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Halftime analysis: Patriots 17, Bills 16

09.26.10 at 2:30 pm ET
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FOXBORO ‘€” The Patriots hold a 17-16 lead on the Bills after two quarters here at Gillette Stadium. Here are a few quick notes on a first half that had five lead changes:

New England’€™s defense has struggled mightily in the first half trying to contain a Buffalo offense that had just 17 total points over the first two games of the season. While the Patriots were able to hold them to three field goals (two 39-yarders and a 34-yarder from Rian Lindell), Buffalo did reach the end zone once ‘€” on a five-yard scoring strike from Ryan Fitzpatrick to C.J. Spiller in the second quarter ‘€” and punted just once in the first half. Overall, Fitzpatrick is 11-for-16 for 105 yards and a touchdown, while Marshawn Lynch has nine carries for 52 yards.

The Patriots made some major personnel changes to their defense ‘€” on their opening drive, they started rookie outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham in place of veteran Tully Banta-Cain, while Kyle Arrington got the start at corner in place of second-year defensive back Darius Butler. Banta-Cain was on the field on the first series in New England’€™s third-down defense and was out there with the starters on the second defensive play from scrimmage. Meanwhile, Butler wasn’€™t out there ‘€” other than special teams ‘€” until there were just under 10 minutes left in the first half. After a couple of plays, he was quickly yanked.

Defensively, the Patriots appear to be bringing extra bodies on a consistent basis. The extra pressure paid dividends on the second defensive series of the afternoon when Gary Guyton busted into the backfield unabated and made Fitzpatrick hurry his throw on a third down play, forcing a punt. Jerod Mayo also got to Guyton on Buffalo’€™s third offensive series of the day, forcing a seven-yard sack, his first of the season.

Offensively, Brady is 10-for-12 for 129 yards and one touchdown, while Aaron Hernandez has three catches for 52 yards. The biggest question for the Patriots was who would take over Kevin Faulk‘€™s role. In the passing game, it appears that Hernandez will take up some of the slack ‘€” on New England’€™s first drive, he accounted for 52 of the 75 yards, with 39 yards receiving and 13 on the ground. In addition, newly acquired Danny Woodhead saw limited action ‘€” either split wide or lined up next to Brady in the shotgun ‘€” and wide receivers Wes Welker and Julian Edelman were also utilized in the short passing game.

New England cashed in at the end of their first drive, an efficient eight-play, 75-yard sequence that ended with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Randy Moss (the latter of whom did not start for the first time in his Patriots’€™ career). The Patriots got their second touchdown of the day ‘€” which gave them a 14-13 lead with just under three minutes left in the first half ‘€” on a 22-yard rush from Woodhead. It was a play that was right out of Kevin Faulk’€™s playbook ‘€” a handoff from Brady, he had an excellent cutback and simply outraced everyone to the end zone.  The New England offense also showed a good look in their two-minute set as Brady guided a three-play, 42-yard drive that ended with a Stephen Gostkowski field goal from 43 yards out to finish the first-half scoring.

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