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Snap Judgments: Patriots roar back to crush Buffalo

09.30.12 at 4:19 pm ET
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Tom Brady led the Patriots to a comeback win against the Bills. (AP)

BUFFALO — The Patriots spotted the Bills a 14-point lead, but came roaring back in the second half and posted a 52-28 win over Buffalo Sunday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Quarterback Tom Brady ended up 22-for-36 for 340 yards and three touchdowns, while Brandon Bolden added 16 carries for 137 yards and one touchdown, Stevan Ridley added 22 carries for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Meanwhile, Wes Welker finished with nine catches for 129 yards.

Thanks to some shoddy defense by the Patriots — and a monster performance from Buffalo tight end Scott Chandler — the Bills took a 21-7 lead into the third quarter. But 17-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Danny Woodhead, a four-yard dash from Brady, a 28-yard pass to Gronkowski and a two-yard run from Ridley combined to make it 35-21 midway through the fourth quarter. New England cruised down the stretch — eventually posting scores on seven consecutive possessions (six touchdowns and a field goal) — coming away with its’ second win of the season.

Here are a few quick notes:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

•The Patriots showed real mental toughness on the road against a divisional opponent, posting a nice comeback win after struggling out of the gate. No one will mistake the Bills for the 1972 Dolphins, but they had New England in a real hole early on, going up by 14 points in the third quarter before the Patriots started their comeback. It was also interesting to see the Patriots close out the game — New England was up by nine with the ball midway through the fourth quarter against the Ravens and couldn’t seal the deal. On Sunday against Buffalo, the Patriots finished nicely.

Vince Wilfork made the biggest defensive plays of the season when, with the Bills knocking on the door at the New England 4-yard line end of the second quarter, the Patriots defensive lineman was able to come away with a fumble off a C.J. Spiller run. New England made sure to get out of the shadow of its’ own goal line and sat on the ball going into halftime, but it was the sort of game-changing play the Patriots needed in that situation to try and stop the bleeding. (Brandon Spikes knocked the ball away on that fumble, and forced another fumble late in the game, all while delivering some crushing hits.)

•Bolden ran extremely well when given the opportunity. The rookie running back piled up some punishing yards on the afternoon, and was part of a running back tandem (along with Ridley) who topped 100 yards. It wasn’t even so much the yardage, but the way he ran — really hard and really physical. For what it’s worth, Don Calhoun (106) and Vagas Ferguson (100) were the last Patriots rushers to eclipse 100 yards in a game simultaneously. (That came back on Nov. 23, 1980 against Baltimore.)

•After just missing out on a pair of potential interceptions last week against the Ravens, Devin McCourty hung on to his second-quarter opportunity, when he picked off a Fitzpatrick pass attempt meant for T.J. Graham that went deep down the Buffalo sidelines. A nice, aggressive play by the Patriots’ cornerback. He came away with his second pick of the game in the fourth quarter when he stepped in front of a pass for Stevie Johnson, picking off the ball and taking it down to the Buffalo 12. It was the second game of McCourty’s career where he came away with two interceptions.

•There was no question about the health of tight end Rob Gronkowski — the big tight end, who was listed as questionable coming into Sunday’s game with a hip injury, had some big catches early, including a 41-yarder in the first quarter that helped set up the Patriots’ first touchdown of the game. He had a couple of bad drops in the first half — and sat out a few snaps here and there — but ended up with five catches for 104 yards.

WHAT WENT WRONG

•Throughout most of the first half, the Patriots had defensive breakdowns across the board. New England was able to reverse the trend with the huge play by Wilfork at the end of the first half when he came away with the fumble, but you can make a real argument that the Patriots defense was responsible in large part for putting New England into that hole in the first place.

•On the other side of the ball, the Patriots were able to force two first-half turnovers, but they couldn’t turn them into points. Meanwhile, the Bills cashed in when, one play after they forced a second-quarter fumble on Gronkowski, Fitzpatrick found Chandler with a 24-yard pass play in the corner of the end zone to tie that game at seven. (In that same vein, New England struggled to contain Chandler for much of the afternoon as the big tight end had four catches for 62 yards and two touchdowns.

Stephen Gostkowski missed a 49-yard field goal attempt early in the second quarter, going wide right, and he missed a 42-yarder wide left late in the second. It might not be too early to suggest that the Patriots have a kicker problem.

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