Danny Amendola came through for the Patriots, but it was a costly performance. (USA TODAY Images)

With the entire season obviously behind us at this point, this is the first in a daily series taking an in-depth look back at each regular season game now that we have plenty of context behind it to understand the significance of what transpired in each one. Also included will be notable stats, quotes, and additional information to hopefully focus on some things you may have forgotten and make it an interesting look back at the season. The idea behind this is with free agency approaching and the draft not far off, this will paint a bigger picture of each game and highlight some of the weaknesses and things that went wrong, which will likely play a factor in how the team approaches fixing some of the issues they dealt with this season.

In this morning’s installment, the focus is on their week one game out in Buffalo against the Bills, which was a 23-21 win to open 2013.

Week 1: Sunday, September 8th, 2013 at Buffalo

They say the first game of the season sets the tone for the year, and it’s hard to argue that what transpired in New England’s opening game out in Buffalo did exactly that to their football team after seeing how it all unfolded.

After building a 17-14 halftime lead, the Patriots fell behind 21-17 in the 3rd quarter and it would take some critical plays down the stretch for New England to battle back and ultimately notch their first win of the season.

Here’s a quick look at some numbers from the game, as well as some additional key points from week one that stood out:

OFFENSIVE STATS:
Total Offensive Plays: 89 (Excluding punts & field goals)
Number of First Down Plays: 39 – First Downs Converted: 8
Number of Second Down Plays: 29 – First Downs Converted: 6
Number of Third Down Plays: 20 – First Downs Converted: 11
Number of Fourth Down Plays: 1, First Downs Converted 0
Punts – 6
FG Attempts: 3, Made: 3

PASSING STATS:
Tom Brady:
Total: 29-of-52 for 288yds, 3 sacks, 2 TD’s, 1 INT, QB Rating: 76.4
First Down: 11-of-22 (50%) for 122yds 1 sack
Second Down: 5-of-13 (38%) for 32yds 1 INT
Third Down: 13-of-17 (76%) for 134yds 2 sacks, 2 TD’s

Red Zone Passing:
3-of-7 (43%) for 21yds, 2 sacks, 2 TD’s

RUSHING LEADERS:
Shane Vereen: 14 carries, 101yds (4 First Downs)
Stevan Ridley: 9 carries, 46yds (2 First Downs)
LeGarrette Blount: 7 carries, 15yds (1 First Down)

RECEIVING LEADERS:
Danny Amendola: Targets: 14, Receptions: 10, 104yds (9 First Downs)
Julian Edelman: Targets: 9, Receptions: 7, 79yds (4 First Downs)
Shane Vereen: Targets: 10, Receptions: 7, 58yds (3 First Downs)
Kenbrell Thompkins: Targets: 14, Receptions: 4, 42yds (2 First Downs)
Michael Hoomanawanui: Targets: 2, Receptions: 1, 5yds

NOTABLE INACTIVES:
WR Aaron Dobson, RB Brandon Bolden, TE Rob Gronkowski, S Duron Harmon, RB Leon Washington


Kenbrell Thompkins struggled to get on the same page with Tom Brady in his first career NFL regular season game.
(USA TODAY Images)

NEWCOMER DANNY AMENDOLA MAKES THE KEY PLAYS IN THE FINAL DRIVE FOR THE PATRIOTS, BUT IT CAME AT A STEEP COST:

After dealing with a groin injury at the end of training camp, Amendola started off the season already in a tough spot.  The veteran receiver, who was already saddled with the “injury prone” label after being signed during the offseason, didn’t help his cause after suffering an early setback in that game, with the veteran receiver re-aggravating the injury in the first half while finishing with just 3 receptions for 40-yards.

In the second half he gutted it out, piling up seven receptions for 64 yards, four of which came during the Patriots game-winning drive.  His final grab was huge, converting a critical 3rd-and-8 thanks to a 10-yard reception that got New England down to the Bills’ 29-yard line.

The bad news was, that was the last time Amendola would see action for several weeks, as reports of a more significant injury later surfaced that ended up requiring him to be shut down in the weeks to come.

RUNNING BACK SHANE VEREEN MAKES THE MOST OF HIS OPPORTUNITIES AND SHINES, BUT SUFFERS A KEY INJURY:

After going up right away 10-0 on the Bills, the Patriots seemed to be in control of the game and were on the verge of increasing their lead when Stevan Ridley committed the cardinal sin of fumbling the football on the opponent’s side of the field.  From there Ridley couldn’t do anything other than watch as Bills’ safety Da’Norris Searcy took his turnover back 74-yards for a touchdown, which woke up everyone in the stadium and gave the Bills some momentum.  That one play sent Ridley to the sideline for the remainder of the contest, and unfortunately was a sign of things to come for the veteran running back.

However, Shane Vereen would take advantage of Ridley’s miscue and finished the afternoon with 14 carries for 101 yards, and also caught 7 passes for 58 yards.  Vereen also had a critical 15-yard run on the Patriots game-wnning drive to take the ball down to Buffalo’s 14-yard line that set up Stephen Gostkowski’s game-winning field goal.

He was a critical part of their success that day. Overall his seven catches were just one shy of his entire reception total from last season, where he was targeted just 13 times for 8 receptions and 149 yards.  Of his 7 catches, four of them converted first downs.  He also had four first downs rushing on the afternoon, and he accounted for 8 of the Patriots 25 total offensive first downs (they had 26 total on the day, with one coming off of a Bills penalty).

Unfortunately, what seemed to be a performance to build on ended up costing Vereen after reports later came out after the game that the Patriots’ running back suffered a fractured wrist, which actually occurred on the first play of the game.  He fought through it and had a big day, but, like Amendola, it ended up taking him out of action in the weeks ahead.

NOW ON HIS OWN, RECEIVER JULIAN EDELMAN STANDS OUT:

In his first full outing as a starter in the “post-Wes Welker” era, Edelman started off strong and really set the tone for what ended up being a terrific season for him.  He caught five passes on five first-half targets against the Bills, including two touchdowns.  Overall he finished with 7 receptions for 79-yards, and Brady was 3-of-3 targeting him on third down with two conversions, both of which came in scoring territory for touchdowns.

KYLE ARRINGTON HAD A BIG OUTING:

The veteran defensive back forced two fumbles, the second of which they were able to turn into a touchdown. Overall their pass defense was terrific, with the most important number that stood out being that they didn’t allow any big plays, having not given up a single pass of over 20 yards against the Bills.

“We made just enough plays,” Arrington told the Boston Globe. “We’re definitely more focused this year on there being other ways to cause turnovers at our position besides intercepting the ball. When you see an opportunity to cause a fumble, seize it.”

ROUGH START FOR ROOKIE WR THOMPKINS:

After a preseason that saw Brady miss him just twice after connecting on 10-of-12 passes for 116 yards, Thompkins only managed to haul in four passes despite fourteen targets and they struggled in their regular season debut.

Their inability to connect ended up contributing to the offense finding itself in long-yardage situations quite a bit on Sunday. Brady went to Thompkins eight times on first down, completing just two throws and the pair hooked up just twice (2-of-4) on 2nd down. Their struggles lead to 12 of their 20 third downs being from 3rd-and-7 or longer, and the Patriots converted 11 in total via the passing game on the afternoon – none of which were completed to Thompkins. On third down Brady looked his way just twice, one of which he caught but failed to make sure his second foot stayed in bounds on a sideline route. Needless to say it wasn’t quite the start they were probably hoping for.

PATRIOTS RUN DEFENSE WAS SOLID:

Looking back at the game, another thing worth mentioning after looking at the numbers was how impressive the Patriots run defense was against the Bills. They held Buffalo to 19 rushes of five yards or less, and just two over 10 yards. CJ Spiller was held in check, with 9 of his 12 rushes being held to 5 or less yards. It’s a tall order to slow down someone of his caliber, so it’s hard not to appreciate just how well New England’s defensive line played against him in that game.

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

- One other thing that stood out for the defense was the differential of first downs when comparing the two teams. New England finished the day with 26 total offensive first downs compared to just 15 for the Bills. Even more impressive was the fact the Patriots converting 18 of them through the air compared to just 6 for the Bills. They also held Buffalo to just 4-of-13 on third down (31%).

- Brady extended his streak of games with a touchdown pass to 49 straight games during the win, which at the time was five short of the NFL record. The defense had also extended an impressive streak of their own, forcing a turnover in their 28th straight game, which happened on the Spiller fumble to start the game. Also, when the team took the field to open the season, not one player who caught a first down for Tom Brady in 2012 was on the field in Buffalo. Last year they finished the game with 33 first downs, with the running backs rushing for 19 first downs, while the receivers accounted for 13 of their own – none of which were there this time around. Last season it was Wes Welker (5), Rob Gronkowski (3), Brandon Lloyd (2), Danny Woodhead (1), Daniel Fells (1) and Brandon Bolden (1) who moved the chains for them.

- One other note. After a terrific preseason, tight end Zach Sudfeld was held without a reception and to make matters worse, Brady would be picked off during his one attempt in Sudfeld’s direction. That would be a sign of things to come for Sudfeld, who lit things up during the exhibition season but never ended up becoming a factor in their offense.