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Snap Judgments: Patriots escape Buffalo with 23-21 win

09.08.13 at 4:14 pm ET
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ORCHARD PARK – The Patriots escaped Buffalo with a 23-21 win over the Bills, thanks to a 35-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski with five seconds left. Quarterback Tom Brady ended up going 29-for-52 for 288 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. In his first game with the Patriots, wide receiver Danny Amendola had 10 catches for 104 yards, while Shane Vereen added 14 carries for 101 yards and 7 catches for 58 yards.

Here are a few quick notes on the game:

WHAT WENT RIGHT

-Amendola had several nice catches down the stretch for the Patriots, and kept coming back time and again despite taking a real pounding. The receiver had 10 catches for 104 yards, including several third-down receptions to keep the chains moving on the final drive.

-Julian Edelman. The receiver caught a pair of first-half touchdown passes from Brady, and other than a bad drop in the third quarter, he was one of the only real consistent offensive threats the Patriots had all afternoon. He had a 9-yard touchdown catch in the first and an 8-yard touchdown pickup in the second, and had a big 35-yard pickup on a pass play at the start of the fourth quarter that got New England to midfield. (He added a 13-yard reception midway through the fourth.) He ended up with 7 catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns.

-Kyle Arrington had an impressive game. In the first half, he forced a pair of fumbles (one in the first quarter and another in the second quarter), and nearly came away with an interception on a play that was later overturned on review. The Patriots turned both turnovers into points, with Brady finding Edelman on both occasions.

-Along with Edelman, Vereen was the only consistent offensive presence the Patriots had for much of the afternoon. The running back out of Cal got the bulk of the snaps after Stevan Ridley was benched following his second quarter fumble, and was able to do a very nice job moving the chains for the New England ground game.

WHAT WENT WRONG

-On EJ Manuel‘s first two touchdown throws — one at the end of the first half and one at the start of the second half — it looked like there were breakdowns in communication in the secondary. The first one (a Manuel-to-Robert Woods connection in the second quarter) came after it appeared Aqib Talib was either giving up on the play or passing the receiver along to safety Steve Gregory. And on the third-quarter pass play, there was a similar misstep between Arrington and Devin McCourty that left Stevie Johnson open in the back of the end zone for the touchdown.

-Turnovers. Ridley lost the handle on one running play at the start of the first quarter (that one was eventually overturned). He did it again in the second — on that play 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 and Vereen got the reps the rest of the way. The Patriots lost the handle again late in the second when a Brady for Zach Sudfeld pass was off the mark after the tight end lost his footing. The Bills again turned the turnover into points.

-Frankly, the rookies played like rookies. There was Sudfeld’s fumble — on a play where he looked surprised the ball was on him as fast as it was. Kenbrell Thompkins was an active member of the offense, but struggled to get separation and was inconsistent at best. Josh Boyce and Jamie Collins got some reps, but were pretty much nonfactors throughout the afternoon.

-There was more bad than good from New England’s special teams. 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.) Gostowski nailed a 48-yarder in the first on what may have been a questionable hold. (He added a nice 33-yarder in the fourth quarter.) 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.) And there was a 57-yard punt from Buffalo in the third quarter that Edelman let bounce all the way to the New England 3-yard line. Gostkowski helped redeem the special team with the game-winning 35-yarder, but it was a shaky afternoon for the New England special teamers.

-The Patriots appeared to suffer a few injuries: linebacker Brandon Spikes went to the sidelines in the first half suffering from dehydration, but returned at the start of the second. The same was the case for Amendola — it looked like he pulled up after running a second-quarter route because of a groin injury. He returned in the second half.

Read More: Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, Kyle Arrington, LeGarrette Blount
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