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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Nobody Makes You Feel Worse About A Win Than These Patriots

I thought I had run out of ways to describe a terrible win a few weeks ago when the Patriots were handed a 29-26 overtime win against the Jets in Week 7. New England (6-3, 3-1 home) outdid themselves this afternoon at Gillette Stadium with a 37-31 "victory" over the Buffalo Bills (3-6, 2-4 away).

I hate repeating myself but in this case, it's totally necessary. Once again, New England's defense couldn't get off the field or stop one of the worst teams in the NFL. Also, their offense similarly couldn't get their job done either since they had a chance to ice it with a long drive and TD but they had to settle for a field goal.

Therefore, we had to sweat out a two-minute drive by Ryan Fitzpatrick (27 of 40, 337 yards, 2 TDs, INT, fumble) that looked destined to end with a touchdown. That is until the Harvard product remembered who he is and what he does in that type of situation: Devin McCourty (8 tackles, 4 solo, forced fumble, pass defensed) picked him off in the end zone to finish it.

Exhale. Buffalo hasn't won in Foxborough since 1999 (hello Doug Flutie) and they probably would have done it today if they didn't continuously shoot themselves in the foot with penalties (14 for 148 yards) and costly turnovers (3). Tom Brady (23 of 38, 237 yards, 2 TDs) improved to 20-2 in his career against the Bills and the Patriots swept the season series against Buffalo in 2012.

It's hard to explain how a team that had an extra week to prepare, against a divisional opponent that they know very well, could still struggle so badly on defense. I guess the best we can muster for an explanation is that the Bills' skill players are a matchup nightmare for the Patriots.

Buffalo easily could have scored 45 points if Fitzpatrick had thrown a touchdown at the end and Fred Jackson (80 yards rushing, 2 TDs; 35 yards receiving) hadn't fumbled at the 1-yard line. C.J. Spiller (70 yards rushing, 61 yards receiving), Steve Johnson (6 catches, 86 yards), Donald Jones (6 catches, 74 yards, TD) and Scott Chandler (5 catches, 65 yards, TD) made their fantasy owners happy.

On the positive side, when the Pats had the ball, they toasted Buffalo's defense. Stevan Ridley had 98 yards rushing and a touchdown, Wes Welker had six catches for 74 yards while Danny Woodhead had two touchdowns and Rob Gronkowski caught a touchdown (something he's done in all six games against his hometown team).

Stephen Gostkowski's 43-yard field goal and a 1-yard touchdown run by Ridley were the only points in the first quarter. Rian Lindell got Buffalo on the board with a 41-yard field goal before Woodhead's 15-yard TD run made it 17-3. Jackson answered with a 14-yard TD run and the teams traded scores as neither defense could get off the field. Gronk had a pretty diving 2-yard TD catch but Chandler had a 3-yard TD catch with 31 seconds left in the 1st half.

Woodhead's 18-yard catch and run increased New England's lead to 31-17 in the third quarter but Jackson's 1-yard run showed the Bills weren't going away. Gostkowski had a 48-yard field goal in the fourth before Jones caught a 2-yard touchdown. Gostkowski's 27-yard field goal provided the final points.

With the Dolphins (4-5) loss and the predictable Jets (3-6) no-show in Seattle, the AFC East is the same graveyard it has been for much of the last decade. More importantly for the Patriots, who have won three in a row, they can find out where they stand against some real teams beginning next Sunday. The Colts (6-3) led by rookie quarterback Andrew Luck come to Gillette (4:25 p.m., CBS) riding a four-game win streak.

UPDATE 11/12: Linebacker Jeff Tarpinian was released (he still has practice squad eligibility left) with cornerback/savior Aqib Talib taking his place on the 53-man roster.

UPDATE 11/13: The Pats signed free agent guard Mitch Petrus (a former Giant) to the roster and released linebacker Jerrell Harris from the practice squad. Additionally, Tarpinian was re-signed to the practice squad.





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