The New England Patriots won the opening coin toss and elected to defer to the second half, kicking the ball to the Buffalo Bills to open the game. The Bills and Patriots played one of the fastest first quarters you’ll ever witness, using up 13:30 of the clock over just two drives.
The Bills led a 13-play, 66-yard drive down to the Patriots 6-yard line, with Tyrod Taylor and LeSean McCoy chipping away at the New England defense. Fortunately for the Patriots, Taylor threw the worst interception you’ll ever see at the goal line and new Patriots defensive lineman Eric Lee came down with the ball. Some interceptions are good plays by the defender (see: Butler, Malcolm - Super Bowl XLIX), but Taylor simply lobbed the ball to Lee.
Tom Brady and the Patriots offense responded with a 14-play, 59-yard drive that stalled on the Bills side of the field due to some excellent coverage by the Buffalo secondary.
Brady and Josh McDaniels got into a heated argument on the sideline after Brady missed a wide-open Brandin Cooks that would have moved the chains. Instead, the Patriots settled for a 50-yard field goal that Stephen Gostkowski connected on for a 3-0 lead.
Tom Brady getting into sorts with Josh McDaniels. pic.twitter.com/HCZuhKevTC— Rich Hill (@PP_Rich_Hill) December 3, 2017
The two sides exchanged punts until the Patriots took over from their own 31-yard line, with Brady finding TE Rob Gronkowski for 16 yards, and then Dion Lewis ripping off a 44-yard gain to get to the Bills 7-yard line. Rex Burkhead picked up 2 yards on first down, but then Brady underthrew Burkhead on second down and the Buffalo pass rush hit home on third down- Kyle Williams got past Joe Thuney for the 8-yard sack.
Gostkowski connected on a 31-yard field goal for a 6-0 lead.
The Patriots run defense forgot how to play on Buffalo’s ensuing drive, giving up 38 yards on their first three plays, flipping the field to New England territory. The Bills used Joe Webb at quarterback instead of Tyrod Taylor, with Webb picking up 22 yards on the ground and almost hitting Travaris Cadet for a potential touchdown. Instead, the Bills had to settle for a 49-yard field goal, getting just enough distance on the kick, cutting the lead to 6-3.
New England received the ensuing kick off with roughly three minutes left in the half, setting up the Patriots offense for a double-score around the half since the Patriots get the ball after the half.
Brady found Rob Gronkowski for 12 yards and then Rex Burkhead ripped off a 31-yard gain to get into field goal range. The Patriots focused on draining the clock and moved into the red zone, but Thuney gave up another sack, this time to Adolphus Washington, and then Nate Solder was flagged for a false start, moving the Patriots to a third-and-18 on the Bills 25-yard line. James White ran up the middle for 5 yards to set up another field goal attempt for Gostkowski.
Gostkowski hit the 39-yarder for a 9-3 lead heading into the half.
The New England defense needs to work on containing the quarterback in the pocket (45 rushing yards by Bills quarterbacks) and they can’t allow LeSean McCoy (10 carries, 60 yards) to take over the game. The Patriots offense needs to convert their yards and long drives into points and Tom Brady needs to settle down- he’s been visibly frustrated in the first half.
Brady completed 8 of 14 passes (57.1%) for a mere 96 yards. It’s been one of his most difficult outings of the year. Danny Amendola is the only wide receiver with a catch, with 2 for 34. Gronkowski has 2 catches for 28 yards and Burkhead and White each have 2 catches for 17 yards. The Patriots have had a lot more success running the football, gaining 130 yards on 17 carries for a 7.6 yards per carry rate. The offense really needs to get going.
The Patriots lead 9-3. New England gets the ball after the half.