Patriots: Order restored in AFC East
Three things we learned in the Patriots’ 52-28 rout of Buffalo:
1. Defensive playmakers
The defense was not perfect, but it was opportunistic. New England forced six turnovers, two of which led to touchdowns and another, a fumble forced by Brandon Spikes deep in New England territory, that helped prevent the Bills from taking a 14-point lead into the break. The much-maligned Devin McCourty had two picks. Spikes caused two fumbles with bone-jarring hits. And the man in the middle, Vince Wilfork, did a little of everything, from tipping a ball that led to a Jerod Mayo interception, recovering the big fumble before halftime and sending Donald Jones to the locker room with the hit of the day.
2. Century duo
Even without Logan Mankins, the Patriots pushed the Bills defense all over the field, which led to huge days for Stevan Ridley and rookie Brandon Bolden. Both backs ran for over 100 yards and Ridley had two touchdowns, including one when Buffalo had 12 men on the field. They could have used 13 and New England still might’ve dominated the line of scrimmage. Tom Brady was sacked just once. The Pats’ patchwork offensive line was supposed to be up against it facing a solid front four for Buffalo. Give offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia some credit.
3. Talent offsets mistakes
The 52 points and the highlight-reel hits on defense looked great, but Bill Belichick has plenty to use for motivation. The Pats had two fumbles, two missed field goals and several missed opportunities in the first half. The Bills got what they wanted in the middle of the field, including a 68-yard touchdown by Donald Jones that gave Buffalo a 14-point lead in the third quarter. It was all New England after that, but Belichick will not forget the first 35 minutes.
One thing to never forget is Tom Brady’s greatness. Bolstered by the run game and a lackluster Buffalo defense, Brady had a vintage performance. He completed 22 of 36 passes for 340 yards, three TDs and no interceptions.