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Bills 21-point comeback ends Pats streak at 15

Posted Sep 25, 2011


The Bills played the role of comeback kids for a second straight week. Down 21-0 to the Patriots in the second quarter, Buffalo came all the way back to erase the deficit and take a 31-24 lead on an interception return by Drayton Florence. Buffalo then drove for what were the winning points as they killed the clock with a handful of kneel downs before Rian Lindell put a 28-yard field goal through for another dramatic 34-31 victory ending New England’s 15-game winning streak over the Bills.

“Best one of my career,” said Chris Kelsay of the victory. “Regardless if it’s Week 3 or the last game of the season, I’ve never been to the postseason. I’ve played on Monday night, played a close one against Dallas where we came up short. I’ve played these guys 17 times and only won one until (Sunday), so it’s awesome. Anytime you can beat a great team like that and a great coaching staff like that you’re going to enjoy it.”

“It was 21-0, but we went down and scored and it was 21-7 (before half),” said head coach Chan Gailey. “You keep playing. There’s ups and downs in this game. Just handle the ups and downs and just keep playing. If you keep playing good things will happen to you. Our guys kept playing. You’ve got to give them their due in the character department.”

New England’s offensive machine was in gear early. Tom Brady leaned heavily on Wes Welker in the passing game, who finished with 217 yards on 20 receptions both franchise bests. The slot receiver accounted for three first downs on the drive, including a 33-yard reception to move the Patriots down to the Bills 22-yard line. Four plays later, Brady found Welker for his fourth reception of the drive all by himself on the left side of the field after Drayton Florence slipped on the turf and coasted to the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown catch and an early 7-0 lead.

Ryan Fitzpatrick got Buffalo’s opening possession off to a good start hooking up with Stevie Johnson on a 33-yard pass play on first down to move the Bills up over midfield. But on the next play from scrimmage Fitzpatrick’s pass intended for Donald Jones went off the receiver’s hands as he was shoved in the back and was intercepted by Kyle Arrington. Arrington returned it to the Bills 35-yard line.

Brady and company made quick work of the short field. On first-and-goal from the Bills one-yard line Brady executed a good play action fake and hit Rob Gronkowski in the back of the end zone for his second touchdown pass of the opening quarter. Stephen Gostkowski’s extra point made it 14-0 Patriots midway through the opening frame.

The Bills offense continued to sputter into the second quarter and New England put a third touchdown on the board as Brady found Gronkowski down the seam for a 26-yard scoring strike and a 21-0 advantage.

“Early in the game he was getting Welker in the seam,” said George Wilson. “Gronkowski caught a couple in the seam and early in the game I was lined up on him and I forced him with an outside release so I was inside technique and Brady did a good job of putting the ball on him high and behind me so I was running with no vision in coverage so Gronkowski going up and making the play.”

Buffalo finally put points on the board late in the first half as Fitzpatrick capped a seven-play 96-yard drive with a well-placed fade pass to the back right corner of the end zone to Stevie Johnson for an 11-yard scoring play (21-7) with under two minutes to go in the half.

On the ensuing possession with the Patriots in the red zone the Bills defense came up with a big play. A pass intended for Danny Woodhead in the right flat glanced off the back’s hand and Bryan Scott intercepted the throw at the Bills 10-yard line.

“It was a formation we had seen earlier in the week., the back to the flat quickly,” said Scott. “I just tried to get there as fast as I could. He kind of bobble it and I just took it, got down and stayed inbounds.”

With just over a minute left in the half and all their timeouts, Buffalo was able to cover 66 yards on 10 plays, with Fitzpatrick finding Donald Jones for an eight-yard pass play to get the Bills in field goal range. Rian Lindell put a 42-yard attempt through the uprights to pull Buffalo to within 11 just before the half (21-10).

Buffalo’s first possession of the second half was done after three plays, but the Bills defense got them an extra possession when Leodis McKelvin picked Brady off on a pass over the middle intended for Gronkowski and returned it to the Patriots 39.

“I was just getting that route too many times,” said McKelvin. “I just took my chance. Coach told me if they go up underneath you better make that play and it happened. My eyes got big and as soon as I turned my head the ball was right there.”

Buffalo’s offense would then capitalize on the turnover. An 18-yard carry by Fred Jackson set Buffalo up 1st-and-goal at the six-yard line. On third-and-goal from the three, Fitzpatrick hit a wide open Scott Chandler to the Bills to within four (21-17). For Chandler it was his fourth touchdown in three games.

New England drove right down the field again relying on Welker and Gronkowski through the air, with Danny Woodhead mixed in on the ground. Facing a third-and-four at the Bills seven-yard line, McKelvin stoned Welker in the flat stopping him shy of the first down marker at the Buffalo five forcing the Patriots to settle for a 23-yard field goal to make it 24-17.

The Bills had trouble putting a long series together after their second half touchdown drive, going three-and-out on their next two possessions gaining just eight yards combined.

But Buffalo’s defense again turned in a big play with New England driving. Brady thought he had Growkowski down the seam again for their third touchdown play of the game, but George Wilson made an acrobatic interception to thwart the threat.

“When we got back in the tight red zone area we know that he loves to target 87,” said Wilson. “So I played it a little differently. I forced him to go inside so I could have vision on the ball and as I was running and looking at him I saw his eyes get big so I knew the ball was coming. I got my head around and was able to throw my hands up and get them on the ball and get the turnover and Ryan and the offense did a great job of converting it into points.”

Buffalo’s offense was the beneficiary of a roughing the passer penalty deep in their own territory and followed it up with 48-yard pass play from Fitzpatrick to Jones to move the Bills into New England territory. The Bills were then aided by a pass interference penalty in the end zone as David Nelson was held to set up a first-and-goal at the New England one-yard line.

Fred Jackson punched it in getting a great seal block from Corey McIntyre to tie the game after Lindell’s extra point 24-24, to pull even on the scoreboard since the early minutes of the game. Jackson finished with 161 yards from scrimmage in the game with 74 on the ground and 87 more on five catches.

The Bills defense then turned in another giant play. On the first play of New England’s ensuing possession a Brady pass caromed off the helmet of Marcell Dareus and Drayton Florence intercepted the errant pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown to give Buffalo a 31-24 lead, their first of the game with just over 10 minutes remaining.

“The tight end was over on my side and we just had a cover-two coverage called,” said Florence. “I jammed my guy and Marcell got the tip and just playing the defense that was called being in the right place at the right time and obviously we needed a big play in that situation and I was able to take that interception back for a touchdown which was big for us.”

For Brady it was his first four-interception game since Nov. 5, 2006 when he had four against Indianapolis. It was just the sixth time in his career he was intercepted four times in a game.

Brady however, put together a methodical drive with some help from the ground game and his most reliable target Welker. The slot receiver pulled in a 19-yard grab to set up 1st-and-10 at the Bills 13, then a 12-yard catch to set up first-and-goal at the one-yard line. After a penalty and facing 4th-and-goal at the six, Brady hit Welker on a crossing pattern for a touchdown to tie it at 31 with 3:25 left.

Buffalo’s offense was humming at that point in the game and came right back and again broke yards off in big chunks. On 1st-and-10 at their own 20, Fitzpatrick hit Donald Jones for a 29-yard pass play moving the offense out to midfield. Fred Jackson then hit the Patriots for 12 yards on a screen play.

Then split out wide Jackson on the right side of the formation took a quick slant from Fitzpatrick and went straight up the field 39 yards to the one-yard line. The play was initially called a touchdown, but reversed on review.

“It was something we knew would be an opportunity to make a play on,” said Jackson. “The way they play, the way they blitz to empty (backfields). It was something Fitz and I saw. Any time we line up out there and we point away from a linebacker, the (near one) blitzes and leaves that gap open. Fitz held the ball and let me get in the second window and I was able to make a play on it.”

By reversing the initial touchdown call, Buffalo still had possession and a first-and-goal situation with 1:30 remaining. New England had to burn their second timeout to keep the clock from starting following the review. Fitzpatrick took a couple of kneel downs before Vince Wilfork was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct giving Buffalo a new set of downs.

After two more kneel downs by Fitzpatrick, Rian Lindell came on for the game-winning 28-yard field goal attempt and put it through with no time left on the clock and the victory.

Now 3-0 Buffalo sits atop the AFC East. They look to keep their perfect record intact in Week 4 as they head to Cincinnati to face the Bengals.