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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Brady's back bitches


For 3+ quarters last night, Tom Brady's triumphant return to the NFL was anything but by the script.

Everyone assumed that the Buffalo Bills would come into Gillette Stadium and get rolled. A team that had just fired its offensive coordinator, cut its starting left tackle and brought Terrell Owens aboard with a lame duck coach (Dick Jauron) did not seem to be a team destined to upset the Patriots.

Yet there they were, up 24-13 with 5:32 left in the fourth quarter after Trent Edwards (212 yards, 2 TDs) found Fred Jackson (140 total yards) for a 10-yard touchdown on a screen pass.

True to the form of a team that had lost 11 straight games (and 16 out of 17) to the Patriots, Buffalo completely folded.

Brady (378 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) and the offense finally got on the same page and Ben Watson (6 catches, 77 yards) snagged an 18-yard pass to cut it to 24-19 Bills with 2:06 remaining.

The two-point conversion, a pass to Watson, was picked off which seemed like a big deal. The Pats needed to get the ball back fast, and they needed a touchdown to save this poor performance. With three timeouts and the two-minute warning, it looked like if they could force a three-and-out, they'd be in good shape.

Bills returner Leodis McKelvin had other plans though as he tried to be a hero and took the ensuing kickoff out of his own end zone. Wouldn't you know that he fumbled at the 31-yard line after Brandon Meriweather stood him up and Pierre Woods stripped him of the ball. Pats kicker Stephen Gostkowski improbably fell on the ball and the Patriots were in business.

Brady found Watson with an eerily similar pass (16 yards) and New England took a 25-24 lead with 50 seconds left. Once again, they failed to convert the two-point conversion.

Buffalo got the ball back and drove down the field but they couldn't get in field goal range and were forced to try a million laterals, which ultimately failed.

Whew.

Where to begin? Even though, the statistics were dominated by the Patriots, this was a game they had no business winning. No doubt, Dennis Green was spinning in his grave saying "the Bills let them off the hook!"

Randy Moss (12 catches, 141 yards) and Wes Welker (12 catches, 93 yards) had great games but too often, the offense seemed out of sync.

On the other side, the Pats defense lost its best player to a knee injury-Jerod Mayo in the first quarter; he never returned-and they couldn't stop Edwards or Jackson. The secondary apparently held up as Owens was held to 45 yards on two catches and Lee Evans only had 25 yards on three catches.

Clearly Jauron was up to his vanilla play-calling best with the assortment of screens, short passes and counter plays.

Only time will tell if the Bills are as bad as most think they'll be and if the Patriots turn out to be as great as most (myself included) believe.

Shawn Nelson put Buffalo up 7-0 in the first quarter on an 11-yard catch from Edwards.

New Patriot Fred Taylor tied it in the second quarter with a 1-yard run.

Aaron Schobel (who Matt Light makes look like Reggie White) turned in the individual play of the game when he made a one-handed interception of a Brady pass in the second quarter and rumbled 26 yards for the score.

Every single time something bad happen to the Patriots, they'd zoom in on some yahoo fan with the look of someone that had just seen their team lose in the Super Bowl. Relax idiots. It's a long season and as far as a I know, we still have Bill Belichick (patrolling the sidelines in his customary cut-off hoodie) and Brady.

Gostkowski's 20-yard field goal at the end of the first half made it 14-10 Bills but the Patriots were lucky it was that close since they didn't convert on fourth down during their first drive and Gostkowski missed a 41-yard field goal.

Rian Lindell's 40-yard kick put the Bills up 17-10 in the third quarter and Gostkowski answered early in the fourth with a 28-yard kick which set the stage for the ridiculous ending.

If Mayo is out for an extended period of time, that's a big problem. For a defense that lost Tedy Bruschi, Mike Vrabel, Richard Seymour and Rodney Harrison in the offseason, its unclear who will be a playmaker for that defense. Especially one not named Mayo.

It should be another tight divisional game on Sunday afternoon as the Patriots travel to the Meadowlands to play the Jets. New York looked great in week 1, winning at Houston in Mark Sanchez's NFL debut. The Jets defense is good enough to shut New England down if they're offense doesn't work out the kinks this week in practice.

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