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Tom Brady: Pats find out what happens when you don’t play ‘four-quarter football’

09.25.11 at 6:11 pm ET
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What should’ve been a celebration of the greatest receiving games in team history and a coronation of Tom Brady as the greatest quarterback the game has ever seen in the first three games of an NFL season turned into a nightmare on the slippery slope of the Ralph Wilson Stadium turf Sunday afternoon.

Brady completed his first seven passes and built a 21-point lead in the second quarter on three touchdown passes. He had 222 yards passing in the first half alone. He finished with 387 but at the expense of four interceptions, matching a career-high as the Patriots fell, 34-31 to the Bills.

Brady started off brilliantly, throwing three touchdowns and building a 21-0 lead. His 1,327 yards passing is a new NFL record for the first three games of a season. But Brady, who threw four interceptions in all of his MVP 2010 season, lost his touch late in the second quater and never really regained it.

“We played good football team and made too many mistakes,” Brady said. “It’s tough to overcome as many mistakes as we did, and they made a lot of plays. They have a good team.”

As for the interceptions, Brady tipped his cap to the secondary he was burning in the first half.

“They’re a good coverage team,” he said. “They made some good plays in the pass game, took advantage of some opportunities they got and we fought to the end but it just wasn’t enough.

“They made some good plays on the ball. You don’t expect … some days the ball gets batted up in the air and it goes your way and some days it doesn’t. That’s part of the game. George Wilson made a helluva play on that one interception. That’s the way the ball bounces. That’s football.”

The Wilson interception came as it looked like for all the world the Patriots were going in to make it 31-17. But Wilson finally read the Rob Gronkowski seam route Brady had been using to torch the Bills in the first half.

The Patriots led 21-0 against a team that trailed 21-3 at home last week to the Raiders before winning, 38-35. This week, Brady threw three second-half interceptions to give the Bills life.

“It’s never easy,” Brady said. “They came back last week. I thought we were expecting a four-quarter game. We had our opportunities. We didn’t really take advantage of them like I wish we would’ve. We had too many turnovers, too many penalties, allowed them to get some easy plays there. They took advantage when they needed to.” Read the rest of this entry »

Read More: Buffalo Bills, New England Patriots, nfl, Tom Brady

Key Moment: Fitzpatrick connects with Jackson late to lift the Bills

09.25.11 at 4:36 pm ET
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Following a Patriots’ touchdown to tie the game at 31 with 3:33 remaining, Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski delivered a touchback, giving Buffalo the ball at their own 20. Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick got the ball out to its own 49, and then connected with running back Fred Jackson on a sweet pass play over the middle that got the Bills deep into New England territory with 1:43 remaining. A 39-yard gainer, Jackson caught the ball at the Patriots’ 35-yard line and raced downfield past a fleet of New England defenders.

The call was initially ruled as a touchdown, but after a review, the ball was placed at the Patriots one-yard line. After a few kneeldowns from Fitzpatrick, Buffalo kicker Rian Lindell connected on a 28-yarder as time ran out to give the Bills a 34-31 victory. It snapped New England’s 15-game win streak over Buffalo, and kept Buffalo undefeated on the season.

Read More: Bills, Fred Jackson, Patriots, Rian Lindell

Snap Judgments: Bills 34, Pats 31

09.25.11 at 4:24 pm ET
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The Bills snapped a 15-game losing streak to the Patriots on Sunday, rallying from a 21-0 deficit to knock off the Patriots by a 34-31 final in a wild contest at Buffalo. A shootout was expected and a shootout occurred, as both Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tom Brady went over 300 yards passing in the contest. Turnovers, penalties and more struggles from the defense were the story for the Patriots, now 2-1 on the season and a game behind the Bills in the AFC East standings.

WHAT WENT WRONG

— Brady now has more INT’s in 2011 (six) than he had last season (four). A four-pick game for Brady, matching a career-high and most in a regular-season game since 11/5/06 (Indianapolis). All four led to points (24 in total), most notably his final INT, a pass that bounced off the helmet of Marcell Darius and into the arms of Drayton Florence, who returned it 27 yards for a TD that gave Buffalo a 31-24 lead.

— Another very shaky performance for the defense, which allowed 448 total yards. After the two early interceptions, Ryan Fitzpatrick settled down, finishing with 369 yards passing and two TDs.. Fred Jackson had only 12 carries, but rushed for 74 yards and a TD. After the Brady-to-Welker TD to tie the game at 31-31, the Bills shredded the Patriots defense on the game-winning drive.

Devin McCourty struggled in coverage for the third consecutive week, as he was beat by Stevie Johnson for an 11-yard second-quarter TD. He was also beat by Donald Jones on a 29-yard pass on the final drive of the game. If you want to give him a pass for Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson that’s OK, but there is no one on the Bills’ roster in that class.

Chad Ochocinco had a nightmare game, dropping a clear touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and running a terrible route on Ledois McKelvin’s INT. Not sure if it’s awe, a lack of playbook knowledge or a case of a guy hitting the wall, but so far the Ochocinco era has been a flop.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

Wes Welker was an absolute force on the opening TD drive (and throughout the game), catching four passes for 67 yards, including the 14-yard touchdown catch. Welker finished the game with 16 catches for 216 yards (both team records) and set the franchise record for consecutive games with at least one reception (64, record was held by the aforementioned Coates). Welker made an incredible leaping catch on 4th-and-4 at midfield (on the play after the Ochocinco drop) to keep the fourth-quarter drive going. Welker finished the drive with another fourth-down catch (with terrific work by the O-Line) for a TD. Just an incredible effort by Welker, as good as you’ll ever see from a receiver.

— Not since the salad days of Ben Coates (think 1994-95, when he averaged 90 catches a year) could a reasonable Patriots fan make the case that his/her team had the best tight end in football. It’s very early in the career of Rob Gronkowski, obviously, but he’s already done enough to be at least in the mix when the top at his position are ranked. Two more touchdown catches for Gronkowski on Sunday, and his five TDs on the season lead the NFL. As was the case with Eric Weddle last week, Gronkowski is simply too much for safties and cornerbacks to handle, taking advantage of matchups with Jairus Byrd throughout the game on Sunday.

Kyle Arrington had a pair of first-quarter interceptions (and nearly had a third pick on the final Buffalo drive of the first half). The first INT was a result of a tipped pass intended for Donald Jones (with Devin McCourty covering Jones), and the second on a lousy 4th-and-14 throw by Fitzpatrick.

— Tom Brady had four interceptions on Sunday (more on those later), but he put up some huge numbers once again in the win, throwing for 386 yards and four TDs.

— Zoltan Mesko’s knee was not a problem on Sunday, as the second-year punter boomed a 57-yarder in the first half, and also pinned the Bills inside the 10-yard line with a third-quarter punt (Mesko also did a nice job as a holder, picking up a bad snap and getting it in place in time for Stephen Gostkowski to make a 23-yard third-quarter field goal).

Halftime analysis: Patriots 21, Bills 10

09.25.11 at 2:32 pm ET
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The Patriots and Bills are done with two quarters in Buffalo, and New England holds a 21-10 lead on host Buffalo. Here are a few quick notes:

‘€¢As was the case over the first two games, the Patriots’ offense has been pretty crisp. New England scored on its first two opportunities, with Tom Brady connecting with wide receiver Wes Welker on a 14-yard scoring strike on the first drive and Rob Gronkowski on a one-yarder on the second. Brady also found Gronkowski with a 26-yarder in the second quarter to give New England a 21-0 lead midway through the second. Overall, Brady is 16-for-22 for 222 yards and three touchdowns.

‘€¢However, he ended the half with an interception — his second of the season — when Buffalo defensive back Bryan Scott made a great interception on a tipped ball deep in Bills’ territory. (Buffalo turned that into a field goal just before the end of the half to make it 21-10.)

‘€¢Defensively, the Patriots were able to put the brakes on the Bills’ offense with a pair of picks from cornerback Kyle Arrington. The Hofstra product collected the first on the Bills’ second play from scrimmage on a tipped ball, and his second came when Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (who ended the first half 20-for-28 for 224 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions) tried to force the ball into double coverage. Buffalo was able to cut the deficit to 21-7 with just under two minutes left when Fitzpatrick hit Stevie Johnson over Devin McCourty on a 15-yard pass play.

‘€¢Overall, as was the case last week with the Chargers, Buffalo has been able to get big chunks of yards (primarily in the passing game), and the Patriots haven’t been able to get much pressure on Fitzpatrick. But the Patriots have made the plays (namely, the turnovers) and have played well enough on third down to keep the Bills at bay for much of the first two quarters.

‘€¢The Patriots have gotten a very good performance out of their special teamers. Zoltan Mesko, who was a question mark coming into the game because of a knee injury, punted twice and looked very solid. (He got off a 57-yarder in the second quarter.) New England has also done an excellent job at containing Buffalo’s kick and punt returns, with Matthew Slater and Ross Ventrone picking up special teams tackles.

Read More: Bills, Patriots,

Live Blog: Patriots take on Bills in battle for first-place in the AFC East

09.25.11 at 12:36 pm ET
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Patriots/Bills

Fantasy football: Latest on Peyton Hillis, Michael Vick, Arian Foster and Jerome Simpson

09.25.11 at 12:24 pm ET
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With just a few hours left until Week 3 Sunday kick-off, late roster changes are out and here are some important moves you may want to make to your lineup.

Browns running back Peyton Hillis will be out Sunday with strep throat. Conflicting reports about his status emerged Sunday morning when Hillis appeared at the stadium Sunday although he “did not look well at all” Sunday morning, according to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon-Journal. Later reports said Hillis left the stadium and will not play against the Dolphins. Expect Montario Hardesty to play in Hillis’s place.

Concussed Eagles quarterback Michael Vick is expected to play Sunday just six days after suffering a concussion. Arian Foster is out again for the Texans, and Ben Tate will get the start in his place against the Saints Sunday.

Cinncinnati Bengals wide receiver Jerome Simpson is also expected to play Sunday after police discovered over eight pounds of marijuana at his Kentucky home Wednesday. Simpson did not practice on Thursday or Friday, but the team said Simpson is “innocent until proven guilty” and deserves to play Sunday, ESPN sources said. Simpson was a key fantasy contributor last week after making four receptions for 136 yards against Denver.

Read More: Arian Foster, Jerome Simpson, Michael Vick, Peyton Hillis

Setting the scene: Patriots-Bills

09.25.11 at 11:05 am ET
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The Patriots have beaten the Bills 15 straight times dating back to Sept. 7, 2003. This figures to be a far bigger test than the previous 15 encounters for a number of different reasons.

Here’s why:

The Bills have proven to be a far more dynamic offense in the first two weeks, hanging up 41 and 38 points, respectively, in wins over the Chiefs (on the road) and the Raiders. They have the perfect tandem of speed, power and finesse in the backfield with NFL-leading Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.

The Bills have home field advantage back. Ralph Wilson Stadium has not always been filled the last 10 years. It’s one of those sites in the NFL that has been hard-hit by the economy with 10,000 empty seats not unusual with a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs in over a decade. It has gotten so bad that the Bills have had “home” games in Toronto, with rumblings that Bills ownership might be willing to move the team – even north of the border to get out of Western New York.

But that malaise won’t be the case today as Bills have sold out the 68,000-seat facility. It’s expected to be so loud that Patriots players have readily admitted this week they have to get off to a quick start to make sure it doesn’t become a factor. The Patriots even played loud music like “JUMP” inside Gillette Stadium on Friday morning to simulate the expected conditions today at Ralph Wilson.

“We know their crowd will be going early, so it’s important to get off to a good start this week,” said Wes Welker, who remarkably has never scored a touchdown in 14 previous career games against the Bills, both with the Patriots and the Dolphins.

Harvard product Ryan Fitzpatrick is in complete control of the passing game and has become a true leader. With the Bills trailing 21-3 at halftime in their home opener, Fitzpatrick threw three second-half touchdowns and completed 28-of-46 passes. He joined Jim Kelly in becoming the second QB in Bills history to throw seven touchdowns in the first two games of  a season. Kelly had eight in 1991.

Fitzpatrick not only leads the NFL in TD passes but is 6th in the league in QB rating at 109.6, completing 45-of-71 passes for 472 yards.

Of course, the quarterback he’s facing did MORE than that in his opening game, as Tom Brady threw for 517 yards and four touchdowns in the win over the Dolphins on Sept. 12. Six days later, Brady became the first QB in history to follow up a 500-yard game with a game of 400 yards, throwing for 423 yards in a 35-21 win over the Chargers.

The Bills believe in Chan Gailey. The second-year coach in Buffalo has his players believing. They are 6-4 in their last 10 since starting the 2010 season 0-8. That included a crowning moment in Cincinnati. With the Bills getting blown out 28-7 at Paul Brown Stadium at halftime, Fitzpatrick and Gailey rallied the troops, outscoring the Bengals 42-3 in the second half in a 49-31 win.

The Patriots defense is not good right now. And it will be without Patrick Chung (out with a right thumb injury) and Albert Haynesworth (back). The Patriots D is ranked 31st in the league so far in yards allowed.

Read More: Buffalo Bills, C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, New England Patriots
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