Halftime Notes: Patriots lead Bills, 17-14
|09.08.13 at 2:38 pm ET|
ORCHARD PARK — The Patriots lead the Bills 17-14 after two quarters of play here at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Here are a few quick notes:
The Patriots stalled out on their first drive and had to punt the ball away, but got the ball back soon after when Kyle Arrington knocked the ball away from Bills running back C.J. Spiller on Buffalo’s second play from scrimmage. It marked the 28th straight game where the Patriots were able to force a turnover. Tommy Kelly came away with the ball, and New England quickly turned the turnover into points. It was a three-play drive that went 16 yards and was highlighted by a seven-yard pickup on the ground by Stevan Ridley. It ended with a 9-yard scoring strike from Brady to Julian Edelman. (It’s the 49th straight game in which Brady has thrown a touchdown pass.)
The Patriots picked up their second takeaway of the game late in the second quarter when Rob Ninkovich came away with a forced fumble after Arrington — again — poked away a ball after Marquise Goodwin hauled in a short pass from Bills quarterback EJ Manuel. Again, New England made them pay, and again, it was a Brady-to-Edelman pass play that put the points on the board. This time, it was an 8-yard touchdown pass that made it 17-7 just before the end of the first half.
Biggest concern for the Patriots through the first two quarters? Ridley put the ball on the ground early in the first quarter, but New England got the ball back after a review. The Patriots weren’t so lucky the second time around — on a second quarter carry in Buffalo territory, he slipped and fell and lost control of the ball. The Bills’ Da’Norris Searcy returned the ball 74 yards for Buffalo’s first score of the day midway through the second quarter to make it 10-7. Ridley appeared to spend the rest of the first half on the sideline, as LeGarrette Blount got the reps the rest of the way. The Patriots lost the handle again late in the second when a Brady-to-Zach Sudfeld pass was off the mark after the tight end lost his footing. The Bills took advantage for their first offensive touchdown of the afternoon when Manuel hit Robert Woods on an 18-yard touchdown pass to make it 17-14 with 34 seconds left in the first half.
Special teams has been a mixed bag to this point. Blount’s career as an NFL kick returner got off to an auspicious start when he failed to bring the ball past the 20 on the opening kick. (Although, to be fair, we’d need to see the full replay to see what the blocking situation looked like.) Stephen Gostowski nailed a 48-yarder in the first quarter that looked like it was punched through the goalposts to make it 10-0 near the end of the first quarter on what may have been a questionable hold. Then, there was a 19-yard punt from Ryan Allen at the start of the second quarter. (There was a nice 65-yard punt from Allen on the ensuing punt that rolled down to the Buffalo 8-yard line.) A rough offseason has continued into the regular season for New England.
Defensively, the Patriots were impressive early on, taking advantage of some careless play on defense and some untimely penalties from Buffalo. New England was in plenty of nickel early on with Alfonzo Dennard, Aqib Talib and Arrington all on the field at the same time — negating any sort of complications that could arise from the fact that linebacker Brandon Spikes was out early because of dehydration. (He returned early in the second quarter.) They came away with the forced fumble, and were able to prevent the Bills’ offense from crossing the midway point of the field until the 12:30 mark of the second quarter.
From an injury perspective, the Patriots lost Spikes for a spell due to dehydration. And late in the second quarter while he was running a route over the middle, Danny Amendola pulled up after re-aggravating his groin injury.