Demoralization sets in for Bills after 41-25 loss to Pats
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) One glance at the Buffalo Bills' 4-4 record was all safety Corey Graham needed in assessing the state of his inconsistent team.
''Right now, we're exactly where we are: A mediocre team,'' Graham said bluntly.
As injuries pile up, a sense of demoralization is beginning to set in after Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (7-1) exposed many of the Bills' weaknesses in a 41-25 rout on Sunday.
Buffalo's defense was unable to keep Brady in check in allowing the quarterback to convert nine of 13 third-down chances, throw four touchdowns and engineer five consecutive scoring drives spanning halftime.
Brady improved to 26-3 against Buffalo to match an NFL record of most wins by a quarterback against one team. Brett Favre was 26-9 against Detroit.
And the Bills' injury-depleted offense was in no position to keep up. Playing minus top threat, running back LeSean McCoy (left hamstring), Buffalo punted three times in the first half and was unable to convert two fourth-down chances in the second half.
The Bills were also down three of their top four receivers, including Sammy Watkins (left foot), and then lost backup Brandon Tate to a possible concussion Sunday.
This resembled nothing of the boastful team that was flying high during a four-game winning streak, which included a 16-0 victory at New England on Oct. 2 in a game Brady sat out while serving his four-game ''Deflategate'' suspension.
The Bills have now lost two in a row and dropped to 1-4 against AFC teams.
Coach Rex Ryan isn't giving up, but concedes Buffalo's chances of catching the Patriots are all but over.
''I think it's unrealistic to think you're going to win your division when you just got beat by – how many games are they up by? Three?'' Ryan said. ''I don't see that changing. But I never said it was going to ruin our season.''
The margin for error is getting thinner for a team attempting to snap a 16-season playoff drought – the NFL's longest active streak.
''We just need to calm down,'' linebacker Zach Brown said, before looking ahead to a Nov. 7 prime-time showdown at Seattle. ''We've got to play to win. We all signed up to win this thing.''
A number of things that stood out Sunday:
Ryan acknowledged he threw a challenge flag out of frustration in the final minute when Jonathan Williams was stopped for no gain on first-and-goal from the 1.
''That was on me. I'm a little ticked off because I was showing them like, `Guys, just look at the replay,'” Ryan said. The Bills would have been penalized for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, but were instead allowed to use one of their two remaining timeouts. Williams scored on the next play.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski set two franchise scoring records with his 53-yard touchdown catch, which put New England ahead 21-10 in the second quarter. The Buffalo native scored his 69th touchdown and 68th receiving, breaking the previous career record held by Stanley Morgan.
Gronkowski's father, Gordie, enjoyed the moment in a stadium suite with about 80 family members and friends.
''We were all on our barstools and had a big celebration for him,'' Gordie Gronkowski told The Associated Press, noting he anticipated his son would score.
''When he comes here, he gets all wired up and hyped up and everything to play in front of his fans,'' he said. ''It was a fantastic moment for us.''
ON THE RUN
Bills backup RB Mike Gillislee had 12 carries for 85 yards and scored on 3-yard run filling in for McCoy. Ryan said he's not sure about McCoy's playing status for next week. Third-string running back Reggie Bush didn't finish the game because of a groin injury.
Patriots receiver Chris Hogan scored on a 53-yard touchdown catch in beating Bills top cornerback Stephon Gilmore up the left sideline.
''Busted coverage,'' said Gilmore, who was spotted yelling at safety Jonathan Meeks following the play.
Hogan spent the previous four seasons in Buffalo before signing an offer sheet with New England which the Bills declined to match last spring.
SACK STREAK SNAPPED
Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander's seven-game sack streak was snapped when he left the game in the second quarter with a hamstring injury. Alexander was hurt during a punt return. The 10-year journeyman entered with an NFL-leading nine sacks.
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