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Game Notes: Patriots vs. Bills

WHAT A RUSH
The Patriots gained 183 rushing yards on 41 carries today (4.5 avg.), compiling their highest rushing yardage total since gaining 225 yards on 50 carries (4.5 avg.) at Cleveland on Dec, 5, 2004. New England totaled 136 net passing yards against Buffalo, making today's game the first since that 2004 game against the Browns that the Patriots have gained more rushing yards than passing yards.

IN A RUSH TO START THE SEASON
Today's 183-yard rushing performance marked New England's highest rushing total in a season opener since 1985, when the Patriots gained 208 yards on 41 carries against Green Bay (Sept. 8, 1985). The team record in a season-opening game is 241 rushing yards, achieved against Kansas City on Sept. 18, 1977.

HOT ROD RETURNS
Safety Rodney Harrison led the team with nine tackles (4 solo) in his first regular-season game since suffering a season-ending knee injury in a game at Pittsburgh on Sept. 25, 2005. Harrison missed the final 13 regular-season games and the playoffs in 2005, but rehabbed his knee during the offseason and returned to make an impact in New England's season-opening victory.

SAFETY
Ty Warren sacked JP Losman in the end zone for a safety with 8:33 left in the game to give the Patriots a 19-17 lead. The safety was the first for the Patriots since Dec. 7, 2003, when Mike Vrabel and Jarvis Green combined to sack Jay Fiedler in the end zone in a 12-0 victory over Miami to clinch the AFC East title.

CLOSE CALLS
Tom Brady improved his record to 23-3 as a starter in games decided by six points or less and improved to 15-3 in games decided by three points or less. Today's 19-17 win improved Brady's record to 2-0 in season openers decided by three points or less, joining New England's 27-24 victory over Indianapolis on Sept. 9, 2004. Since Brady took over as the starting quarterback early in the 2001 season, the Patriots have lost just three games decided by less than a touchdown, one of which Brady played in only the first quarter (the 2005 regular season finale against Miami, a 28-26 Dolphins victory).

BOUNCING BACK
With today's victory, the Patriots have now gone 50 consecutive regular season games without losing back-to-back games. Prior to their win over the Bills, New England's last regular season game was a 28-26 loss to Miami on Jan. 1, 2006. The Patriots' 50 game streak without two straight losses is the longest current streak in the NFL and 10 shy of the NFL record of 60, set by the San Francisco 49ers from 1995-99. The last time the Patriots lost back-to-back games was in 2002, when they dropped a game at Tennessee (24-7, 12/16/02) and followed that up with a home loss to the New York Jets (30-17, 12/22/02).

CLIMBING THE CHARTSWith his 11-yard run in the first quarter, Corey Dillon passed Eddie George to move into 16th place on the NFL's all-time rushing list. Following that carry, Dillon's career rushing total stood at 10,446 yards, eclipsing George's career total of 10,441 yards. Ricky Watters is currently in 15th place on the all-time list (10,643 yards). Dillon ehas compiled the highest career rushing total of any running back on a 2006 opening-day active roster. Dillon is the only NFL player on an opening day roster to have recorded more than 10,000 rushing yards.

SOLID START FOR MARONEY
Laurence Maroney gained a total of 49 yards on his first two NFL carries, starting his pro career on the right foot. The two runs provided the majority of the yardage on a 9-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Troy Brown. Maroney's first NFL carry was a 27-yard scamper that brought the Patriots to the Bills' 30-yard line, with his shifty running eluding tacklers as he bounced outside the numbers and headed downfield. He followed that up with a similar run to the opposite side of the field that was good for 22 yards. Over the course of the 2005 regular season, the Patriots had just two rushes longer than either of Maroney's first two runs of the season (a 31-yard run by Patrick Pass on Nov. 20, 2005 and a 29-yard run by Corey Dillon on Oct. 2, 2005).

HOME SWEET HOMEThe Patriots' overall record at Gillette Stadium improved to 31-6 (.838) with today's victory (including regular season and playoff games). New England's home record is the best in the NFL since Gillette Stadium opened for the 2002 season.

SELLOUT STREAK
Today's game was the 129th consecutive home sellout for the Patriots. The streak includes preseason, regular-season and playoff games and dates back to the 1994 regular season opener. Today's game is the 47th such game at Gillette Stadium.

BIG BENJAMIN
Benjamin Watson grabbed a 34-yard pass from Tom Brady in the third quarter, recording the second longest reception of his regular-season career. The grab was just one yard shy of his career long, a 35-yard catch in the 2005 season opener against Oakland and was the key play on a Patriots touchdown drive that ended in a 17-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Kevin Faulk that cut the Bills lead to 17-14. Watson caught 10 passes of 20 yards or longer in 2005, while leading all Patriots tight ends with 29 receptions.

FAULK SCORES
Kevin Faulk lined up as a wide receiver and made a diving catch on a 17-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to cut the Bills lead to 17-14. The touchdown reception was the ninth scoring grab of Faulk's career and his first since Dec. 20, 2004, when he snared a 31-yard scoring pass at Miami. Faulk now has 21 total touchdowns in his career, including 10 rushing scores and two on kickoff returns. The touchdown catch was the 234th reception of Faulk's career and he trails only Tony Collins (261 catches) for the highest reception total by a running back in Patriots history.

NFL DEBUTS
The following players made their NFL debuts this afternoon - K Stephen Gostkowski, DB Willie Andrews, RB Laurence Maroney, LB Pierre Woods, OT Wesley Britt, OT Ryan O'Callaghan and TE David Thomas. Additionally, DL Le Kevin Smith was active but did not play.

TOUCHDOWN TROY
Troy Brown scored the Patriots' first touchdown of the season when he hauled in a 9-yard pass from Tom Brady with 10:47 remaining in the first quarter. The scoring grab was the 28th receiving touchdown of Brown's career and his 31st overall touchdown (including three career punts returned for a score). Brown is in his 14th season as a Patriot and is tied with three other NFL players for the second longest current tenures with the same team (Green Bay's Brett Favre and Detroit's Jason Hanson are in their 15th seasons with their respective teams). Additionally, today Brown joins just three other Patriots as having played in 14 or more seasons with the franchise - QB Steve Grogan (16 seasons from 1975-90), OT Bruce Armstrong (14 seasons from 1987-2000) and LB Steve Nelson (14 seasons from 1974-86).

COMING UP ROSES
Rosevelt Colvin sacked JP Losman for a 9-yard loss on first down in the second quarter. The sack was New England's first of the season and the 41st of Colvin's career. Last season, Colvin led the team with 7.0 sacks. On the next play following his sack, Colvin batted down a Losman pass, bringing up a third-and-19 situation that the Bills could not convert.

CAPTAINS ELECTED
The Patriots elected their 2006 team captains in the week leading up to today's game. The players selected QB Tom Brady, WR Troy Brown, LB Tedy Bruschi, S Rodney Harrison, SpT Larry Izzo, DL Richard Seymour and LB Mike Vrabel as captains. The same seven players were also selected as captains in 2005.

HOME OPENERS
The Patriots are now 10-2 in their last 12 home openers, including a 5-0 record in home openers at Gillette Stadium. The last time the Patriots fell in a home opener was on Sept. 23, 2001, when they dropped a 10-3 decision to the New York Jets at Foxboro Stadium.

BELICHICK GETS 100th WINPatriots Head Coach Bill Belichick recorded his 100th career regular season victory today (100-77, .565). Belichick became the 31st head coach in the NFL's 87-year history to reach the 100-win mark. Belichick now holds a 64-33 (.660) record in the regular season since becoming Patriots head coach in 2000. He is already the franchise's winningest head coach in terms of victories and winning percentage.

FRANCHISE REACHES .500 RECORD
Following today's game, the Patriots' overall team record is 356-356-9 (.500), including regular-season and playoff games. During Robert Kraft's first season of ownership in 1994, the Patriots' overall record bottomed out at 54 games below .500 (228-282-9). The low point was reached on Nov. 6, 1994 following a 13-6 loss to Cleveland (to a Browns team coached by Bill Belichick), which dropped the Patriots to 3-6 in the 1994 season. Kraft has since transformed that team into a model NFL franchise that has won more Super Bowls (3), conference titles (4) and playoff games (13) than any other NFL team since 1994. The Patriots now have a record of 51 games above .500 in the Kraft era, compiling a 131-80-0 record.

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