There was a lot of talk coming out of Buffalo this week, both from Rex Ryan and his players.
And the home squad actually came out swinging on both sides of the ball to open the game at Ralph Wilson Stadium to take an early lead.
But the Bills could not sustain the energy, execution or score as Tom Brady's Patriots scored 21 points on three straight touchdowns on three straight possessions on a total of just 12 plays to build a lead that would not be relinquished.
New England took a 24-13 lead into halftime – thanks to Buffalo giving us the first missed PAT at the longer distance in a Patriots game this fall – and did its best to run with it in the second half. Buffalo dug a hole with some undisciplined play on both sides of the ball, and both teams were hit with double-digit flags, but in the end New England took care of business.
Brady, Rob Gronkowski and Julian Edelman continued the offensive show the got going on opening night, this time against a defense that's supposed to be among the better in the league this season. New England churned out 507 yards of total offense on the way to the 40-32 victory.
Defensively the Patriots bounced back from a dismal opening drive to make Tyrod Taylor look like what he is at this point – a young, raw quarterback with questionable accuracy. New England sacked Taylor eight times, picked him off three times and for the most part made the youngster work for everything he got.
Ryan and the Bills talked the talk leading up to the game, but New England was the one that walked the walked as it has done so many times previously to Buffalo and others, finishing off a 40-32 win that shouldn't have been as close as the final score would indicate.
Brady's Patriots improved to 2-0 to remain atop the AFC East and Ryan's Bills go back to the drawing board in terms of trying to build a team in Western New York that's actually ready to take on Bill Belichick's division powerhouse.
It was another Brady-led beatdown of a team that had more words than plays.
Buffalo fans chanted in the Week 1 upset of the Colts, "We want Brady." They, like their team, weren't ready for what No. 12 and Co. brought to town.
"We came up here, scored 40 points and we're 1-0 in the division," Bill Belichick concluded. "I didn't think it was all that spectacular by anybody, but it was good enough. But we have a lot of room to improve."
Things may have gotten a little tighter than they should have late – New England maybe even getting caught up in trying to put up too many points or prove a point to their outspoken foes – but it all worked out enough to win.
Here's a look at some of the personnel highs and lows from the Patriots big early-season win in Buffalo:
Jamie Collins/Dont'a Hightower – New England's two linebackers overcame a shaky start – Hightower took himself out of the play on a goal line run blitz for Buffalo's opening score – to take it to the Bills offense. Collins was a blitzing machine that the Bills decided not to block, including a near-safety on one of his 2.5 sacks on the day. Collins finished with11 tackles to go along with the sacks, as well as two tackles for a loss, three QB hits and a forced fumble. Hightower had a game-high 12 tackles as well as a half sack and QB hit. The two younger linebackers continue to take on a bigger role in the middle of the defense while veteran Jerod Mayo takes backseat.
Dion Lewis – New England supposedly had a heated three-man battle for the right to replace Shane Vereen this summer. After two weeks, though, it looks like Lewis has taken the role and run with it. After a career-day in the opener, Lewis was at it again in Buffalo as a both a runner and receiver. The short but not small back had a team-high seven rushes for 40 yards (5.7 avg.), including a 6-yard touchdown, as well as six catches for 98 yards. Lewis did put the ball on the ground for the second straight week – which needs to be fixed – but he's also proving himself a potent playmaker.
Tom Brady – No. 12 was great at home on opening night. He was great again on the road in Buffalo this Sunday afternoon, even if the game got closer than it needed to be late. Brady completed 38-of-59 throws for 466 yards (most ever allowed by the Bills) with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 105.6 passer rating. He spread the ball around to the point that four receivers topped 87 yards or more, including Rob Gronkowski hitting for 113 yards on seven catches with one score. Brady was only sacked twice, got the ball down the field more and executed with the ball in his hands and more often than not against a supposedly elite defense. Oh, and Brady now sits on 399 career touchdown passes.
Rob Gronkowski – The best pass-catcher in football was at it again. Gronkowski had seven catches for 113 yards with one touchdown. He averaged 16.1 yards a catch, including a 36-yard long. Gronkowski puts pressure on a defense when he catches the ball. He also puts pressure on by forcing the opponent to come up with different ways to try to deal with his unique skill set. Brady just missed on a couple deep balls to big No. 87 that could have made the numbers even more grand. Gronkowski is averaging 17 yards per catch through two weeks. Pretty damn impressive.
Stephen Gostkowski – The All-Pro kicker is rolling early. While other teams are missing extra points – including the Bills – Gostkowski is perfect on PATs and field goals. He hit his first four three-point tries of the year from 46, 21, 50 and 25. He also had seven touchbacks on his nine kicks, with eight of those making it into the end zone. Two weeks in the Patriots have had the far better kicker in each game, a trend that's likely to continue all season.
Bradley Fletcher – The veteran cornerback is still working to get his footing and find his role in New England. He's seeing sub action on the outside and, as was the case in his last season in Philly, has let guys get behind him too often. Fletcher was nailed for a long pass interference penalty and then a long touchdown by Robert Woods. The veteran, unfortunately, is picking up where he left off last year with the Eagles.
Scott Chandler – Brady did his best to get his veteran tight end, who was making his return to Buffalo, a touchdown on two straight snaps. The first resulted in a pass defense and no score on a quick slant. The second was a fade that resulted in a drop in which the tall pass catcher bobbled the ball a number times before it fell incomplete. Chandler finished with three catches for 23 yards but missed out on his second touchdown in as many weeks and really has only himself to blame for it.
Fourth-quarter coaching – The Patriots led 37-13 with less than a minute to play in the third quarter and were well on the way to the blowout win. But the approach from that point seemed nothing like one toward trying to run the clock out or be conservative. Frankly, it seemed like the foot never left the gas. It was shotgun. It was a deep pass on four-and-1. Even up 12 with five minutes to play, Brady dropped back twice in the shotgun and that led to a stripsack. Belichick admitted the team will review its late-game approach, even though they did what they thought was best at the time. It worked out in the end, but it got a little tense for Patriots fans with the Bills getting the ball back with chance to tie prior to a game-clinching interception.
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