ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Down 21-7 in the third quarter, the Patriots scored 35 straight points before finishing with a 52-28 win over the Buffalo Bills Sunday. It was both stout offensive and defensive performances that spurred the Patriots to victory. Here are some things to consider.
1) The offense is just fine — Two 100-yard rushers, two 100-yard receivers, a 300-yard passer and 52 points on the board says a lot about the Patriots and their week of preparation. Add into the equation that the team didn’t have Aaron Hernandez (ankle), Julian Edelman (hand) and Logan Mankins (hip) to contribute and the win was all the more impressive. The passing game didn’t suffer, the protection didn’t suffer, and the running game was on point. It was almost a flawless effort.
“There’s certainly a lot of room for improvement, but it’s good to come in here and do enough things well,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “We made a lot of plays; we missed some opportunities, but we made a lot of plays. That’s a good feeling to be able to come in here and do that. We’ve got a long way to go. Hopefully we can continue to work hard and improve. I think our team’s got a good attitude — they work hard, they’re tough, and hopefully we can keep getting better.”
2) Six turnovers will make any defense look good — The Patriots aren’t going to see an outing like this too often in which the defense comes up this big. It had hints of the 2010 season when the Patriots had a +28 turnover differential. Four interceptions and two forced fumbles are huge. But two of those interceptions shouldn’t have happened (a weak throw by Ryan Fitzpatrick after Devin McCourty was beat and a tipped ball that was picked off). Add in a goal line fumble by C.J. Spiller, and the Patriots were practically handed three turnovers. It was enough to mask the 438 yards of offense the Bills had, including the 350 yards and four touchdowns from Fitzpatrick through the air. However, the Patriots run defense deserves a ton of credit. They kept Fred Jackson and Spiller to 62 total rushing yards.
“We always pride ourselves on being physical and that’s what we tried to do today,” linebacker Jerod Mayo said.
3) Twice the trouble on the ground — And here we all thought that Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen were going to be the 1-2 punch at running back. No siree. Brandon Bolden got an opportunity Sunday and he ran away with it, picking up 137 yards on 16 carries and a touchdown. Ridley, not to be outdone, carried the ball 22 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns. It was a phenomenal effort by these two that was helped in large part by an offensive line and tight ends group that are more than well versed in run blocking.
“We just stuck to the game plan, and I did what I was asked to do,” Bolden said afterward. “We made the best out of every opportunity.”
4) What’s up with Stephen Gostkowski? — Sure, he nailed a 30-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to salvage his day, but his two misses really stunk. On his first attempt, a 49-yarder, he missed it wide right, appearing to not get a lot on the ball. Six minutes later, he missed a 42-yard attempt wide left, again not getting a lot on the ball. It was an awkward outing for the usually steel-toed kicker, who recorded eight touchbacks on kickoffs Sunday. In seven years with the Patriots, Gostkowski is a 83.9 percent field goal kicker. The last time he missed two field goals in a game was Week 1 of the 2010 season, a 38-24 win over Cincinnati.
5) Small bites — Bill Belichick is now the eighth winningest coach in NFL history with 194 wins, passing Chuck Knox. He needs eight more wins to pass Dan Reeves (201). When he hits the 200 threshold, he’ll be only the eighth head coach to win 200. That’s a lot of eights … Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley’s twin 100-yard rushing effort has them in rare territory. The last time the Patriots had two 100-yard rushers was in 1980, by Don Calhoun (106) and Vagas Ferguson (100). … It’s only the second time in NFL history a team has had two 100-yard rushers and two 100-yard receivers. The Patriots join the 2008 Green Bay Packers in that regard … The Patriots tied a team record with four rushing touchdowns. Last time they did that was Oct. 16, 1983 against San Diego … Wes Welker’s 129 yards give him 6,485 for his career, good for second place in Patriots franchise history, passing Troy Brown (6,366). Welker trails Stanley Morgan (10,352) … Tom Brady passed Kerry Collins to become 11th all-time in passing yards. He has 41,206 in his career now. Drew Brees is in 10th place … There were only four penalties in the game, a significant dropoff from the Patriots-Ravens game in which there were 24.