FOXBOROUGH — The Patriots escaped Gillette Stadium with a 25-24 win over the Buffalo Bills tonight, but it wasn’t pretty. Instant analysis is always a little dangerous, but let’s take a look at the Patriots players who excelled on opening night and those who weren’t ready for the primetime spotlight.
We’re going to omit Tom Brady and Randy Moss, who both had big nights because they’re supposed to be primetime players.
Watson and Moss. (Barry Chin / Globe Staff)
1. Benjamin Watson — The oft-criticized tight end came up huge in the fourth quarter for the Patriots with a pair of touchdown catches, including a 16-yarder with 50 seconds left that proved to be the winning margin. Watson’s route running drew praise from Brady and the Patriots needed Watson on a night when they only dressed four receivers.
2. Brandon Meriweather — The second-year safety held up Leodis McKelvin to allow Pierre Woods to force the fumble that changed the game after the Patriots had pulled within 24-19 with 2:06 to go. He also led the Patriots with eight tackles and was part of a secondary that contained T.O. (two catches for 46 yards)
3. Stephen Gostkowski — Normally a missed field goal would prevent Gostkowski from being on the up side of the ledger, but he made his other two field goals and came up with McKelvin’s fumble, which was the biggest play of the game.
Light and Brady. (Jim Rogash / Getty Images)
1. Matt Light — Two guys who give Light fits are Jason Taylor and Aaron Schobel. Light was beaten on the Patriots’ only sack allowed when Schobel got around him in the first quarter. Schobel also shed Light to intercept a screen pass that he returned 26 yards for a touchdown. Plus, Light had a tripping penalty in the second quarter that negated a 9-yard run by Fred Taylor.
2. Gary Guyton — Guyton struggled to fill in in the middle for the injured Jerod Mayo. He seemed to be thinking instead of reacting and had a hard time diagnosing the screen pass, which Buffalo burned the Patriots on repeatedly. He also continued to have problems holding up against the run, as Buffalo ran 19 times for 90 yards.
3. Joey Galloway — Galloway didn’t do anything wrong, but he was a total non-factor. In his defense he was only thrown to twice, but that could be an indication that he is still not completely on the same page with Brady, who had 24 of his 39 completions to Moss and Welker, who had 12 catches a piece. With Moss and Welker demanding attention, a receiver of Galloway’s reputation should be able to do some damage.