Whole Team Comes Together
Pats Maintain AFC East Dominance
The New England Patriots passing game got out of first gear, the rushing attack maintained consistency, and the bend-don't-break defense bent, but didn't break, as the Patriots put it all together and methodically defeated the Buffalo Bills, 28-6.
For the most part, the news was good. The Patriots looked better, if not polished, and the receiving corps made great strides in quelling trepidation about its capabilities. The defense, which has been the single stable facet of the early season, remained stalwart. Quarterback Tom Brady didn't exhibit any body language to interpret as anything but positive.
But there were a couple hitches. First, the offensive line did not look good. In fact, at times, they were downright awful. Early in the game, Brady got smacked repeatedly, and running backs Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon found little quarter in which to maneuver.
Most discouraging, defensive end Richard Seymour left the game late in the second quarter with an injured left elbow and did not return. The status of the injury, typical to Patriots protocol, is unknown, and little likely will be known before (and possibly even after) the next injury report is released Thursday.
New England Patriots tight end Ben Watson throws a team-patented
stiff-arm picking up some serious YAC on one of his five receptions
in Sunday's 28-6 win over Buffalo.
New England flew out of the gate from the opening toss, embarking on a 14-play, 71-yard drive that consumed the first 6 minutes, 37 seconds of the first quarter, culminating in an 8-yard scamper up the middle by Dillon. On that play, the Patriots blocking was impeccable, but it would not remain so. The Pats notched six first downs on the drive, keyed by a 14-yard end-around by wide receiver Chad Jackson and a 14-yard pass from Brady to tight end Ben Watson.
Buffalo responded with a field goal, but only after New England's defense stiffened inside the red zone, as they have so many times for so many years. Buffalo only found itself in such a fortunate position -- their only time in the red zone -- because Willis McGahee turned a dump-off pass on 3rd-and-14 into a 56-yard gain.
But the tide turned again immediately, as Maroney streaked between the coverage and rode the sideline like a lawn edger in returning the ensuing kickoff 74 yards, and nearly took it all the way, but for a last gasp trip up by a ruthlessly stiff-armed Jabari Greer.
It looked like Buffalo might hold the Patriots to a three-and-out, but Bills defense end Chris Kelsay made what may have been the mistake of the game, tackling Brady after the quarterback had sat on the turf and given himself up. The unnecessary roughness penalty turned what would have been a 4th-and-13 into a 1st-and-10, and Dillon stepped around the left end on the next play for a 12-yard touchdown.
New England was able to recover from similar adversity when Buffalo scored twice early in their Week 1 matchup, but the Bills were up to no such task Sunday.
The way New England was marching down the field, it looked like it would be a unmerciful day for Buffalo. It turned out to be merely painful.
The quick score that made it 14-3 may have been too quick. That drive took a meager 1:25 off, and for the rest of the half, New England was unable to muster any kind of drive, the longest from there lasting just 2:00. Fortunately, the defense did its job, and Buffalo put no points on the board, despite mounting a couple lengthy drives, and taking a 16:40 to 13:20 edge in time of possession into halftime.
The Patriots were unable to capitalize on two late-half Buffalo turnovers, and finished the half on three straight three-and-outs.
As has become another New England calling card, Bill Belichick's team made halftime adjustments that made a difference. The Patriots held Buffalo to a short drive to open the third quarter and, while they didn't score themselves, they chewed up the clock (5:25) and then changed field position, pinning the Bills inside their 15.
Three plays after starting a drive from their own 40, Brady hit Ben Watson up the middle, who turned a short-gainer into a 20-yard pickup. On the next play, Brady hit a wide open Jackson for a 35-yard touchdown.
The Patriots defense buckled down, while the offense had just one drive of less than 2 minutes. By game's end, the Patriots gained a significant 31:40 to 28:20 edge in overall time of possession. That translates to a gargantuan 18:20 to 11:40 advantage in the second half.
New England also earned a 3-0 lead in turnovers.
The Patriots turned none of those turnovers directly into points. The icing-on-the-cake touchdown came midway through the fourth quarter after a Buffalo field goal made the score 21-6. New England drove 67 yards in 4:09 (second longest yards, third longest time). On wrd-and-9 from the Pats 34, Brady hit Watson, who turned yet another short pass into a 17-yard gain. On the next play, Brady connected with Doug Gabriel for 31 yards, and then Troy Brown on a wide receiver screen for 12 more.
After two Dillon rushes into the middle of the pile, Brady threaded a pass through multiple Buffalo defenders to Gabriel who cut his route in the end zone to head back toward Brady. Brady later called the pass "stupid" and something he shouldn't have done. It worked out this time, and it virtually sealed the game.
Brady finished the game 18 for 27 for 195 yards. Dillon had 47 yards on 14 carries (3.4 yards per carry). Maroney had 29 on 8 (3.6). Watson and Reche Caldwell had 5 catches each. Watson had 60 yards, Caldwell 22. Gabriel had 45 yards on 3 catches.
Defensively, Junior Seau had 5 solo tackles and 4 assists. Eugene Wilson had 5 solo; Vince Wilfork 4. Tedy Bruschi had 3 solo, 4 assists and a recovered fumble. Rodney Harrison had 3 and 3. Mike Vrabel had 2 and 5, plus a forced fumble.
Seymour was apparently hit by teammate safety Harrison on the play when he hurt his elbow.
New England committed just three penalties for 25 yards. Buffalo had 9 for 67.