There’s nothing wrong with Tom Brady and the New England Patriots that a game against their familiar AFC East patsies – the Buffalo Bills – can’t fix.
Not even after Brady and Co. spotted them a 14-point, third-quarter lead.
Brady responded by directing six straight touchdown drives in the second half on Sunday en route to a 52-28 blowout.
It was a game in which the Patriots (2-2) produced 580 total yards, forced six turnovers and avoided their first three-game losing streak in 10 years.
”Down 21-7 and on the road, backs against the wall, and I thought we showed a lot of heart,” Brady said. ”That’s what this team is made of. And we’re going to battle until the end, I know that.”
Brady finished 22 of 36 for 340 yards and three touchdowns, plus one rushing. The 580 yards was the fourth-most in team history.
Cornerback Devin McCourty had two interceptions in keying a defense that forced six turnovers and had three sacks.
Running back Stevan Ridley scored twice. Wes Welker had nine catches for 129 yards, and tight end Rob Gronkowski had five for 104 yards and a touchdown as both players bounced back from first-half fumbles.
”You can’t panic,” Gronkowski said. ”When you panic, nothing good happens from there. We just stuck to the game plan.”
The comeback began immediately after Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Donald Jones for a 68-yard touchdown pass on the Bills first possession of the second half.
Brady responded with an eight-play, 80-yard drive by hitting Danny Woodhead for a 17-yard touchdown. After tying the game with a 4-yard run, Brady capped a five-play 63-yard drive by hitting Gronkowski with a 28-yard touchdown pass.
The Patriots scored 35 points in a span of 12:41 in building a 42-21 lead on Brandon Bolden’s 7-yard run.
”We just played and executed better,” coach Bill Belichick said. ”It’s no magic.”
Magic no. Familiar, yes.
New England improved to 17-1 in its past 18 meetings against Buffalo, and 22-2 dating to the 2000 season. The Patriots lost their last trip to Orchard Park, 34-31 after blowing a 21-0 lead.
This time it was the Bills turn to unravel.
After Jones’ scored, nothing else went right. Buffalo combined for two first downs and 31 yards on its next four drives, two of which ended with turnovers.
Bills coach Chan Gailey was embarrassed.
”I don’t like to play like that, and I don’t like to think that’s who we are,” Gailey said. ”But that’s who we were today. You can’t sugarcoat it.”
The news gets even worse as Buffalo enters a stretch in which it will play four of its next five on the road.
Starting left tackle Cordy Glenn and starting right guard Kraig Urbik both hurt their right ankles and did not return. Gailey said both could miss games.
The Bills offense sagged despite the return of its two top running backs. Fred Jackson had 29 yards rushing and 50 receiving in his first game back since spraining his right knee in a season-opening loss. Spiller had 33 yards rushing and 5 receiving after hurting his left shoulder in at Cleveland last weekend.
Both also fumbled, with Spiller’s coming on a goal-line plunge late in the first quarter.
It was a dreadful outing for Mario Williams – who signed a six-year, $100 million contract in March – and the Bills high-priced defensive line.
Buffalo managed one sack. Otherwise, the defense gave up the second most yards in franchise history, and most points since a 56-10 loss to New England on Nov. 18, 2007.
”A loss is a loss. I don’t label it anything,” Williams said, when asked if it was embarrassing.
He placed the blame on the Bills inability to stop the run. Bolden had 137 yards rushing and Ridley 106.
”When you have two guys rushing for 100 yards, something’s up,” Williams said. ”We have to have a reality check and see what’s going on.”
Fitzpatrick finished 22 of 39 for 350 yards and four scores – including two to Scott Chandler.
The game had additional significance to the Patriots, as it featured the return of the NFL’s regular officials after they reached a new eight-year agreement on Thursday. It came after Belichick was fined $50,000 by the NFL for grabbing an official’s arm to question whether Justin Tucker’s 27-yard field goal would be reviewed following a 31-30 loss at Baltimore last weekend.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft made sure to welcome back John Parry and his crew, by waiting in the tunnel following the game and attempting to shake each of the officials’ hands as they made their way off the field.
Kraft then waited for Brady’s arrival, and shook the quarterback’s hand, as well.
The two then smiled and chatted in making their way to the locker room.
NOTES: Brady improved to 19-2 against the Bills, a stretch in which he has 49 touchdowns and seven 300-yard games. …. Buffalo’s 4-22 in its last 26 games against division opponents. … The win was the 194th of Belichick’s career, moving him into eighth place on the NFL list, one ahead of Chuck Knox.