It wasn’t the typically strong offensive perfromance we’re used to seeing from the Patriots and there will certainly be people wondering whether the changes of the offseason have taken a toll on the unit, but New England is still 1-0 to start the season.
Stephen Gostkowski hit a 35-yard field goal with five seconds left to play, giving the Patriots a 23-21 victory over a game Bills team that just couldn’t hold on in the fourth quarter. Brady hit Danny Amendola, who left the game briefly with a groin injury, on two third downs to keep the drive moving and Shane Vereen had a couple of solid runs to move the Patriots into position to salvage the victory.
Salvage is pretty much the right word for it. The Bills turned two first half turnovers into 14 points and Brady fumbled on a third quarter goal-line sneak on fourth down to thwart New England’s chances of retaking the lead after E.J. Manuel’s second touchdown pass put the Bills in front. Brady and the receivers seemed to have trouble communicating at several points during the game with rookie Kenbrell Thompkins appearing to be the object of ire more than once.
Vereen had a strong game in place of Stevan Ridley, banished after his first half fumble, and Brady threw for two scores, but his 29-of-52 line speaks to the issues the offense had getting in gear. Give the Bills defense credit for making life difficult, but we imagine the focus will be more insular in New England this week.
Manuel didn’t make any big mistakes in his NFL debut and completed 18-of-27 passes against a Patriots defense that pretty much took away the running game all afternoon. Manuel only gained 150 yards with those completions, however, and the Bills didn’t ask Manuel to do too much.
It was almost enough, but, once again, the Patriots wound up on top.