|Francona Wins Big in Return to Fenway||Connelly’s Top Ten: Rask Falls on Face||Bruins Lose 4-3 in OT as Rangers Fight to Stay Alive||For the Bulletin Board: Lundqvist’s “Lucky Bounces,” Savard’s “#ByeByeTorts”|
The Buffalo Bills rallied from a 21-0 second-quarter deficit on Sunday, scoring 24 second-half points en route to a 34-31 victory over the New England Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y.
The Bills scored 17 points in the fourth after entering the final frame down 24-17. The defeat was the Patriots first loss to Buffalo since September 7, 2003 when Buffalo massacred New England 31-0.
Buffalo relied on a quartet of Tom Brady interceptions, converting the four turnovers into 17 points. This was Brady’s first four-interception game since November 6, 2006 against Indianapolis. The Patriots are 0-6 when Brady has four or more picks.
Two tipped passes especially stifled the Patriots’ offense. Up 21-7 late in the second-quarter, Brady’s attempt to Danny Woodhead hit off Woodhead’s hands into the diving arms of Bryan Scott. In the fourth, Brady’s pass to Julien Edelman was deflected straight in the air before Drayton Florence caught the ball and scampered 27-yards for the 31-24 lead.
Missing several prominent players on defense, Belichick’s unit struggled against the explosive Buffalo attack. The Patriots surrendered 448 total yards to the Bills in the losing effort. Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick went 27-40 for 369 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, while Fred Jackson tallied 161 total yards, including a fourth-quarter touchdown to tie the game 24-24.
The Bills had four players with at least 84 receiving yards, including Donald Jones (101), Steve Johnson (94), Jackson (87) and David Nelson (84). Fitzpatrick’s success was aided by a lack of a Patriots’ pass rush in which no New England player registered a sack. The Patriots had only two hits on the Bills’ signal caller.
Brady’s favorite target had a career game on Sunday, totaling 16 receptions for 216 yards and two touchdowns. Welker had four catches for 67 yards on New England’s opening touchdown drive, hauling in a 14-yard strike from Brady. The Texas Tech alum tied the game 31-31 late in the fourth with a six-yard touchdown catch. Welker’s set a career high in both receptions and yards.
The third-year corner had a phenomenal first quarter, intercepting two Fitzpatrick passes to give the Patriots the early lead. Arrington caught a tipped pass on Buffalo’s second play of the game before intercepting a fourth-down pass intended for David Nelson on the Bills’ second possession.
Despite just three punts, Mesko had an outstanding day reversing field position for New England. Mesko blasted a 57-yard punt to pin the Bills at their own 10, and then matched that by dropping a 36-yard punt inside the Buffalo six.
Brady was stellar on the opening two possessions to give the Patriots a 14-0 first-quarter lead, but was inconsistent the rest of the contest. Brady finished the afternoon 30-45 with 387 yards and four touchdowns, but his three second-half picks sparked the Bills come-from-behind win. The New England offense only mustered 10 second-half points.
The Bills set the tone early, attacking the Patriots’ secondary successfully, starting with a 33-yard completion to Stevie Johnson on Buffalo’s first offensive play. Despite the two Arrington picks, New England’s secondary allowed their assignments to get open often while missing tackles on the back-end to extend Buffalo drives. Devin McCourty was the subject of several Fitzpatrick big plays with no help from Patrick Chung and Ras-I Dowling, who both missed the contest due to injury.
Missing both Albert Haynesworth and Mike Wright to injury, the Patriots’ defensive line generated zero pressure on Fitzpatrick while allowing huge holes for Fred Jackson to capitalize on. With only two QB pressures, the Patriots must figure out a way to get to opposing quarterbacks as the season progresses.
New England will look to shake this loss off next week when they travel to Oakland next Sunday to battle the Raiders at 4:15.