BOSTON (CBS) — While the final score of 52-28 in favor of the Patriots might suggest Tom Brady and the offense turned in a dominant 60-minute effort, the fact is that Sunday’s victory over the Buffalo Bills was anything but a cakewalk.
Playing without starting left guard Logan Mankins and the most versatile receiving threat in the NFL, Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots had it stacked against them on Sunday. They made matters worse with two bad fumbles, two missed field goals and a handful of dropped passes, leading to a 21-7 Bills lead early in the third quarter.
From that point forward, though, it was all Patriots, as they went on a 45-7 run to close out the game and improve to 2-2 on the season.
“We were down 21-7 on the road, our backs against the wall, and I thought we showed a lot of heart,” Tom Brady said after the win. “That’s what this team is made of. We’re going to battle until the end. I know that.”
The quarterback finished with 340 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and another rushing touchdown. He was hardly the main player, though, with rookie running back Brandon Bolden rushing for 137 yards and a touchdown, and second-year back Stevan Ridley contributing with 106 rushing yards and two touchdowns of his own.
“We showed a lot of heart,” Brady said. “There’s a lot of adversity that we faced and I thought we did a good job really responding in the second half.”
Wes Welker turned in yet another incredible performance against the Bills, finishing with nine catches for 129 yards, and it was his consistent gains of eight to 12 yards on out patterns which helped the Patriots claw back from their two-touchdown deficit.
“I think it tells a lot about a team whenever you’re down like that and you just keep on fighting, keep on staying after it, and eventually good things happen,” Welker said.
While some of the offensive numbers are staggering for the Patriots, the fact is that none of it might have been possible had Vince Wilfork not come out of a goal line pile with the football in his hands just before halftime. The play, which came after a devastating hit on C.J. Spiller by Brandon Spikes, kept the score at 14-7 before the half, preventing the game from possibly getting out of hand.
“The defense played a great game,” said Rob Gronkowski, who caught five passes for 104 yards and a touchdown. “Especially on the goal line at the end of the half, that was huge by Vince Wilfork. The defense did a great job, and it helps the chemistry with the offense when the defense is playing great.”
“That fumble before halftime was huge,” Brady said.
Just as important was the Patriots’ scoring drive after the Bills made it 21-7 early in the third quarter. Brady led the offense 80 yards down the field in eight plays, chewing just 2:58 off the clock.
“The key thing is to put together a good drive, and we did that,” Bill Belichick said. “We just needed to come back and make it a one-score game. That was a big drive for us. A bad drive there, and we could’ve gotten knocked out at that point. … It was a big drive to come back and answer that.”
By the end of the afternoon, some of the smaller things fell out of focus. That can happen when a team wins by 24 points. Yet while the Patriots know they made plenty of mistakes they’ll need to fix, the much more valuable lesson is that they leave Buffalo knowing if they play their game and make big plays, no game is out of reach.
“We just kept our poise,” Wilfork said. “I think we showed the heart of a champion today. Being down, on the road, dropped two in a row, backs against the wall. Everybody kept their composure. … That’s what we’re going to need going forward.”