Gostkowski Kick Saves New England
It was not very pretty for the New England Patriots, but in the NFL, and even more so in week one, a win is a win. The Patriots will take it. Gostkowski kicked the winning field goal with five seconds left and the Patriots got off running with the divisional win. In front of a raucous crowd in Orchard Park, New York, Tom Brady converted three third downs and Shane Vereen ran for 15 yards to set the stage for Stephen Gostkowski. The Patriots kicker nailed the 35 yarder and Bills’ fans couldn’t help but get the same feeling they had in recent years: the Bills got close, but they didn’t finish.
It was 17-14 New England at the half, and Buffalo held its own even if it was outgained in yards. The first half was a turnover fest, with each team committing two. All four turnovers were converted for touchdowns by the opposing team.
It started with C.J. Spiller fumbling in his own territory, which led to a Brady touchdown pass to Julian Edelman. However, Stevan Ridley returned the favor to the Bills by fumbling in the redzone in the second quarter. This fumble was returned 74 yards by Bills’ safety Da’Norris Searcy for a touchdown to make the score 10-7 Patriots. Ridley did not see any action after his mistake, as it was Shane Vereen who took the load for the rest of the game. Vereen rushed for 101 yards and one touchdown
This play revived the Bills’ crowd, which was later cooled off by another Bills’ fumble caused by Kyle Arrington. Marquise Goodwin’s fumble was recovered by Rob Ninkovich and placed the Patriots’ offense in a very good position. Brady took advantage of that great field position by throwing his second touchdown right after the two minute warning. Right when you would think both teams would head to the locker room with a 17-7 New England lead, Brady threw a pick that gave a last chance for Buffalo to level up the score. That interception was the result of a deflection from Brady’s target, tight end Zach Sudfeld, remembering Pats fans that they might miss Hernandez and a healthy ‟Gronk” this season. E.J. Manuel’s first ever touchdown pass occurred right before the half, making it 17-14 New England after thirty minutes of play.
Buffalo took right where it left off, by scoring a touchdown on their first drive. That was Manuel’s second touchdown pass, this one to Stevie Johnson. The score was now 21-17 Bills and Buffalo fans were getting excited.
The turnover fest continued, as on the subsequent drive, Brady fumbled after a long drive. After the third quarter, Buffalo still led 21-17. The fourth quarter was an exchange of unsuccessful offensive drives, with both teams having trouble finding rhythm. Stevie Johnson, who had called out the Patriots secondary earlier this week, dropped what could have been a crucial third down conversion midway through third quarter. Danny Amendola was Brady’s most reliable target, as he notably made some crucial and acrobatic catches on that last drive that set up the winning field goal.
Brady’s numbers were sub-par, but that could have been expected, as he was playing with a completely different, and less talented, receiving corps than last year. The New England Patriots’ quarterback was 29 for 52, passing for 288 yards and two touchdowns.
The Patriots’ defense did what it mostly did in the past years, which is bending but not breaking. However, it should pick up the pace if it wants the Pats to be contenders. The defense allowed rookie E.J. Manuel to pass for 150 yards and 2 touchdowns. Even though those are not very good numbers, it is clear that the defense needs adjustments if it wants to give the Pats a chance when they will face teams like Denver and Baltimore. The Patriots pass rush struggled throughout the game, generating no sacks.
Danny Amendola seemed to have injured his groin during game time. He was sidelined for some time but eventually returned and made some big plays. ‟He really toughed it out, which was impressive,” Brady said of Amendola. Brady also assessed the game winning drive to Sports Illustrated, saying he ‟didn’t have a lot of doubt” and that ‟the team was full of fighters.”
It was New England’s 10th consecutive season opener win and Brady’s 38th fourth quarter comeback win. Bills’ fans will probably have nightmares about this one, but they are probably used to it.
New England will have its home opener this coming Thursday against the New York Jets. The Pats will try to go 2-0 in the division, which would give them a good heads start for the division title.