The New England Patriots came in with a six-game winning streak and had put up 30 points or more and committed no turnovers in all of them. On Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium they made it seven straight, turning seven Buffalo giveaways into 21 points as they rolled up 34 unanswered points in a 34-3 win over Buffalo.
"You can't play a good football team and play like that and give yourself any kind of chance," said head coach Chan Gailey. "That was turnovers, penalties, not stopping the run, every bit… everybody on the whole team, all of us take the blame for that."
Buffalo saw an early 3-0 lead evaporate quickly as the Patriots rolled up 24 first half points, with a pair of touchdowns coming off turnovers. Down 24-3 to start the third quarter, the Bills defense forced a three-and-out, but Ryan Fitzpatrick would commit his third turnover of the game on the ensuing possession. On a 2nd-and-7 play from his own 15, Fitzpatrick's pass attempt for Stevie Johnson along the near sideline was picked off by Jarrad Page.
"The first interception I had in the second half was just a bad throw," said Fitzpatrick. "The decision was fine, but I've got to put it five yards outside. When you get down like that and the score gets out of hand I think you start pressing a little bit."
Three plays later Brady threw his third touchdown pass to tight end Alge Crumpler for a 31-3 Patriots lead effectively putting the game away.
Buffalo's offense would only make matters worse as C.J. Spiller would fumble on the first play of another Bills possession giving the ball back to New England. The Patriots would commit a pair of penalties to stall their drive as it was their first possession without points after a takeaway.
That was followed by a Fitzpatrick fumble at the tail end of a scramble when he was stripped by Devin McCourty. The loose ball was recovered by Devin Moore at the Patriots 37-yard line.
The last opportunity to put points on the board for the Bills came with three and a half minutes remaining, but Fitzpatrick forced a pass into the end zone on a first-and-goal from six, and it was picked off by Dane Fletcher.
For Fitzpatrick it proved to be his most difficult day of the season as he had three interceptions and a pair of lost fumbles. He finished the game 18-37 for 251 yards. His passer rating was a season low 37.1.
"I killed the team by turning the ball over," he said. "You can't do that on any day, but when you play a team that is that good and that efficient on offense it hurts you that much more. I mean they killed us whether it was trying to get a couple of yards and fumble or trying to do too much and fumble or the interceptions. (I) just can't have them and I really hurt our football team."
Spiller only made things worse when he muffed a punt return with two minutes remaining, which was recovered by Sergio Brown at the Bills 36. New England took three kneel downs to run out the clock.
With all of the giveaways New England was handed a bunch of short fields making life all the more difficult for the Buffalo defense, which surrendered over 200 yards rushing to an opponent for the seventh time this season and the second time this season to the Patriots.
"We had a bad day," said Kyle Williams. "I think they do a good job of breaking their tendencies. When you feel like you have a bead on them they'll run plays out of different formations and the slash plays, those bounce plays, those wide zone plays just killed us on cutbacks."
The Bills offense began the day well enough. They committed to the run early with Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller combining to pound out all 64 yards on a field goal drive to start the game with Rian Lindell putting a 26-yarder through for an early 3-0 lead.
Jackson's first carry of the day went for 27 yards as New England's injury-riddled defensive line had only two of their top six defensive linemen healthy for the game and it showed. But Buffalo would move away from the run thereafter as Jackson would have just eight more carries the rest of the way and 31 rushing yards.
"The first series we were out there they played nickel defense versus our nickel offense," said Gailey. "The second series when we went out there with the same offense they put all their big people out there and basically said, 'We're going to stop the run by putting those seven guys up there you've got to throw it to move the football.' We couldn't throw it consistently enough to move the football.
"The longer the game went the fewer yards we were making on first down and second down to keep you in a consistent type running game."
After Buffalo's defense forced New England to punt on their opening drive, the Bills gave the Patriots offense a short field on their next possession and it didn't take long for them to find the end zone.
New England ran four consecutive running plays with Danny Woodhead taking an inside hand-off through a big hole before cutting to the near sideline and outracing Buffalo's secondary to the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown run to finish the brief four-play drive and put the Patriots ahead (7-3).
The Bills took the ensuing possession and quickly moved the ball into New England territory with a 41-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to C.J. Spiller down the far sideline. But three plays later on a 1st-and-10 from the Patriots' 17-yard line, Fitzpatrick tried to step up in the pocket and was sacked and fumbled. Jerod Mayo recovered at the New England 20 to end the threat.
Tom Brady and the Patriots offense then capitalized on New England's 30th takeaway of the season with their nine-play 80-yard scoring drive being finished with a nine-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Rob Gronkowski for a 14-3 lead.
New England would tack on another three points on a field goal drive with just under four minutes remaining in the half to balloon their lead to 17-3.
Buffalo only compounded their problems with their second turnover of the half when a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass intended for Naaman Roosevelt was behind the intended receiver and intercepted by Patrick Chung, who returned it to the Bills 27-yard line with just over two minutes remaining in the half.
Again the Patriots would cash in as Brady would throw his second touchdown pass of the day to a tight end. Alge Crumpler slipped off the line and pulled in a four-yard touchdown pass for a 24-3 advantage at the half.
"Anytime you leave your defense on the field you're playing right into the hands of a great offense like that," said Fred Jackson. "So we didn't do enough to help our defense with turnovers and killing drives with penalties and things like that. On offense we felt like we didn't get stopped by them. We felt like we stopped ourselves and any time you do that you're not helping your cause when you're playing a team like the Patriots."
The Bills also lost David Nelson to a rib injury in the first half. Gailey said he will not be available for the season finale next Sunday at the Meadowlands against the Jets. It leaves the offense with just three healthy receivers on their roster.
Sunday's loss put an end to Buffalo's brief two-game winning streak. They slipped to 4-11 on the season.