The more things change, the more they stay the same.
The New England Patriots took yet another step towards securing their ninth straight AFC East Division Title, in a 23-3 victory of the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Pats improve to 10-2, which the Bills fall to 6-6.
Rex Burkhead collected a pair of touchdowns and tight end, Rob Gronkowski, hauled in 9 receptions for 147 yards. Quarterback Tom Brady went 21 of 30 for 258 yards, with one interception. In the process, he improved to 27-3 over the Bills and broke an NFL-Record (formerly held by Brett Favre over Detroit) for most wins by a quarterback against any one opponent.
While the final score seems to be indicative of a blowout, the reality was actually quite different.
The First Half:
The Buffalo Bills’ began the game with an impressive drive that looked like it was about the make the Patriots pay for deferring possession after winning the coin-toss. However, Tyrod Taylor threw an interception to former Bills’ defensive end Eric Lee in the red zone. The Pats gained five first downs on the ensuing drive but stalled at the Buffalo 21. Stephen Gostkowski made a 50-yard field goal to get the Patriots on the board.
In the second quarter, Brady found Gronkowski for 16 yards. This was followed by a Dion Lewis run for 44 yards, down to the Bills’ 7-yard line. However, the Bills’ defense held. Kyle Williams sacked Brady on third-and-goal. As a result, Gostkowski made a 31-yard field goal to give New England a 6-0 lead.
On Buffalo’s first play after the kickoff, quarterback-turned-receiver, Joe Webb, ran for 22 yards. LeSean McCoy followed it up two plays later with a 12-yard run to get to the Patriots’ 37. Webb, channeling his inner quarterback, attempted a pass out of the shotgun formation and overthrew an open Travaris Cadet down the middle. Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka made a 49-yard field goal to cut Buffalo’s deficit to 6-3.
The Patriots set out to put points on the board before the half. They were off to a great start in doing so by driving to the Bills’ 14-yard line. The Bills would again play stout defense to hold them out of the end zone yet again. Adolphus Washington sacked Brady on second-and-7. Once agains settling for three, Gostkowski made a 39-yard field goal with 15 seconds remaining. The Patriots led the Bills at the half, 9-3.
The Second Half
The Patriots moved the ball methodically down the field to start the second half with a 10-play, 70-yard TD drive. Gronkowski had catches of 19, 16 and 16 yards on the drive. Lewis plowed through the middle for 14 yards down the Buffalo 1. Burkhead capped the drive with a 1-yard TD run to put the Patriots up 16-3. Just like that, the Patriots offense seemed to have found its groove.
On the next drive, Taylor took a 20-yard sack on third-and-5, forcing a Bills punt. Gronkowski wrestled a reception away from Buffalo rookie Tre’Davious White for a 30-yard catch. Brady completed a pass to James White on third-and-10. It appeared that White was a yard short, but New England was given the first down. The Patriots caught the Bills off guard with a quick snap as Buffalo thought it was fourth down. Burkhead ran for 10 yards and rushed for a 14-yard TD on the next play. The Patriots were taking control of the game, and would not look back.
When Tyrod Taylor was forced to leave the game with a knee injury, Bills rookie, Nate Peterman took over. He orchestrated a 14-play drive, but the Bills couldn’t come away with points. His first two passes were incomplete but he completed back-to-back 12-yard passes to Deonte Thompson and Zay Jones to get into New England territory. Buffalo went for it on fourth-and-goal from the 1 but Peterman’s pass in the end zone for Jones was broken up by Stephon Gilmore.
With 4:39 left, White intercepted Brady on a pass intended for Gronkowski. What seemed to be an insignificant play ended with four penalties. Gronkowski hit White late, while he was down. Gronkowski was called for unnecessary roughness and could face a fine, or even suspension for his actions. New England’s Danny Amendola and Buffalo’s Micah Hyde were each hit with unnecessary roughness penalties after a scuffle. Finally, Bills’ linebacker Jerry Hughes was called for unsportsmanlike conduct against an official.
The final from Buffalo, Patriots 23, Bills 3
The Patriots take their talents and 10-2 record to South Beach, in a Monday Night Footballl showdown with the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium at 8:30 p.m.
–Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Content Writer for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Chargers. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC