Pats win streak against Buffalo ends amid a flurry of turnovers
It was a game Patriots fans are not accustomed to seeing.
All-Pro quarterback Tom Brady suddenly looked human, tieing a career worst with four interceptions. Three-time Super Bowl winning coach Bill Belichick called a questionable time out late in the fourth quarter, and team surrendered a 21-point first half lead giving Buffalo its first win over New England in 15 tries.
All this, and it still took a last-second Ryan Lindell field goal to push Buffalo to a 34-31 victory over New England and into at least a share of first place in the AFC East. The Patriots fell despite edging the Bills in first downs, total yardage and time of possession due to the four aforementioned Brady interceptions and 93 yards of penalties.
“We had our opportunities, we didn’t really take advantage of them like I wish we would have,” Brady said. “We had too many turnovers, too many penalties, that allowed them to get some easy plays and they took advantage when they needed too.”
The day started the way both of New England’s previous contests had, with Brady dissecting the opposing defense. The reigning league MVP marched his team 64 yards on the day’s opening drive with seemingly relative ease. On the drive Brady continued a trend of finding reliable receiver Wes Welker out of the slot and second year tight end Rob Gronkowski from a variety of spots in the formation. The duo combine for 61 yards on the drive, and Brady found Welker for a 14-yard touchdown to finish it.
Buffalo’s day also started similarly. The Bills, who fell behind 21-3 a week ago against Oakland, once again struggled early. On just his second throw of the day, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was intercepted by Patriot corner Kyle Arrington, leading to another New England score, this one a one-yard play action toss to Gronkowski. Fitzpatrick was again victimized by Arrington on the next drive, this time deep in Patriots territory, and Brady once again found Gronkowski midway through the second quarter for a 26-yard score.
Fitzpatrick led the Bills down the field on the next drive, eventually connecting with Stevie Johnson for an 11-yard touchdown on a fade rout. Fitzpatrick identified one-on-one coverage and put the ball just over the head of Patriots corner Devin McCourty into Johnson’s hands in the quarter of the end zone. It appeared the score would be of little consequence though, because Brady wasted no time in putting together a drive of his own, leading New England all the way down to the Buffalo 13-yard line.
But the game would change on the next play. Brady fired just behind running back Danny Woodhead and the ball was tipped up into the air. Bills safety Bryan Scott made a diving, acrobatic interception, in what would amount to a 10-point swing after the Bills marched down for a field goal just before the half, cutting the deficit to 21-10.
Brady then threw a deep interception intended for Chad Ochocinco to start the second half. Leodis MKelvin undercut the route and returned it 21 yards to the New England 39-yard line, eventually setting up a three-yard Fitzpatrick touchdown pass to tight end Scott Chandler. Just minutes into the fourth quarter the Bills would finish their climb back into the game with a one-yard run from Fred Jackson.
On the ensuing drive, the New England meltdown was seemingly completed. Brady dropped back and looked for receiver Julian Edelman. What he did not see was Bills corner Drayton Florence coming down hill to break on the ball which was tipped up at the line. Florence grabbed the pick and took it back for six the other way, giving the Bills their first lead.
To New England’s credit, they did not wilt after that. Brady led his offense on a 15-play drive to tie the game. Twice the Patriots were forced to convert fourth downs, including a fourth and goal from the Bills six-yard line. On the drive’s final play, Brady found Welker for his second touchdown catch of the day, capping a career afternoon for the diminutive wide out who finished with 16 catches for 217 yards. But Welker found it hard to discuss personal achievements in defeat.
“(The loss) detracts from everything,” Welker said. We lost the game. What should be a great, fun day of breaking records and doing those things is totally the opposite.”
The Patriots were, however, forced to use an unneccasary timeout on the drive, which came back to haunt them as they were forced to watch the Bills simply kneel down three times and kick a field goal to win it as time expired. Belichick’s responses to questions about the timeout were indicative of his general mood following a game his team let get away.
“I took it, I took it,” Belichick said when asked why he called the timeout. “I went down to call a timeout, what don’t you understand about that?”