Immediate reactions: Patriots 23, Bills 21
blog by Nick Mendola • September 08, 2013 @ 8:10pm
Whatever transpired afterward, the Bills vs. Patriots match-up began was operating in a bizarro world at the 4:12 mark of the third quarter. The Bills had done some things against the Patriots to go up 21-17, but there, as usual, was Tom Brady.
The New England quarterback was at the tail of end of another million-play, trillion-yard touchdown drive to inevitably sap the spirits of the Buffalo Bills. All that stood between him and restoring order was a couple bodies and a couple feet of artificial turf and rubber pellets.
But Brady bobbled the snap and guess what? The ball didn’t magically bound into his hands. The Bills defense recovered and, try as cameras might, a touchdown could not be given to New England.
The Bills didn’t immediately score to put away the game, but they made a couple first downs and punted to put Brady inside his 2 yard line. And a few moments later, the referee’s whistle signaled the end of the third quarter. EJ Manuel and Stevie Johnson were among several players in blue gesturing for the crowd to get louder.. and they did.
Buffalo 21, New England 17.
Where were we? And how could we stay there forever?
- Here’s something familiar: Stevie Johnson being a bipolar receiver in a potential upset.
After collecting a beautiful touchdown pass from Manuel to give the Bills the lead, the mercurial Bills receiver dropped a poorly-thrown but sure first down that hit him in both hands. It was by no means an easy catch but you want the best receiver on your team to catch it.
- So… maybe… we have a quarterback? The drive that did it for me was the one that had 11 plays, 80 yards, 3:57 and a touchdown. Not only did EJ Manuel seize a big first down chance with a 19-yard run for a first down, but he took hold of an opportunity from the Patriots, who did everything they could to fritter away an awful first half from the Bills.
The drive ended with a 18-yard connection to Stevie Johnson, but it also ended a troubling-to-say-the-least Bills tendency of not capitalizing on their opponents “playing down” to the underdog Bills. It was encouraging, really.
- Let’s talk about Manuel’s first strong regular season drive, which came at a crucial time (aren’t they all) for the Bills. The rookie was gifted the ball at the New England 38 with under a minute to go in the first half and his team down 10.
Manuel found Scott Chandler over the middle for 19 yards (Chandler mercifully didn’t commit a penalty or drop the ball, which was his MO in the first half) and then Robert Woods collected an EJ laser in the right back corner of the end zone for the team’s first offensive touchdown of 2013. These are good things.
- The Bills defense—seriously—kept the team in the game. Give credit to Da’Norris Searcy and Justin Rogers. Searcy, who had a special teams tackle deep in Patriots territory on the opening kickoff, also had a third down sack of Tom Brady and a 75-yard fumble recovery, returned for a touchdown.
Rogers had a sterling interception of a deflected Brady pass. The corner maintained control of the pick despite being flipped into the air by Pats tight end Zach Sudfeld. Buffalo scored two plays later to make the game 17-14.
- This daring, new Doug Marrone team looked awful sheepish facing its first big decision. Trailing by 10 and facing a 4th-and-1 at the New England 44, the Bills elected to punt. The ensuing punt went into the end zone, giving the Bills a 24 yard field position flip.
It’s important to remember the Bills also faced a 3rd-and-1, meaning this aggressive scheme had two plays to get one yard if they thought that way. Regrettably, the odds of getting a yard on 4th-and-1 are probably better than nailing the Pats inside the five yard line. Not a good first look at clutch decision-making.
—Buffalo committed 4 penalties in the first 11 minutes of the game for 35 yards, one that negated a big first down (illegal hands to the face on Cordy Glenn). By the time Brady knelt to end the first half, Buffalo had committed eight penalties, seven of which were accepted. That’s a loss of 55 yards for a team that struggled to mount them in the other direction.
Stat-line I liked:
EJ Manuel, 150 yards passing, 2 TD
—There wasn’t pinpoint accuracy for sure and a few times the check downs may have come too soon, but as a professional quarterback making his first start… not bad.
Stat-line I didn’t like:
Bills, 300 penalties for -1000 yards
—Okay, so it wasn’t quite that high but it was very, very undisciplined. More than anything else, the penalties cost the Bills everything from first downs to forced punts… even drive starts. Awful.
State line I liked:
—Just gorgeous in the winter.
—For a maligned safety just “filling in” for Jairus Byrd, he did great besides the cramping in both calves. Played ball, got a sack and got a touchdown. Hope his agent’s not Eugene Parker (I kid).
Carolina at home. The next step really should come, though the Panthers have a good defense that shut down a fancy Seattle attack. I’ll call the getting in the win column, 17-14.
So close. So many times. There were times it felt different, but did it feel different enough to say the franchise I call Gutpunchers, Incorporated, is no longer operating under that name? Jury’s out…
(All images courtesy of the Buffalo Bills’ Facebook page, which you can find and explore here).