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The Point After, Patriots-Bills analysis:New England showed 'mental toughness'

"Any way to score on the road, in an environment like this, in the division, when you need a win," LaFell asserted, "we gotta get it. When you lose a guy like Mayo, the heart and soul of our defense, one of the leaders on this team… it messes up your game, but the next guy behind him has to step up. We knew on offense, losing him, we've got to make plays. We had to convert third downs, keep drives going."

"Great execution, and everyone doing their job, staying in the system, taking the coaching points," wide receiver Julian Edelman said later. "It started with a good week of practice. We knew going into the game that it would be a 60-minute fight, which it pretty much was.

"It's mental toughness. It's doing stuff that benefits the team, even when it's not good for you. That's how we define it. Guys went out there and everyone contributed. Defense played real good."

"Gotta match it every single week," declared tight end Rob Gronkowski. "Every game's huge. Every game's a new game. Every team's well-prepared and good players on every team. It was a good practice week. Every week we take the same practice approach. Work hard, win or lose, and keep getting better."

Another major positive on offense, though, seems to be the re-emergence of Gronkowski as an unstoppable force. Only a holding penalty by Jordan Devey preventing him from scoring in one of his favorite NFL venues, in front of the hometown crowd where he grew up. A couple of injury scares in the game notwithstanding, the tight end looked more like the Gronk of old for the second straight week.

710x380-20141012-gronk.jpg

"I want to be out there grinding every single play," Gronk added, "I want to be going hard, getting my teammates pumped up, them getting me pumped up. It's just awesome to be out there running around full speed, just smashing, hitting, running… everything."

It's becoming more and more clear, though, that the Patriots are struggling offensively due in large part to the inconsistency up front on the offensive line. And now with Ridley perhaps gone indefinitely, it's unclear how the Patriots will generate rushing yards on a consistent basis.

Yet, despite the inconsistency on offense and the now mounting injuries overall, New England mustered enough energy to withstand a relentless Bills team that was fighting for supremacy in the battered AFC East.

"It feels good," added LaFell, "but we know as a team, we haven't played to our best ability yet. We felt like that today in the first half. The next couple of games against better teams, we have to capitalize."

In the end, New England left town with a win and a familiar position: alone atop the AFC East, with another division foe, the New York Jets, coming to town on Thursday night.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – It was going to be darn near impossible for New England to travel to Western New York and match the intensity it exhibited throughout the Bengals game a week earlier. The Patriots expended all the energy they could muster after an emotional week following a drubbing in Kansas City.

Buffalo, meanwhile, had reason to be upbeat. The team's new owner held a midweek celebration to mark the takeover and announced that the Bills would remain in Buffalo (there's been much speculation about the Bills being a candidate to relocate).

The New England Patriots take on the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, October 12, 2014.

Making matters worse, New England was forced to trot out its fourth starting offensive line of the year after rookie center Bryan Stork suffered a head injury during the practice week.

Tom Brady and the offense didn't go three-and-out on their opening drive, which they'd done far too often before – but the O still struggled to sustain drives throughout the first half. Were it not for a Yeoman's effort by the defense, forcing three turnovers, New England would not have been in position to score at all.

Buffalo, meanwhile, kept things close with a first-half touchdown of their own.

The o-line issues only got worse when co-captain Dan Connolly sustained a head injury of his own in the second quarter and had to leave the game.

At the start of the second half, New England got a spark offensively from an unlikely source – wide receiver Brian Tyms. His phenomenal 43-yard TD catch put New England up 20-7, but the Bills, behind recently promoted QB Kyle Orton, stayed within arms' reach throughout the second half.

The Patriots offense took yet another blow in the second half when ball carrier Stevan Ridley appeared to injure badly his left knee. While defensively, New England may have suffered another loss with co-captain Jerod Mayo, who also sustained a knee injury that required him to be carted off the Ralph Wilson Stadium turf.

The ebb and flow became almost predictable. Gradually, though, the Patriots pulled away. Brady spread the football to 10 different receivers, including Brandon LaFell, who caught his second and third touchdowns as a Patriot in the fourth quarter.

"Any way to score on the road, in an environment like this, in the division, when you need a win," LaFell asserted, "we gotta get it. When you lose a guy like Mayo, the heart and soul of our defense, one of the leaders on this team… it messes up your game, but the next guy behind him has to step up. We knew on offense, losing him, we've got to make plays. We had to convert third downs, keep drives going."

"Great execution, and everyone doing their job, staying in the system, taking the coaching points," wide receiver Julian Edelman said later. "It started with a good week of practice. We knew going into the game that it would be a 60-minute fight, which it pretty much was.

"It's mental toughness. It's doing stuff that benefits the team, even when it's not good for you. That's how we define it. Guys went out there and everyone contributed. Defense played real good."

"Gotta match it every single week," declared tight end Rob Gronkowski. "Every game's huge. Every game's a new game. Every team's well-prepared and good players on every team. It was a good practice week. Every week we take the same practice approach. Work hard, win or lose, and keep getting better."

Another major positive on offense, though, seems to be the re-emergence of Gronkowski as an unstoppable force. Only a holding penalty by Jordan Devey preventing him from scoring in one of his favorite NFL venues, in front of the hometown crowd where he grew up. A couple of injury scares in the game notwithstanding, the tight end looked more like the Gronk of old for the second straight week.

710x380-20141012-gronk.jpg

"I want to be out there grinding every single play," Gronk added, "I want to be going hard, getting my teammates pumped up, them getting me pumped up. It's just awesome to be out there running around full speed, just smashing, hitting, running… everything."

It's becoming more and more clear, though, that the Patriots are struggling offensively due in large part to the inconsistency up front on the offensive line. And now with Ridley perhaps gone indefinitely, it's unclear how the Patriots will generate rushing yards on a consistent basis.

Yet, despite the inconsistency on offense and the now mounting injuries overall, New England mustered enough energy to withstand a relentless Bills team that was fighting for supremacy in the battered AFC East.

"It feels good," added LaFell, "but we know as a team, we haven't played to our best ability yet. We felt like that today in the first half. The next couple of games against better teams, we have to capitalize."

In the end, New England left town with a win and a familiar position: alone atop the AFC East, with another division foe, the New York Jets, coming to town on Thursday night.

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