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Snap Judgments: Patriots hold on for 37-31 win over Bills

11.11.12 at 4:19 pm ET
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FOXBORO — The Patriots jumped to a double-digit lead and held on down the stretch Sunday against the Bills, outlasting Buffalo, 37-31 at Gillette Stadium. With the Bills driving for what would have likely been a game-winning touchdown, defensive back Devin McCourty picked off Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the end zone to end the game.

Quarterback Tom Brady finished the game with 23-for-37 for 237 yards, while running back Stevan Ridley added 22 carries for 98 yards. Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick was 27-for-41 for 337 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. New England improved to 6-3 on the season, while the Bills dropped to 3-6.

WHAT WENT RIGHT

‘€¢It wasn’t a textbook example of four-minute football, but the New England offense was able to put together a nice sequence at the end of the contest to close out a game that was tougher than many expected. With the feisty Bills down by three in the fourth quarter — thanks in large part to Fitzpatrick’s ability to find some holes in the middle of the field — the Patriots were able to put together a 14-play, 59-yard drive (with 24 yards coming from Ridley) that stalled out in the red zone, but ended with a 27-yard field goal with just over two minutes left to make the score 37-31.

‘€¢On an afternoon where the Patriots honored the greatest third-down back in the history of the franchise, it was the modern-day equivalent who provided them with an offensive boost. Danny Woodhead was impressive on the afternoon, particularly on a second-quarter scoring drive where he accounted for 37 of the 83 yards on the series, including a 15-yard scamper where he wasn’t touched on the way to the end zone. He finished with a pair of touchdowns on the day — his second came on an 18-yard reception in the third quarter.

‘€¢For the Patriots, one of the positives was the work of the officials. The Bills were flagged for more than 100 yards on the afternoon, with perhaps the most egregious flag coming in the first half when Buffalo’s Stephon Gilmore was hit with a 37-yard pass interference penalty that put the ball on the New England 1-yard line. The ball, a pass from Brady to Brandon Lloyd, certainly didn’t appear catchable, but Gilmore was called for the penalty nonetheless after he collided with Lloyd. Two plays later, Brady hit Rob Gronkowski with a 2-yard touchdown catch — the first TD of the day for the big tight end — to make it 24-10 with 3:54 remaining in the half. (On the drive, 69 of the Patriots’ 82 yards came off penalties.)

‘€¢The Patriots forced just one pick from Fitzpatrick (who had 16 interceptions in six previous games against the Patriots), but they also came away with a pair of takeaways. The first came in the first quarter when Vince Wilfork strip-sacked Fitzpatrick. The ball was recovered by Jermaine Cunningham at the Buffalo 13-yard line, and the Patriots quickly turned that into a touchdown, as Stevan Ridley went in three plays later from the one to make it 10-0 with 3:54 left in the first quarter. The second came in the fourth quarter when, with Buffalo in the New England red zone, Fred Jackson fumbled the ball away — the fumble was forced by McCourty and recovered by cornerback Kyle Arrington.

WHAT WENT WRONG

‘€¢The Patriots continued to give up big chunks of yardage in the passing game between the numbers. On “NFL Sunday” before the game, when it comes to defending Fitzpatrick, Faulk said that one of the things Patriots coach Bill Belichick stressed for years was that you had to make him throw it outside the numbers. But for much of the afternoon, Fitzpatrick was able to get lots of yardage in between the numbers, particularly on pass plays to tight end Scott Chandler, as well as the occasional screen pass to one of the running backs.

‘€¢The Patriots run defense yielded a season-high 162 rushing yards, with Jackson finishing with 80 yards on the ground and Spiller adding 70 yards. The previous high was 123 yards in a Sept. 23 loss to the Ravens.

‘€¢Left guard Logan Mankins limped off at the end of the Patriots first drive of the second half with a left ankle injury. That, compounded with the back injury suffered by right guard Dan Connolly, and the already thin interior of the New England offensive line got even thinner.

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