On a day when Buffalo's defense again kept their team in the game until the fourth quarter, taking care of the football was a problem for the Bills offense. Two turnovers and an overall lack of rhythm offensively left Buffalo starving for points as they fell to the Patriots for the 10th straight time 20-10 at Gillette Stadium. The loss put New England in a tie with Pittsburgh and San Diego for the longest current winning streak against a single opponent.
"We just didn't execute well enough to get anything done to stay in the game," said head coach Dick Jauron. "Really to score enough points or to give our defense the hope that we were going to score enough points to stay in it so it was a long day. It was a long day for our team."
More importantly Buffalo fell to 5-4 on the season and 0-3 in the division as a 4-0 start has completely disappeared in the wake of a three-game losing streak. The Bills are now a minus-10 in the turnover category in their four losses this season.
"We're concerned when we lose games and we've lost a number in a row," said Jauron. "Yeah we've got to get it back, we can't turn it over. We know those things in this league and we've done it. Now we've done it three games in a row and it's hurt us."
The offense for Buffalo had just two possessions that lasted more than seven plays the entire game, with just two resulting in points, a 25-yard field goal by Rian Lindell and a 14-yard touchdown reception by James Hardy in the game's waning moments thanks to an 85-yard kick return by Leodis McKelvin.
The Bills were outgained by a 2-to-1 margin in the game as the Patriots rolled up almost 400 yards of offense. Buffalo set a season low with just 10 first downs and did not eclipse the 175-yard plateau in total offense also a season low.
"I think it's just the same old thing, little mistakes here or there that kill a drive or you turn the ball over and you put your team in a bad spot, it's tough to move the ball and consistently perform well when you continue to shoot yourself in the foot," said Trent Edwards. "That's what's been happening lately and we need to do a good job of fixing that pretty soon here."
"I think it was clear that we weren't nearly consistent enough to win the football game," said Jauron. "Offensively it was just fits and starts. We couldn't put anything together."
"That seems like it's the fatal flaw these last couple of weeks," said center Duke Preston. "Lack of rhythm and lack of stringing stuff together and getting things going. It seems like when we do get things going and get down to the red zone something goes awry."
The run game for Buffalo was again anemic managing just 60 yards on 18 carries. All the short possessions by the Bills led to a defense that was worn out by the fourth quarter as New England held a time of possession advantage of better than 14 minutes by the time the game was over.
"We've just got to keep pounding," said Fred Jackson in reference to the run game. "They've got a good defense and we expect them to make plays and we just have to go out and match that and make plays when we get the opportunity. Our hat is off to them. They made plays and we didn't make as many as we wanted to."
The defense again put forth a solid effort holding New England to 13 points and surrendered just a field goal off two takeaways by the Patriots. They also got a takeaway of their own on a sack and forced fumble effort by Marcus Stroud and George Wilson.
"We had dime personnel in the game and coach made a pressure call and I came off the back and saw Cassel going to scramble and took a shot on him and wrapped him up," said Wilson. "Marcus came over and knocked the ball out, and I had his feet and was laying on the ground and heard, 'Ball! Ball!' And I looked up and the ball was right in front of me and I wrapped it up tight."
But Wes Welker was a nemesis the entire afternoon with 10 receptions for over 100 yards, and New England's running game became more and more effective as the game wore on. Rookie running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis finished with his first career 100-yard rushing day and added a touchdown late to put the game away with under two minutes remaining.
The Bills were only trailing by 10 when they got a turnover near midfield early in the fourth quarter, but the offense could not move the ball. Trent Edwards was sacked on a 2nd-and-5 at the Patriots' 36 and his 3rd-and-11 attempt for Robert Royal over the middle was broken up forcing a punt.
"I do have some plays in my head where if I put the ball in a little different spot and we're moving the chains and we're not getting off the field and not putting our defense back on the field," said Edwards. "For some reason or another they made the palys and confused us a little bit and unfortunately some of the balls weren't where they needed to be."
"We really didn't take prime advantage of an opportunity late in the game when the defense got us a turnover and we weren't able to score," said Evans. "That would've been big in that game, but we didn't take advantage of it."
The Patriots took advantage of their opening possession to start the second half after they chose to defer on the opening coin toss. BenJarvus Green-Ellis pounded out 29 yards on six carries and Wes Welker and Randy Moss each moved the chains once with receptions to set up a 37-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski to make it a two score game (13-3) midway through the third quarter.
Buffalo struggled to move the football out of the gate going three-and-out on their first possession. On their second drive they moved the ball into New England territory, but failed to get in field goal range.
New England meanwhile, very efficiently drove the ball 71 yards on their opening drive. Matt Cassel went 3-3 passing for 35 yards on the drive and got the last 13 on his own as he scrambled right up the middle for a 13-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 Patriots lead with 10:39 left in the first quarter.
Following an exchange of possessions, Buffalo committed a turnover on their own half of the field when Trent Edwards overthrew Lee Evans on a deep in, which Ellis Hobbs intercepted at the Bills 34-yard line.
"I put it behind him and I just didn't feel real confident in that throw and I just needed to step into it and make it and that was all on me," Edwards said. "That was a good play call and I just need to put it a little in front of him. It's not like we're that far off and that's what's frustrating right now."
Buffalo's defense held firm surrendering just 20 yards and a 32-yard field goal to Stephen Gostkowski as the Patriots made it 10-0 early in the second quarter.
The Bills finally got on the board midway through the second quarter with a 25-yard field goal from Rian Lindell. Roscoe Parrish made a big third down conversion on a 3rd-and-2 from the Patriots 15-yard line to set up first-and-goal at the 10. But after gaining six yards on first-and-goal, Marshawn Lynch was stopped for no gain and a loss of three on consecutive plays forcing the Bills to take the field goal (10-3).
"We drag them down to the four-yard line and have to settle for three and we really need seven right there," said Preston.
Following a 49-yard field goal attempt by New England that was wide left, Buffalo had a promising drive start at their own 39-yard line, but the possession stalled after four plays thanks in part to a pair of incompletions forcing the Bills to punt just before the half expired.
"It didn't go our way and we have to just learn from this game again," said Wilson. "They added another to the win column in this head to head matchup."
The Bills will host the Cleveland Browns on Monday night Nov. 17 as they try to recapture the success they enjoyed prior to opening division play.