|Patriots 30, Panthers 7: What we were watching for||Rusney Castillo signs with Red Sox for 7 years, $72.5 million||Connelly’s Top Ten: All-Star Starting Pitchers, Medal for Frates, Weekend||Video: Angels’ Garret Richards Blows Out Knee vs. Red Sox|
Up until the final minutes of Monday night’s thrilling Patriots come-from-behind, season-opening 25-24 win over Buffalo, I was thinking this article was going to be extremely difficult to write. Through about the first 55 minutes of this game, it was hard to single out any Pats players to highlight, as the entire team was being outplayed by a seemingly inferior Buffalo Bills team.
And then the final few minutes happened.
All of a sudden, as they generally seem to do, the Patriots stepped up and found a way to win what was arguably the most exciting game of the NFL’s opening weekend.
So now, a closer look at a few key New England players who deserve special recognition for their efforts in Monday night’s victory, known this season as “PATS on the Back.”
I have a feeling that in most wins, you will see #12 earning himself a “PAT on the back,” but Monday, in his first regular season game in 12 months, how can I start with anyone else? Brady executed when it mattered most, making the throws necessary down the stretch to put the team ahead and get the W for New England.
There was rust at first, but after a fourth quarter to remember, Brady ended with a career-high-tying 39 completions on 53 attempts, throwing for 378 yards through the air, including two late touchdown passes to deliver the victory. You can’t call this a “great” game for T.B., as some of his early throws looked wobbly and off-balance, but down the stretch, who else do you want under center, playing for your team? No one, but #12.
After a preseason where many thought Ben Watson could be on the chopping block come cut time, the talented tight end stepped it up in huge fashion in the red zone against Buffalo, highlighted of course, by his two late touchdown catches to help make this win happen. Randy Moss and Wes Welker, each with 12 receptions a piece, have to be given an “honorable mention” on offense, but Watson’s clutch grabs proved why he’s worth the roster spot that was given to him. Since it’s a contract year for Mr. Watson, I have a feeling you’ll see more top notch performances throughout the season.
“The fumble.” Leonis McKelvin’s fumble of a kickoff return that never should have been run back in the first place, ended in the worst way for Buffalo. Thanks to the special teams trio of Brandon Meriweather, Pierre Woods, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski, momentum stayed on New England’s side, giving the ball back to the Pats’ offense which put the team up for good in the final minute of the game.
Credit second-year pro Meriweather for the stop on McKelvin’s ill-advised return, followed by the forced fumble by Woods, and then the gutsy play by the kicker Gostkowski, who hustles his way down the field to recover the loose ball amidst a scrum of much bigger, nastier players than he. You have to admire the talent and intelligent play from these three gamers.
Was it how most Pats fans saw this game going leading up to the contest? I wouldn’t think so. But, as they say, a win is a win, no matter how big or small the margin. With a short week now to prepare for their Week 2 opponent, the New York Jets, who are coming off an impressive opening win over Houston on Sunday, the Pats can’t celebrate too long.
With all that being said, a job well done to earn this victory over Buffalo, and “PATS on the back” go out to the entire team for their impressive stretch run to solidify an opening week win.