NEW ENGLAND (37) d BUFFALO (31)
The Headline: Bills start to show some promise but the Patriots hold on
With their season on the line, the Bills travelled to New England hoping to keep pace with the AFC East leaders. Unfortunately for them, every possible thing that could have gone wrong did as the Bills put forward a mistake riddled performance and still found themselves in a position to win thanks to a largely inept showing from the Patriots pass defence. Brady and the Patriots offense got off to a fast start leading 10-0 after the fourth quarter thanks to a fumble recovered by their defense and managed to generate points on their first four drives, the streak ending only because time in the second quarter ran out. In that time the Bills had brought themselves back into the contest and the Gillette Stadium crowd was visibly concerned as their defense was failing to stop anything at all. In the second half they made enough stops and were able to hang on for the win thanks to a last minute interception by Devin McCourty.
Key Stat: 21 total penalties in the game, Buffalo had 14 for 148 yards
Anytime you have 14 penalties for over 100 yards you know you are putting yourself in a tough spot. There is no arguing the Bills got the raw end of a few questionable calls from a flag happy refereeing crew who made the fans very aware of their presence thanks to several soft fouls being called. With all that being considered, the Bills still shot themselves in the foot too many times to have a major gripe about the officials screwing them out of a divisional win. On their first drive they got off to a great start moving the ball against the porous Patriots defense before three dumb penalties (two false starts and a holding) sent them into a 3rd and 21 that they were never going to convert. Some of the pass interference calls should have been called defensive holding or illegal contact at best (see the call where Gronk was held even though the ball was thrown to Edelman 20 yards downfield) but still, that’s way too many penalties for any NFL team to commit in any game and still expect to win.
Key Play: Devin McCourty interception of Ryan Fitzpatrick in the end zone with 23 second left to seal the win
When the Bills took over with 2:06 to go, trailing there was an uneasy feeling in my stomach. Partially because I had the Patriots covering as my lock of the week, moreso because I knew what a loss would mean for the Patriots. With the Bills 15 yards from the go ahead score and the clock was down to the point where it would be tough for New England to respond after a Bills score. Fortunately, Devin McCourty, the much maligned corner filling in at safety was standing three yards deep in the end zone ready to intercept Fitzpatrick’s underthrown ball.
Man of the Match: Danny Woodhead
1 carry, 15 yard TD, 4 catches, 46 yards, 1 TD
Woodhead did not have the best statistics on the day, nor was he in for the key plays but he played his role to perfection earning his first multiple touchdown game. While Steven Ridley will take the plaudits for his near 100 yard performance, Woodhead was in for key plays and continues to hold his third down role despite a recent push from Shane Vereen.