Foxborough, Mass. - For Adam Vinatieri, Sunday night's 29-6 win over the Buffalo Bills was a milestone game. Not only did the Patriots long-time kicker notch five field goals and two extra points for a career-high 17 points, but he has now scored 1,010 points to become only the second player in franchise history to eclipse the 1,000-point plateau.
"It's a great feeling," Vinatieri said. "I really have to thank my teammates. Being on such a great team for eight and a half years now, you can't do that without a lot of good players around you. I've been very fortunate and very successful with the guys who have done a great job getting it down there and getting it done. I feel like it's a great situation and a great opportunity to be on a such a great team."
Vinatieri also tied a career high by making five field goals, good from 27, 24, 20, 45 and 37 yards. He now trails only Gino Cappelletti (1,130) on the Patriots all-time scoring list. From 1960-1970, Cappalletti scored 42 touchdowns, hit 176 field goals and recorded 342 extra points.
"Gino is a great man and a great athlete," Vinatieri said. "Anytime I can be in the same sentence with that guy I feel honored. He was an athlete though. I'm just a kicker. He was catching touchdowns and things too, so that's a different story."
Vinatieri entered Sunday's game with 76 points to lead all NFL kickers in scoring. He has made 18-of-19 field goals this season, and is currently on pace for a career-high 165 points. Vinatieri's best season was in 1998 when he recorded 127 points. With 93 points already this season, he is nearly a lock to extend his streak of 100-point seasons to start his career to nine.
"It's one of those things that you can back on," Vinatieri said. "As a rookie and in the first few years, it's one of those things that almost feels unattainable."
Dillon Delivers Again
Running back Corey Dillon continued his string of strong performances for the Patriots. Dillon rushed 26 times for 151 yards against the Bills, his fifth 100-yard game of the season and 33rd of his career. Dillon reached the 100-yard mark for the fourth consecutive game despite missing parts of the second and third quarter with what was announced as a leg injury. Dillon was off to a strong start, rushing 12 times for 89 yards before leaving the game midway through the second quarter after an 8-yard run.
Dillon didn't appear to be effected by the injury, rushing for 62 yards in the second half on 14 carries. Kevin Faulk added 61 yards rushing on 13 carries, as the Patriots rushed for a season-high 208 total yards on 45 carries, a 4.6-yard per carry average. Dillon, who now has 900 yards rushing this season and is on pace for a career-high 1,600 yards, is the first running back to rush for 100 yards against the Bills this season.
"That's a great defense and they play hard," Dillon said. "You get 100 yards on them and it is well deserved. We stuck with it and came up with a few plays. I was able to get up field with the ball and made some tough yards."
What Can Brown Do For You?A mini-celebration erupted on the New England sideline early in the fourth quarter when wide receiver and defensive back Troy Brown recorded his first career interception. Brown, in coverage on Eric Moulds in the slot as the Patriots nickel back, leaped to snare a ball overthrown by Drew Bledsoe and returned it 17 yards.
"I was happy to get one after dropping one last week," Brown said."I just wanted to get on the stat sheet with an interception. It's great. I know I had Moulds in the slot right there, so you know he is their go-to guy, so I figured it was going in that direction and I don't think he saw me coming. I was locked behind those big guys and I don't think [Bledsoe] saw me so he threw it to him and I was there to make the pick."
Sunday marked Brown's second consecutive week on the defensive side of the ball for the Patriots. He recorded three tackles and a pass defended last week in his first regular-season appearance as a defensive player.
Ugly Situation Avoided
Linebacker Tedy Bruschi considers himself lucky. Bruschi was in the middle of what looked like a horrific injury late in the fourth quarter, but wound up walking under his own power to the sidelines and appears to have escaped without a serious injury. With just less than four minutes left in the game, Bruschi went to make a tackle on Buffalo's Joe Burns when his right leg was caught underneath him and his body weight pushed him backwards on top of the leg. Bruschi was attended to by trainers but made his way to the Patriots bench to watch the in-stadium replay.
"I really had to check myself, because I didn't know," Bruschi said. "You never know when you get bent up in positions like that. The guys were calling me "contortionist" on the sideline, "gumby" and stuff like that. They were like, 'C'mon, Tedy is double-jointed he's going to be alright.' The bottom line, what is was is that I was lucky tonight. I sort of got away with one. I hope to not be in that situation anytime soon."
The Patriots took advantage of Buffalo turnovers Sunday, turning two early interceptions by Bledsoe into 10 second quarter points. Trailing 3-0 late in the first quarter, Bledsoe was intercepted by Patriots safety Eugene Wilson on a deep pass down the right sideline intended for a well-covered Eric Moulds. The Patriots took over on their own 3-yard line, driving 91 yards in 11 plays for a 24-yard field goal by Vinatieri.
Trailing 13-0 late in the second quarter, Bledsoe was intercepted again, this time by linebacker Tedy Bruschi on a pass intended for Lee Evans. Bruschi returned the ball 29 yards to the Buffalo 27-yard line, setting up a 5-yard pass from Brady to tight end Christian Fauria. Bledsoe struggled against the Patriots, completing 8-of-19 passes for 76 yards and three interceptions. In terms of passer rating, Bleddoe's 14.3 quarterback rating was the worst performance of his career, falling below an 18.4 rating he recorded on Sept. 21, 2003.
Second-year cornerback Asante Samuel did not play against Buffalo, as the Patriots went with cornerbacks Earthwind Moreland and Randall "Blue" Gay in the starting lineup. Samuel, who had started the last three games, suffered an arm injury in the first quarter of last week's and didn't return until a brief stint in the fourth quarter. Samuel was dressed and on the sidelines for the game after spending the week as "probable" on the injury report. According to head coach Bill Belichick, Samuel did not suffer a setback during the week and "could have played." Moreland had two tackles while Gay finished with four tackles.
Game Day Inactives
The Patriots listed eight players as inactive for Sunday night's contest: Cornerbacks Ty Law and Tyrone Poole; running back Cedric Cobbs; linebacker Matt Chatham; wide receiver Deion Branch; and defensive linemen Marquise Hill and Ethan Kelley. Jim Miller was designated the third quarterback.
Honor Thy Red Sox
The Patriots honored several members of the Boston Red Sox organization prior to kickoff. Principle owner John Henry, CEO Larry Luchino, general manager Theo Epstein, manager Terry Francona, outfielder Johnny Damon and pitcher Curt Schilling were announced to the Gillette Stadium with the 2004 World Series trophy. This year marked the first time since 1979 (Pittsburgh) that a city had celebrated championships in the NFL and Major League Baseball in the same calandar year.
Quick HitsSunday's attendance was 68,756. Including the playoffs, it was the 111th consecutive sellout at Gillette Stadium. ... New England won its 16th consecutive game at home, the longest current home winning streak in the NFL. The Patriots also improved to 20-3 all-time at Gillette Stadium. ... It was also their ninth straight win against AFC East opponents. The Patriots haven't lost within the division since a 31-0 loss to Buffalo in the 2003 season opener. ... Vinatieri's 27-yard field goal in the first quarter gave the Patriots a 3-0 lead and marked the 17th consecutive game, including the playoffs, in which the Patriots have scored first. ... Wilson recorded his team-high third interception of the season. ... Reserve linebacker Tully Banta-Cain had 1.5 sacks for the Patriots. All of Banta-Cain's 2.5 career sacks have come against Bledsoe. Banta-Cain also record his first career interception off J.P. Loseman. ... Brady completed 19-of-35 passes for 233 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. ... Brady completed passes to 10 different Patriots receivers. David Givens led the Patriots with five receptions for 66 yards. ... Bruschi and Mike Vrabel led the Patriots with six total tackles each.