December 08, 2002
Pats Beat Buffalo 27-17
BY: Ian Logue/PatsFans.com
FOXBORO, MA -- Despite having three touchdowns called back by penalties, the Patriots instead took advantage of five Buffalo Bills turnovers, turning two of them into touchdowns in a 27-17 victory over the Bills at Gillette Stadium on Sunday.
Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe had a less than memorable homecoming in his first return to Foxboro, throwing four interceptions, the most he has thrown in a single game all season. He finished the afternoon 31-of-52 for 328-yards and threw two touchdown passes, but was taunted after each interception by a Foxboro crowd who had initially greeted him with a standing ovation at the start of the game.
As for Patriots QB Tom Brady he had another solid outing against his former teammate, completing 15-of-27 for 183-yards and two touchdown passes, and also completed passes to 10-different players.
Turnovers were the key to the game on Sunday, with three of them leading to 17-points for the Patriots (8-5). New England's defense made four interceptions and recovered a fumble, and in the end those miscues ended up spelling disaster to a Bills (6-7) team that with the loss was virtually eliminated from playoff contention.
New England opened the game in style, with Brady completing a 41-yard pass to wide receiver Deion Branch which put the Patriots at Buffalo's 22-yard line. Five plays later Branch caught a pass and dove into the endzone for what would have been a 15-yard touchdown reception, but a holding penalty on Matt Light had the play called back. Branch was injured on the play and left the game, and the Patriots would instead have to settle for a field goal, taking an early 3-0 lead.
After forcing a Buffalo punt the Patriots scored again after a 33-yard reception by tight end Christian Fauria and a 21-yard run on a reverse by wide receiver Troy Brown gave New England the ball at the Bills 21-yard line. Three plays later Brady found Patten in the endzone for a 10-yard touchdown pass, and the Patriots found themselves up 10-0 with 3:35 left in the first quarter.
On Buffalo's first play from scrimmage on their next possession, Bledsoe dropped back to pass and had his pass batted back by Anthony Pleasant, and Richard Seymour caught the ball as it was coming down for the interception. The play suddenly gave New England's offense first and goal at the Bills 9-yard line.
Two plays later Brady connected with receiver Donald Hayes on a 9-yard touchdown pass, and suddenly the Patriots had a commanding 17-0 lead.
Buffalo then engineered a 14-play, 85-yard drive and drove all the way down to New England's one yard line. But on 2nd-and-goal Bledsoe dropped back and rolled right, and instead of throwing the ball away was victimized by Tebucky Jones who picked him off in the endzone and ended a potential scoring opportunity for the Bills.
The Patriots then appeared to have another touchdown when Kevin Faulk took the direct snap on a 3rd-and-5 play at the Buffalo 23-yard line and lobbed a perfect pass to Brady for an apparent score, but an illegal shift penalty nullified the play and they would have to settle on a 46-yard field goal by Adam Vinatieri. The field goal put them up 20-0 with 2:31 left in the 1st-half.
Buffalo then got themselves back in the game by scoring on their first two possessions of the second half. On their first possession they put together a 13-play, 67-yard drive that ended with a 26-yard field goal by Mike Hollis, cutting the lead to 20-3. Their defense then held New England's offense to a three-and-out, and found themselves in good field position when Ken Walter's punt was downed at the Buffalo 41-yard line.
Bledsoe then connected with Josh Reed on a 42-yard reception to give the Bills 1st-and-10 at the Patriots 12-yard line, and three plays later he found Eric Moulds in the endzone for a 12-yard touchdown, pulling within 10 with 4:15 left in the third quarter. The Bills suddenly were back in the game and appeared to have momentum.
But the final blow came at the start of the fourth quarter after Buffalo's defense had forced a three-and-out by New England's offense. Bledsoe completed a 6-yard pass to Peerless Price to Buffalo's 28-yard line, but when Otis Smith wrapped him up, he got both hands on the ball and ripped it away giving the Patriots the ball. New England later scored on a 4-yard touchdown run by Antowain Smith to put the game away at 27-10 with 10:06 left in the game.
The Bills pulled back within 10 with 1:05 left in the game after Buffalo took the ball 88-yards on an 18-play drive that took 4:43 off of the clock. Bledsoe found Eric Moulds on a 4-yard touchdown pass but it was too little too late. New England recovered the onside kick and the game was over.
The Patriots will now prepare to take on the Tennessee Titans next Monday night at The Coliseum in Nashville.
GAME NOTES: Patriots kicker Adam Vinatieri had been a perfect 10-of-10 at Gillette Stadium until he missed a 43-yard field goal wide left early in the fourth quarter…..Linebacker Ted Johnson started the game in place of the injured Tedy Bruschi on Sunday. Johnson lead the team with 9 combined tackles and also had a sack……Wide receiver David Patten's touchdown on Sunday gave him a career high 5 TD receptions. His previous high was last year's total of four. The most he had prior to last year was 2 back in 1997 when he played for the New York Giants…….Joe Andruzzi left at the beginning of the fourth quarter with a leg injury. Damien Woody shifted over to Andruzzi's spot, while Grey Ruegamer replaced Woody at center.
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