competition, Krystyna Morawiec of Lee, MA in the 8/9 Girls, Jack Norwood from Canton, MA in 8/9 Boys and Caylie McMahon of Stow, MA in the 10/11 Girls category....