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Monday, October 13, 2014

Well That Was More Like It: Patriots Win 37-22 at Bills Thanks to 4 TDs from Brady

Since my chosen occupation is sportswriter, I'd like to think that I can always find the right words, phrases or sentences to describe almost anything (within reason wise guys). However, tell me how you can sum up Tom Brady's 23-2 career record vs. Buffalo? For the second week in a row, New England (4-2 overall, 2-2 away) started to look like themselves again and this time they took their show on the road with a 37-22 win this afternoon vs. Bills (3-3 overall, 1-2 home) at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Brady (27 of 37 for 361 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs, 139.6 QB Rating) has quieted the doubters the last few games and he had another stellar performance. This one was vintage TB12: he hit 10 different receivers with passes led by Brandon LaFell (4 catches, 97 yards, 2 TDs), homeboy Rob Gronkowski (7 catches, 94 yards) and Julian Edelman (9 catches, 91 yards). The most promising part of the passing game (alliteration much?) was that Tim Wright (1-yard) and Brian Tyms (43 yards for his 1st career NFL TD) also caught touchdowns.

Without question, the win took a toll on the Pats though (how much we'll find out tomorrow) as Jerod Mayo and Stevan Ridley suffered potentially season-ending knee injuries. Plus it sounds like Dan Connolly picked up another concussion which is really bad news since Brian Stork was inactive, New England's offensive line is still a nightmare.

The pattern is usually that the Bills play the Patriots tight in Buffalo and then get blown out in late December at Gillette Stadium. For a while, Buffalo hung around today but they never led, not even once. New England was up 13-7 at halftime so they outscored the Bills 24-15 in the second half. Kyle Orton (24 of 38 for 299 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) was fine by his low standards but Jamie Collins picked him off and Chandler Jones forced and recovered a fumble. I still don't understand why the Bills benched E.J. Manuel for him but then again, they are the Bills so logic or intelligence rarely applies when talking about them.

Buffalo lost the turnover battle 3-0, capped off by a C.J. Spiller fumble right before halftime that the Pats converted into a 53-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski (3 field goals, 4 PATs). What was Buffalo doing, why didn't they just kneel like every other team in the league would have in a heartbeat?

After a scoreless first quarter, that set the NFL back 20 or 30 years, New England opened the scoring with a 1-yard play action pass from Brady to Wright. It was all set up by a pass interference penalty drawn by Edelman in the end zone.

Sammy Watkins (2 catches, 27 yards) took a one-way trip to Revis Island which left Scott Chandler (6 catches, 105 yards) and Robert Woods (7 catches, 78 yards) to pick up the slack. Woods caught a 7-yard touchdown from Orton which tied it at seven, the only that Buffalo knotted it up. Gostkowski missed a field goal earlier, because of Danny Aiken's garbage low snap, but he made up for it with a 42-yard kick then the bomb at the end of the second quarter.

I don't want to make too much out of it since it's the NFL and almost everyone makes a play at some point in their career (except for Danny Amendola) but Tyms' long post route and grab between two defenders was a revelation (and a replay of what he did multiple times in the forgotten preseason). Brady hasn't benefited from a legitimate deep threat since Randy Moss was traded to Minnesota. We'll need to see Tyms do it more often but at least this was a very positive start in his first game back since his suspension.

UPDATE 10/13: As we suspected, Ridley (ACL, MLCL) and Mayo (knee) are both done for the season due to their injuries. Yuck, those are two big holes for the Patriots to fill right when the team finally looks good.

The Bills didn't fold, well not right away, as Fred Jackson responded with a 1-yard touchdown run to cut it to 20-14 (as close as they would get for the rest of the contest). Gostkowski's 43-yard field goal put New England up two scores (23-14) heading into the fourth quarter. LaFell was the story in crunch time with a beautiful 18-yard catch and run and 56-yard bomb where he broke a tackle sandwiched around Chris "Hollywood" Hogan's 8-yard touchdown catch (and 2-point conversion by Woods).

It wasn't their best performance of the young season but the Patriots' defense did more than enough for a road win against a divisional "rival." Zach Moore (who?) recovering a fumble was neat and Collins' interception showed his game-breaking ability but my favorite part besides Revis blanketing Watkins was that Rob Ninkovich had three sacks among his six tackles (4 for loss). He was a ghost for the first five games so this was something to build on for one of their team leaders.

They are back in sole possession of the AFC East but there is no time to rest for the Patriots since they have the unfortunate honor of hosting the Jets (1-5) on Thursday (8:25, CBS). If you've learned anything this season, the Thursday Night games are a complete trainwreck. Without fail, every week one team has shown up while the other mostly gets their doors blown off. Since it is at Gillette Stadium and the Jets are playing like one of the worst teams in the NFL (not named the Raiders or Jaguars but do they count?), I'd expect the Pats to be a double-digit favorite.

New England could make a few roster moves in the short week too since they figure to need another running back, linebacker and possibly offensive lineman. Get some rest everybody!

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