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Run defense, turnovers kill Bills in loss to Pats

Posted Sep 30, 2012

The Bills had the opportunity to put themselves atop the division and the Patriots in the basement on Sunday. Unfortunately some of Buffalo’s old maladies from the past resurfaced and cost Buffalo a victory. The Bills turned the ball over six times resulting in 17 New England points and the defense had no answer for the Patriots rushing attack in a 52-28 rout at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

“They whipped us. That’s the bottom line. They whipped us,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “They blocked us, we didn’t get off blocks and get to the ball. They blocked us and they were making our corners make a bunch of tackles and we missed entirely too many tackles.”

The combination of Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden accounted for 243 rushing yards and three touchdowns as the Patriots averaged a gaudy 6.2 yards a carry in the game. New England had almost 600 yards of total offense in the game (580 yards).

Buffalo also coughed the ball up six times with Ryan Fitzpatrick tossing four interceptions and Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller each fumbling in the game.

“You can’t turn it over, you can’t stop the run then you’re not going to win football games,” Gailey said.

“One of our goals was to stop the run,” said Bryan Scott. “Obviously it was an epic failure when it came to that.”

In what was expected to be an offensive shootout, both Buffalo and New England’s defensive units forced turnovers in the first half. Following an early touchdown drive by the Patriots for a 7-0 first quarter lead, New England’s Jerod Mayo picked off a tipped Ryan Fitzpatrick pass near midfield, but the offense couldn’t cash in with points.

Buffalo then had another drive stopped in their own half of the field when Jason McCourty intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick’s pass intended for T.J. Graham down the right sideline at the Buffalo 42. Again however, the Patriots could not get points off the turnover with Stephen Gostokowski missing a 49-yard field goal wide right.

The Bills defense then forced their first turnover as Jairus Byrd knocked the ball loose from Rob Gronkowski’s hands after a 15-yard reception giving Buffalo the ball at the New England 24. One play later Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Scott Chandler, who made a difficult catch over his head for a 24-yard touchdown reception to tie the game (7-7).

After another missed field goal by Gostkowski for New England, Buffalo put together a quick-hitting five-play drive. Fred Jackson converted a big 3rd-and-3 with a 34-yard catch down the left sideline to set up 1st-and-10 at the Patriots’ 27. Two plays later Fitzpatrick found Chandler down the seam for their second touchdown hook-up of the afternoon for a 20-yard scoring play (14-7).

When New England’s offense tried to answer, Buffalo forced their second turnover of the half as Byrd knocked the ball from Wes Welker’s hands deep in Patriots’ territory. Bryan Scott recovered the fumble giving the ball back to the Buffalo offense at the New England 21.

Just five plays into the drive, facing a 2nd-and-goal from the four, C.J. Spiller was stripped of the football at the one-yard line by Brandon Spikes. Vince Wilfork recovered to end the scoring threat as the teams went to the locker room at halftime with Buffalo up a touchdown (14-7).

“That was crucial,” said C.J. Spiller. “That was the turning point of the game. That was totally on me. I’ve just got to do a better job of securing the ball especially down there. It was a big momentum swing with our defense getting a turnover. For us to walk away with nothing, I think we could’ve went up 21-7. To do that, you can’t do that and win games.”

After a brief Patriots possession to start the second half Buffalo got a big 3rd-and-15 conversion from Fred Jackson, who gained 16 yards on a screen play. Two plays later, Fitzpatrick hit Donald Jones on a quick slant over the middle and Jones took it the distance on a 68-yard scoring play (21-7) early in the third.

New England answered right back pounding out yards on the ground against the Bills nickel package. Tom Brady then capped the drive with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Danny Woodhead on a scramble out of the pocket to pull the Patriots to within a touchdown (21-14).

“They were really challenging us to run the ball,” said Brady. “They had some littley guys on the field with our big personnel groupings, so at that point you have to try to take advantage of it. You can’t just keep throwing into a heavy pass defense, so we ran it.”

The Patriots would pull even on their next possession again mixing a rushing attack with a passing game that took advantage of the middle of the field with Welker. Welker had three receptions for 46 yards on the 85-yard scoring drive, while Brandon Bolden had three carries for 26 yards. Brady finished the scoring drive with a four-yard scramble for a touchdown to tie the game with just under four minutes in the third quarter (21-21).

New England would then move ahead on the scoreboard as Brady would find Gronkowski on the first play of the fourth quarter wide open down the middle for a 28-yard touchdown catch to put the Patriots up a touchdown (28-21).

“He made some plays he really should not have made,” said Scott. “Broken coverages will beat you every time and you cannot afford to do that.”

A fumble by Fred Jackson on the ensuing Buffalo possession was recovered by New England at the Buffalo 42 and the Patriots’ offense would not waste the opportunity. Brandon Bolden and Stevan Ridley would combine for all 42 yards of the drive on the ground including the two-yard touchdown run by Ridley to make it 35-21 New England.

It would only go from bad to worse as Ryan Fitzpatrick would force a pass back across the field late intended for Stevie Johnson. Jason McCourty would pick off the pass for the Patriots’ fifth takeaway of the game.

The New England offense would convert again with Bolden rumbling in from seven yards out two plays later to put the game away (42-21).

Buffalo would get a touchdown back on a 35-yard strike from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Brad Smith (42-28), but with only 6:32 left the Patriots’ lead was too much to overcome as New England would get a touchdown right back on a 25-yard pass from Brady to Brandon Lloyd (49-28). For Fitzpatrick it was his 12th touchdown pass setting a team record for most touchdown passes in the first four games of a season.

Fitzpatrick would then throw his fourth interception of the game to Tavon Wilson with just under four minutes remaining, which led to a Patriots field goal (52-28). He finished with 350 yards passing with four touchdowns and four INTs.

“Obviously it showed us that we’re not there yet,” said Fitzpatrick of the result. “I think if you look at turnovers obviously and we had the few late there that really made it lopsided. For us to come out and to have that type of lead we’ve got to be able to sustain it and put the pressure on them and it was the other way around. They scored a few times and put the pressure on us and I think we were pressing a little bit and it just didn’t stop from there.”

New England scored 35 straight points in the second half before Buffalo answered, as the Patriots scored on their last seven possessions of the game with six touchdowns and a field goal.

“I am (embarrassed),” said Gailey. “I don’t like to play like that, and I don’t think that’s who we are, but that’s who we were today. You can’t sugarcoat it anyway. But we’re 2-2. That’s who we are today. You kicked dirt on us almost after the first game. Everybody was getting high after two and everybody kicked dirt on us after this week and that’s the way it is we understand that. We have a tough road ahead of us we understand that too.”

With the loss the Bills fell to 2-2 while New England evened their record at 2-2. Buffalo now travels to San Francisco next week for a two-game west coast road swing that starts with the 49ers followed by Arizona.

Five starters injured
A handful of starters were also injured in this game as Jairus Byrd (hip pointer), Scott Chandler (head), Cordy Glenn (ankle), Donald Jones (head) and Kraig Urbik (ankle) all exited the game and did not return.

Gailey said the ankle injuries to Glenn and Urbik are the most serious saying both will be out “a while.”

More will be known on their injuries Monday following re-evaluations.