The last time these two teams met, in the season opener, the Bills started fast, strip-sacking quarterback Tom Brady, recovering the fumble and running it into the end zone.
The Bills defense was equally tenacious in Sunday's matchup at Ralph Wilson Stadium, but this time, the Patriots came out swinging.
"I thought the players were ready to go early and made some plays early in the game," said Head Coach Bill Belichick after the game.
Brady directed scoring drives in the Patriots first two possessions. They've been starting more consistently in the last few games and put up a field goal in the first series of the Miami game, but the Patriots finally scored a touchdown on their first drive this week against the Bills. They haven't started with a touchdown since last December. Reche Caldwell and Benjamin Watson each contributed first downs in the 14-play drive, and rookie Chad Jackson, finally recovered from a nagging hamstring injury, ran a 14-yard reverse for another first down. Corey Dillon finished both drives with big touchdown runs of 8 and 12 yards, respectively.
"It was a good (first) drive, good execution all the way around," said the never-satisfied Brady after the game. "Good blocking, good throwing, good catching, good routes and good runs. I wish we'd do that more often, but that's what we're working for."
Dillon, a ten-year veteran running back, has more career rushing yards than any other running back on an active roster. His second touchdown came in an extra play given to the Pats when a 12-yard Buffalo penalty was called on a third down. He had a solid game this week, with 14 carries for 47 yards, including a season-high 17-yarder in the final seconds of the game.
]()The Bill's offense responded to the Patriots first touchdown by driving into field goal range. Rian Lindell split the uprights on a 40-yarder, but rookie running back Laurence Maroney exemplified the Patriots determination on the ensuing kick return. He ran 74 yards on the return, the longest return the Pats have had since December of '04, and set the offense up at the Bills 21-yard line.
"It was certainly a lot easier playing them from 11 points ahead instead of 10 points down, like we did the last time," said Belichick.
Buffalo's quick defense responded to the touchdowns, hassling Brady and preventing the Patriots from earning a first down in the second quarter. However, New England's defense kept the intensity up, counter-balancing the struggling offense by recording a fumble recovery and an interception to stop the Bills offense in its tracks.
Mike Vrabel caused the fumble and Asante Samuel made another nice pick this week, following up two interceptions in the previous game against Miami.
The Bills flexed their pass-rushing muscles, sacking Brady four times in the game. Of the nine times Brady has been sacked this season, seven came at the hands of the Bills. However, the Bills defense couldn't do enough to overcome Buffalo's nine penalties.
"It was a long day," said coach Dick Jauron after the game. "We continued to make foolish errors that really don't give us much of a chance to win the game."
A third-quarter 35-yard touchdown pass to Jackson tied the Pats longest reception of the year and sealed the game.
Harrison ups the ante
Harrison is the NFL's all-time leader in sacks by a defensive back and he added to that lead in Sunday's game when he and Rosevelt Colvin worked together to sack J.P. Losman for a 5-yard sack in the third quarter. The sack raised Harrison's NFL-leading career total to 28.0 career sacks. Former Steelers, Jaguars and Ravens safety Carnell Lake ranks second with 25.0 career sacks. Additionally, Harrison is the only player in NFL history to record at least 25.0 sacks and at least 30 interceptions (he has recorded 31 career interceptions). The NFL began counting sacks as an official statistic in 1982.
"This is certainly what we expected to see this week," said Harrison after the game. "Coming off a bye week, a lot of times you can have disappointment."
Caldwell ties career high
Caldwell tied his career high with five receptions for 22 yards against the Bills. Caldwell also recorded five catches while playing for the San Diego Chargers against the New York Jets on Nov. 6, 2005. He was a major part of the Patriots opening drive, which occupied 6:37 of the first quarter. Watson also had five receptions in the game and led the team with 60 passing yards.