From defender to defender there was a reverberating display of energy. Buffalo's defenders got pressure on Tom Brady, forced turnovers and had a goal-line stand. In the end it still wasn't enoughto beat the Patriots.
Buffalo was led by their defense through the early stages of the first half, which kept a 10-0 deficit from getting out of control. They then used turnovers to hold the Patriots offense in check to preserve a small lead for almost the entire second half. But in the end third down conversions by the Patriots led to Buffalo's defense yielding a field goal kick (23-21) with five seconds left on the clock for a New England win.
The Patriots backed the Bills into a corner early on, pinning them in poor field position on consecutive drives. Da'Norris Searcy, Buffalo's safety replacement for an injured Jairus Byrd, would ignite the team with a 74-yard touchdown return off a fumble at the start of the second quarter.
"The coaches just made a great call putting me in a position where I had an opportunity to make a play and I just seized the moment," said Searcy, who also had eight tackles and a sack.
"It kind of sparked our whole team. Everyone seemed like they were waiting for that big play to happen, and for us it was on the defense this week," said veteran safety Jim Leonhard. "We made a big one to get points on the board and we felt like we kind of took control from that point for the majority of the game."
After the Bills took a second-half lead 21-17 midway through the third, New England went on a 79-yard drive, but Buffalo's defense made a goal line stand. Facing a 1st-and-goal at the Bills five, New England could gain only four yards on four consecutive plays. The aforementioned Searcy made a pair of tackles in the series including a shared stop with Kiko Alonso on a 3rd-and-goal play from the one-yard line to stop Shane Vereen for no gain.
On 4th-and-goal from the one, Tom Brady fumbled the snap on the exchange and Alonso pounced on the loose ball to keep the Patriots off the board.
"We knew we had a tough task ahead of us," said Searcy. "We knew we had to go out there and trust each other and make sure we communicate right away. We felt like we made plays but we still left a few out there."
For the next 15 minutes of game clock Buffalo held New England to just a field goal drive on their next three possessions. But when crunch time arrives it's typically when Tom Brady is at his best. Aaron Williams knew what they were up against.
"We're trying to figure out what else we can do to confuse him or get him a different look," said Williams. "We have to get off on third downs, basically that's what our issue was."
Brady used short passes to work the ball down into field goal range overcoming a false start penalty in the process. He went 7-7 passing for 36 yards converting a 3rd-and-3 and a key 3rd-and-8 with 1:20 remaining forcing Buffalo to begin using their timeouts. The winning field goal soon followed.
"I feel like we learned a lesson more than taking a loss," said rookie cornerback Nickell Robey. "(That's) the very small things. What I've learned in this league is that's what counts. If you don't get the small things down, you can lose by a small amount of points."
Robey, who played a part in dismantling two early New England drives, was one of three rookies contributing regularly to the defense, along with Alonso and free safety Duke Williams. Despite the loss Robey feels the defensive unit is jelling.
"It's great. You can feel us working together," Robey said of the strong, but green corps. "You can see it coming together. All of us have to see it."
Leonhard however, wasn't interested in pulling out positives from the game so soon after the two-point defeat. He knows how important the outcome of each game is in just a 16-game season.
"There are no moral victories in this game," Leonhard told Buffalobills.com. "No one five weeks from now is going to say, 'Hey remember when the Buffalo Bills played the New England Patriots really close?' It doesn't matter. It's a wins and losses business, and we let one slip (Sunday). We have to do whatever it takes to not let this happen again."