It looked like an insurmountable lead for the Bills when it was 37-13 at the close of the third quarter, but Tyrod Taylor and the offense were able to pull Buffalo back into the game late making it a one score affair with under five minutes remaining. His fourth quarter wasn't perfect, but the Bills QB never stopped battling.
"I love the way our team kept playing and kept believing that we could come back in that thing," said head coach Rex Ryan. "When you look at the fact that we had three interceptions offensively, we got sacked eight times and had six straight three-and-outs. On special teams we had six penalties, a missed extra point and two bad punts. On defense we gave up 466 yards passing. It ain't going to get worse than that and at the end we still actually had a chance to compete for the victory."
Taylor was at the center of Buffalo's fourth quarter comeback effort. A play after taking one of those aforementioned eight sacks, Taylor found Percy Harvin for a 20-yard pass play to convert a 2nd-and-17. One play after Karlos Williams converted a 4th-and-1 at the New England 34, Taylor fired a 32-yard scoring strike to Robert Woods in the end zone with 11:48 to play. The scoring drive matched their 10-play 80-yard march that opened the game.
After Buffalo stopped New England on a 4th-and-1 of their own at the Buffalo 41, Taylor led a second straight scoring drive. Following a pair of LeSean McCoy runs gained 18 yards, Taylor hit Sammy Watkins for a 10-yard pickup, then converted an ensuing 3rd-and-4 with a five-yard scramble.
Taylor then found Percy Harvin for a 25-yard play on the left side to set up 1st-and-10 at the Patriots 11-yard line. One play after McCoy moved the ball to the seven-yard line, Taylor ran it in for a touchdown.
Jerry Hughes then got the ball back with a sack and forced fumble on Tom Brady with the loose ball recovered by Preston Brown. Taylor made quick work of the turnover at midfield hitting Robert Woods for a 26-yard pickup before putting a 24-yard pass into the waiting hands of Sammy Watkins streaking toward the back of the end zone for a touchdown.
The three consecutive touchdown drives cut a 24-point deficit to five in just over seven minutes of game clock, but it would be as close as Buffalo would come in the eight-point loss.
"We were able to find a groove later in the game, but you want it to happen earlier in the game," said Taylor. "Like I said we kept battling, but just not early enough as far as execution."
Not surprisingly, the Patriots changed their defensive looks through the course of the game to keep Taylor on his toes. He didn't feel there was anything extravagant that New England had for them. He felt Buffalo's problems were more self-inflicted than anything.
"On the offensive side we killed ourselves," said Taylor. "We've got to protect the ball better and penalties and we can't have as many penalties, as a team and on the offensive side."
The Patriots effectively hemmed Taylor in the pocket preventing escape routes for most of the game when Taylor couldn't find anyone downfield. Outside observers now wonder if future opponents will make use of New England's scheme to slow Taylor's production.
Ryan isn't so certain that will be the case, but there is one part of Taylor's game he believes the quarterback can focus on moving forward when faced with similar defensive tactics.
"Sometimes I think we've got to step up in the pocket a little bit when we had some guys open," said Ryan. "So we can better in that area. That's where if I look at anything with Tyrod I'd like to see him drop back and then set up and step up in the pocket a little more. To their credit they were buzzing the tackles, and had eight sacks. They clearly were doing something right."
Taylor mentioned taking care of the ball better will be his first priority this week. Beyond that it's stringing positive plays together.
"The execution just wasn't as good as we wanted it to be in the game," he said. "We have to clean that up and learn from it. But at the same time we did some things that we can take from this game. It wasn't a winning performance in all phases, but it starts of course with me. And we have to get better."