By: Bob George/BosSports.net
September 30, 2012

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Zero points off two turnovers and two missed easy field goals by Stephen Gostkowski. Two very good ingredients for 1-3.

Instead, the Patriots pulled off a victory over the Buffalo Bills which was reminiscent of several recent wins over the western New Yorkers. The Patriots, who suffered their first loss here at Ralph Wilson Stadium since 2003 last year, spotted Buffalo an early lead thanks to sloppy execution and missed opportunities, then woke up in the second half and literally pummeled the Bills into submission.

The final score masks a lot of things which will make Bill Belichick very unhappy when he hits the film room. The Bills scored three easy touchdowns on deep throws over the middle, with the two safeties, Patrick Chung and Steve Gregory, not accounting for them at all and arriving too late to do anything about it. The two Buffalo turnovers in the first half resulted in a three-and-out and a Gostkowski missed field goal. Rob Gronkowski had three dropped passes, two of them which would have been touchdowns.

Add all that up and the Patriots should have actually dropped 60 or more on the Bills, which would have set a team scoring record.

But it was a 52-spot laid on the Bills thanks largely to Tom Brady being his great self and not making any mistakes, and a ground attack which produced two 100-yard rushers for the first time since November 23, 1980 when Don Calhoun and Vagas Ferguson turned the trick on the Baltimore Colts. Steven Ridley had 106 yards rushing, but Brandon Bolden stole the show with 137 yards rushing and one touchdown. By game's end, these two guys were slicing and dicing their way through the Bills defense as if they were a bunch of turnstiles.

The Patriots scored 45 of their 52 points in the second half, including 31 in the fourth quarter. The Patriots scored on their last seven drives, including six touchdown drives in a row.

Bolden averaged an unreal 8.6 yards per carry, and the Patriots averaged 6.2 yards rushing for the entire team. Most of the runs were gashes between the tackles, made all the more remarkable with Donald Thomas filling in at left guard for the injured Logan Mankins. It was a brutal domination of the Bills defense, who had done a nice job of containing the Patriot passing game, especially Brandon Lloyd, in the first half. Whatever the reason, running out of gas or the Patriots finding a weak spot out there, the Patriots were able to make lots of rushing hay you don't normally see in the Tom Brady era.

With all the fun Bolden and Ridley were having, you would think Shane Vereen would be doing the same, but he had only one carry for zero yards. That could turn out to be a telling stat if this is what Bolden is really all about.

The Patriots would eventually turn turnovers into touchdowns, but it took a while. Harvard's Ryan Fitzpatrick ruined an otherwise decent passing day with four interceptions, lowering his passer rating to 81.1. In the fourth quarter, with the game turning the way of the Patriots, Devin McCourty snared a ball in the right seam intended for Stevie Johnson and returning it 34 yards to the Buffalo 12, and Bolden covered the 12 yards in two plays for his touchdown. Late in the game, Tavon Wilson took a deep throw with literally no one around him and returned it 23 yards to set up Gostkowski's 35-yard field goal, his only make of the day, to complete the scoring.

In all, the Patriots had five takeaways. A Fred Jackson fumble early in the fourth quarter led to a two-yard touchdown run by Ridley, one of two touchdowns he had on the afternoon.

The Patriots racked up 580 total yards, 247 rushing and 333 passing. Most of that was in the second half, but still plenty to get the Patriots even at 2 wins and 2 losses after Week 4.

One thing which will not make Belichick happy is the 438 total yards his defense surrendered. Most of that was through the air, as both Jackson and C.J. Spiller, coming off a shoulder injury last week, were contained pretty well for the most part. But Fitzpatrick finished with 22 of 39 passing for 350 yards, something that would spell defeat with a better defensive effort (read: Arizona, Baltimore). Fitzpatrick did throw four picks and suffer three sacks, which did contribute greatly to the final score. But the Bills exposed the Patriots in some areas which may come back to bite them on the ankle later in the season if someone doesn't do something right away to fix the problem.

Scott Chandler, a six-foot-seven tight end, caught two passes for touchdowns and had four grabs for 62 yards altogether. He outleaped Patrick Chung for a scoring catch in the second quarter, but came back later with a 20-yard touchdown catch to make it 14-7 Bills with a simple seam route down the middle, running right by Brandon Spikes and splitting Chung and Steve Gregory almost perfectly.

In the third quarter, the Bills went up 21-7 when Donald Jones zipped by Kyle Arrington and caught a 68-yard scoring pass, again with Chung and Gregory out of position and nowhere nearby to offer help or make a play. Then in the fourth quarter, the safeties let Brad Smith go on a slant route and McCourty was too late to come into coverage, resulting in a 35-yard scoring toss with the game fortunately out of hand at the time in favor of the Patriots.

These were all touchdown passes which resulted largely in coverage breakdowns and mismatches. Having a tight end catch these kinds of passes is something that happens to the Patriot offense, not against the Patriot defense. Chandler looked like Gronkowski out there in the second quarter, but Gronk did make up for his three drops with 104 yards receiving on five catches.

The Patriots get Peyton Manning and his new team next week. Manning's new pattern is to spot his opponents a big lead, then try and rally for the win. Both Atlanta and Houston were able to fend him off and hold on, but Manning will slice and dice this secondary if they play like this and cannot tighten up the deep middle.

Time and time again, teams with good defenses have shown that if you shut down Brady, you shut down this Patriot team. The Bills simply ran out of gas in the second half, either that or they are not as good as advertised even with the addition of Mario Williams. Ridley and Bolden are not the new Csonka and Kiick or the new Harris and Bleier. They will not be doing this sort of thing every week.

At least John Parry and his officiating crew didn't decide the game. Whew.


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