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Bills early lead vanishes vs. Pats

Posted Jan 1, 2012


It was a complete reversal of fortune for the Bills in comparison to their Week 3 victory over New England. Buffalo was the team that jumped out to an early 21-0 lead, but by the late stages of the third quarter it completely disappeared. The Patriots offense woke up in the second quarter and took advantage of three Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions as New England scored 49 unanswered points to win going away 49-21.

“That was kind of like our season,” said Fitzpatrick, who finished with 307 yards passing with a pair of touchdowns and four interceptions. “We started off so well with the 21 points and really had things rolling offensively and were doing some good things on defense stopping them and we wanted to do some up tempo stuff today which worked early. It was still working, it’s just when you get a sack, a penalty and a bad snap and you don’t complete a pass you need to complete it puts you behind the sticks and makes it harder.”

Trailing 21-14 at the half, New England pulled to within four points of the Bills on their first possession of the second half getting a 47-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski after a 3rd-and-9 pass from Brady to Aaron Hernandez fell incomplete (21-17).

A second field goal drive by New England made it a one-point affair with 5:13 left in the third quarter. Following a Ryan Fitzpatrick interception at the Bills 25-yard line the Patriots made it 28 unanswered points capitalizing on the turnover with a 17-yard touchdown strike from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski. New England then followed up with a two-point conversion for a 28-21 lead they would not relinquish.

Buffalo was threatening to tie the game, but on a 1st-and-10 play at the Patriots 32 a Fitzpatrick pass intended for C.J. Spiller was deflected and intercepted by Devin McCourty. After a 44-yard catch and run by Aaron Hernandez to set up first-and-goal from the three, Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis waltzed in for his second touchdown of the game to make it 35-21.

Gronkowski would add a seven-yard touchdown reception, which was promptly followed by a Sterling Moore interception return for a touchdown on the ensuing Buffalo possession to add the final 14 points to the Patriots tally on the day.

“We overcame a 21-point deficit,” said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. “Good job by the players of battling back. We made some plays as the game went along. I thought it was a good win. We’ll move on now to try to keep working to get ourselves better and then see what next week brings.”

With the win the Patriots locked up the top playoff seed in the AFC ensuring they’ll play at home throughout their postseason run.

The Bills came out firing on all cylinders in the first quarter as their offense moved the ball at will against the Patriots 32nd ranked defense. Buffalo promptly marched 80-yards on eight plays, thanks in large part to a 47-yard pass interference penalty when Derek Hagan was interfered with on a Ryan Fitzpatrick bomb on a deep post.

It set up 1st-and-goal at the Patriots’ four-yard line. Two plays later Tashard Choice bobbed and weaved his way to the end zone on a four-yard touchdown run giving Buffalo a 7-0 lead.

After a three-and-out by New England’s offense, Fitzpatrick and company methodically moved down the field on their second possession. Hagan had a 22-yard catch to move the Bills into New England territory. Facing a 4th-and-4 at the Patriots’ 31, Fitzpatrick hit Stevie Johnson for a nine-yard gain and a first down to extend the drive. Just a couple of snaps later Fitzpatrick and Johnson would hook up again for an 18-yard scoring play to make it 14-0 Buffalo after the extra point.

Johnson however, lifted his jersey to reveal a message on his undershirt that read ‘Happy New Year.’ Johnson was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct and was subsequently benched by head coach Chan Gailey.

After an Arthur Moats sack stopped another New England drive, Buffalo would score their third touchdown of the opening quarter as the Bills broke off yards in big chunks. C.J. Spiller was responsible for the last 27 yards of the possession with a 12-yard run, followed by a 15-yard catch and run on a quick slant to the middle of the field to make it 21-0 Buffalo with less than a minute in the opening quarter. Spiller finished with 100 yards from scrimmage in the game.

The Bills however, would not even reach the red zone over the final three quarters of the game, as they went 1-for-7 on third down conversions.

“I thought we were moving the football and then we got a bad snap that cost us,” said Gailey. “We ended up 2nd-and-19 and we couldn’t overcome that. And we had a holding call that gave us 2nd-and-19 or something and we couldn’t recover from that. We couldn’t get it going back after that.”

The second quarter belonged to New England as they struck back with 14 straight points on a one-yard touchdown run by Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis and a 39-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Aaron Hernandez on a blown coverage.

Down just a touchdown, New England was threatening to tie the score when a Brady pass intended for Wes Welker was intercepted by Nick Barnett giving Buffalo a 1st and 10 situation at their own 48 with under a minute remaining.

Fitzpatrick and the offense moved the ball far enough to set up a 45-yard field goal attempt for newly signed kicker Brandon Coutu, but his attempt was wide left as the first half expired to leave the score 21-14 in favor of Buffalo at the break.

“We miss a field goal right before half, which hurt, because we moved it down there enough to get ourselves an opportunity for points,” said Gailey. “It would’ve been good to make those points, but second half I wanted to run the ball a little bit more with C.J. and couldn’t. We could not get that going enough and then we ended up so far behind we had to stay in the gun with our four wides personnel.”

Chandler injured
Bills tight end Scott Chandler was injured in the first half of the game suffering a knee injury. He did not return.

Gailey said he did not know the severity of the injury. Chandler will be re-evaluated on Monday.