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Patriots nearly ousted in victory over Bills

The Patriots returned from a 10-point deficit to beat the Bills in Sunday's season opener. They got off to a rough start but regained momentum in the second half.

The Patriots got off to a shaky start, ending the first half down 17-7, but after a second half resurgence they walked off with a 19-17 victory over the Bills. The first play of the game was more-or-less emblematic of the offense's first-half play. Buffalo's Takeo Spikes blitzed an open gap as Tom Brady dropped back to pass. Brady was sacked from behind, fumbling the ball, which was picked up and run into the end zone for a touchdown by London Baker-Fletcher.

"Tough way to start," reflected Brady in his post-game press conference. "We fought back and the next drive was a good drive, we get it back 7-7. But you just can't do that to the defense and we can't do that to ourselves, and it takes a lot to over come that. So 17-7 halftime, I mean that's not what we're looking for at home, the home opener, too many things we didn't do well today."

The offensive line blocked well for running backs Laurence Maroney and Corey Dillon, who gained 86 yards on 17 carries and 73 yards on 16 carries, respectively.

"I think we were pretty effective running the ball, and I think the rest has to pick it up," said Brady.

But the pass protection in the first half was weak, and the Bills didn't allow Brady much time to get comfortable in the pocket. "We were just playing stupid," said center Dan Koppen. The Patriots only netted three passing yards prior to halftime.

The defense struggled as well in the first half, allowing 166 yards from the Bills offense in 30 plays. The Patriots only gained 115 yards during that time in the same number of plays.

Asked about the atmosphere at halftime, Junior Seau said, "It was business. When you're down at halftime, it's pretty much (always) the same." Seau was reflecting on his 17-year career. "There's a lot of love in the locker room," he joked.

The Patriots returned to the field in the second half recharged. Their passing game and defensive effort reflected that.

Don Davis stopped Willis McGahee on a fourth-down run near the Patriots end zone, changing the momentum of the game.

"A fourth down stop is like a turnover," said Belichick after the game. "A missed field goal is like a turnover. Those plays don't go down as turnovers, but they really are. It is no different if you intercepted a pass or recovered a fumble."

Brady connected on throws toReche Caldwell, Dillon, Benjamin Watson, Troy Brown and Kevin Faulk in the Patriots first drive of the half, including a game-long 34-yarder to Watson and a touchdown pass to Faulk. He threw for 133 net yards in the second half.

"I wouldn't think, offensively, anyone would be happy about the way we played. It's very frustrating, but we'll move on," Brady said, though he was being hard on his offense and himself for much of the conference.

"Defensively, we went out there and played our kind of football, the way we know how to play it," said Seau of their second half improvement. "We were more aggressive and everything works when you know where you're going. The fact is that we started off slow."

After the Patriots second touchdown the defense kept up the intensity, preventing Buffalo from earning a first down in each of the three final Bills possessions, with different members of the Patriots defense taking advantage of opportunities each time. Ty Warren sealed the game by scoring two points for the Patriots when he sacked quarterbackJ.P. Losman in the end zone for the Patriots first safety since the 2003 season.

Quote of note:"I wouldn't say it was a no-brainer. It was a tough decision. You know, we're in field goal range, three point range, we'd force them to go for a touchdown. But at that point in the game you like to make one play. And that was the strength of our team is being able to run the ball, at least in this game, you know, we felt like that was the yard, that if we made it, it would end the game. And that is what it did. And so, you know, fortunately, those guys came through. We got good blocking and good running and that was the big play of the game." - Coach Belichick on deciding to go for a first down on fourth-and-two with two minutes remaining in the game.


Patriots even franchise record
The Patriots squeezed out Sunday's win by a margin of only two points but it was a win nonetheless, bringing the team's franchise record to 356-356-9 (.500) in their 47-year history, including regular season and playoff games. During Robert Kraft's first season of ownership in 1994, the Patriots overall record hit an all-time low, 54 games below .500 (228-282-9). Since 1994, the Patriots have wone more Super Bowls (3), conference titles (4) and playoff games (13) than any other NFL team under Kraft's ownership. Sunday's win brings the Patriots record to 131-80-0 in the Kraft era.

Belichick's hits the markCoach Belichick walked away from Sunday's game with his 100th regular season victory. His professional coaching record is now 100-77. He became the 31st head coach in the NFL's 87-year history to reach the 100-win mark. Today's win was Belichick's 64th in 97 regular season games with the Patriots and he remains the franchise's winningest head coach in terms of victories and winning percentage.

Bam Back; Jon Gone
The Patriots signed wideoutBrandon Childress, known by players and fans as Bam, from the practice squad entering Sunday's game. Childress caught nine passes for 160 yards in preseason games, though he did not play in the Patriots preseason opener against the Falcons. He also returned two punts for five yards in the final preseason game at Giants Stadium. In this Sunday's game, he didn't catch any passes, but he did set up a key block for a 22 yard run by Maroney two plays before the Patriots first touchdown. Reciever Jonathan Smith was released just before the game after spending a week on the team. He was released earlier this season from the Bills.

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