By: Steve Balestrieri
The New England Patriots behind a late drive by Tom Brady escaped with a 23-21 over the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, NY. The win puts the Patriots at 1-0 in the 2013 season and run their record to 10-0 in the last ten season openers.
While the game was much more difficult than anticipated and necessary, the bottom line is the Patriots prevailed in a game they were supposed to win and now know what they need to work on in the next few days prior to their home opener on Thursday against the Jets.
Tom Brady and Julian Edelman celebrate after a first half touchdown. (FILE:USPresswire)
Here are some observations from the game:
–Tom Brady at His Best at Crunch Time: Brady was victimized by receivers falling down and dropping the ball all game, but in the final drive Brady was at his best, going 7-7 during a 14 play drive and setting up Stephen Gostkowski for the game winner with five seconds left.
Brady was obviously getting frustrated as they game wore on, but maintained his composure and rallied the team when it counted. It was his 36th game winning drive in the fourth quarter of games during his career. Brady finished 29-52 for 288 yards with 2 TDs and 1 INT.
– Danny Amendola Comes Through: The knock on Amendola has been his durability, but never his ability. Early in the game, Amendola aggravated a groin injury that has been bothering him. It was thought he was gone for the duration of the game.
But he returned and had an outstanding second half finishing the day with 10 catches for 104 yards and he was instrumental on the Patriots final drive catching 4 passes. He and Julian Edelman provided that veteran leadership that was needed in the wide receiving core.
–Shane Vereen Steps Up: Much was made over Vereen’s summer of work and was expected to shoulder a much bigger part of the load this season. And he did, Vereen getting the most carries after Stevan Ridley was benched, rushed 14 times for 101 yards. He also caught 7 passes for 58 yards.
He was at his best in the pivotal fourth quarter including a 15 yard run to set up Gostkowski’s game winner. Much like Danny Woodhead, whom he replaced Vereen can run between the tackles and catch the ball out of the backfield.
–Ball Security Still An Issue: Stevan Ridley was running effectively early in the game but put the ball on the ground twice, the second one without being touched which was returned for a 74 yard touchdown and didn’t play again. But he wasn’t alone in miscues.
Brady fumbled a snap at the Bills 1 yard line on fourth down and goal and wasted an opportunity to take the lead. At the end of the second quarter, TE Zach Sudfeld tripped making a cut and Brady’s pass bounced off his hands right into a defender’s for an interception setting up the Bills second TD.
–Defense Stops Spiller: The Patriots plan was to stop C.J. Spiller and make rookie QB EJ Manuel beat them. And they did an outstanding job on the dangerous Bills back; Spiller could only manage 41 yards on 17 carries for a 2.4 yard average.
Coming out of the backfield, Spiller caught 5 passes for just 14 yards for just a 2.8 yard per reception average. Overall, the Patriots defense did a pretty good job. Of Buffalo’s 21 points, 7 were on the Ridley fumble and 74 yard return, and 7 more resulted from the interception at the end of the half that gave the Bills a very short field.
While far from perfect, the defense was at its best in the 4th quarter limiting Buffalo and getting the ball back for the offense. Buffalo only had the ball for 22 minutes and 17 seconds in the game.
–Rookie WRs Have Rookie Performance: A common issue on Sunday was seeing the Patriots young wide receivers losing their footing coming out of their breaks and not able to hold on to the ball. Kenbrell Thompkins, Zach Sudfeld and Josh Boyce all had their issues against the Bills. Thompkins did have 4 catches for 42 yards, while the other two were held off the scoresheet.
Growing pains and issues were expected with the younger players but overall they had a rough first outing.
–Arrington Forces Two TOs: CB Kyle Arrington had a strong first game of the 2013 season generating two forced fumbles in the first half and doing an overall strong job playing in the slot while the Patriots limited Buffalo to just 150 yards passing.
Both of the fumbles generated by Arrington resulted in Julian Edelman touchdown receptions for the Patriots who scored 17 first half points.