Snap judgments: Pats win, 25-24
|09.14.09 at 10:12 pm ET|
FOXBOROUGH — Benjamin Watson, hero.
The embattled tight end, who came so close to getting released before the start of the season, hauled in a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes to help lift the Patriots to an unlikely 25-24 win over Buffalo Monday night at Gillette Stadium.
Down 24-13 with just over five minutes remaining, Tom Brady (378 passing yards in his return) found Watson for a pair of quick scoring strikes (one 18 yards and one 16 yards), sandwiched around an unlikely fumble recovery on a kickoff by Stephen Gostkowski to allow the Patriots to escape with a win in the season-opener for both teams.
Buffalo quarterback Trent Edwards led Buffalo on a 14-play, 62-yard drive in the fourth quarter (one that was kept alive by a roughing the passer call on New England linebacker Adalius Thomas) that ended with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Edwards to Fred Jackson with 5:32 left to make it 24-13, Buffalo. New England responded with a quick score of its own (an 18-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Watson) to make it 24-19 with 2:06 remaining in regulation.
That set the stage for the Patriots’ late heroics. Gostkowski recovered his own kickoff with two minutes to go at the 31-yard line (Pierre Woods pried the ball loose from Buffalo return man Leodis McKelvin). Brady then engineered the game-winning drive, a three-play series that ended with Watson hauling in a 16-yard touchdown reception with 50 seconds left for the game-winning score.
The first half was ugly for the New England offense — they had one good sequence in the first two quarters — but the Patriots were able to mostly blunt the Buffalo pass rush in the second half when they spread the field and had Brady move to quick, three-step drops. The result was fewer sacks on Brady and more yardage for New England. Randy Moss (12 catches for 141 yards) was big throughout the night, but was a real presence in the short passing game in the second half.
Playing without linebacker Jerod Mayo for the second half — he injured his knee late in the first quarter and did not return — the New England defense kept Buffalo out of the end zone, and kept Terrell Owens off the scoresheet until he had a 27-yard reception late in the third quarter. Gary Guyton played middle linebacker much of the night, and yielded a handful of big plays — he was taken out on a big Buffalo play, an 18-yard pass that allowed the Bills to pick up a fourth-quarter first down. (He responded nicely two plays later with a nice hit on Fred Jackson that broke up a pass play.)
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