By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
Final, 23-3 Patriots: Another sack for Eric Lee, and a turnover on downs for Buffalo.
Brian Hoyer came on to take a couple of kneeldowns to end this one.
Fourth quarter, 1:56, 23-3 Patriots: Three runs and a punt. Bills take over.
Fourth quarter, 3:33, 23-3 Patriots: The Bills offense under Nathan Peterman was not quite so hot on that drive. They couldn’t make up the 25 yards, and they turned it over on downs.
Tom Brady is still in the game, almost assuredly just to hand the ball off to Burkhead.
Fourth quarter, 4:39, 23-3 Patriots: A rather eventful series of events to end that drive.
Gronkowski was very mad that Tre’Davious White intercepted a pass after Gronkowski believed (rightly) that he was held. So Gronkowski (wrongly) decided to dive-bomb White long after White had rolled out of bounds. It was a cheap shot from Gronkowski, no doubt, and White appeared to be shaken up after taking the hit from the massive tight end.
However, it wasn’t the only cheap shot on the play. Micah Hyde was fighting Amendola far away from the play, and so the Bills and Patriots took offsetting penalties. And to make matters worse for Buffalo, Jerry Hughes committed a personal foul for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play. So the Bills end up losing 15 yards.
Long story short: Brady interception, Gronkowski cheap shot, Bills lose 15 yards because rules are wild. And get this – because it was a foul against an official, the penalty makes it first-and-25 for the Bills.
It’s officially “avoid injury” time for the Patriots.
Fourth quarter, 8:45, 23-3 Patriots: Well, the Patriots got their stop, but Malcolm Butler committed a holding penalty on a third-and-10 sack to give Buffalo a free first down. The Bills then led a methodical drive up the field, getting all the way to the 1-yard line for a fourth-and-goal. Peterman took a shotgun snap and threw to Zay Jones in the end zone. And who but … Stephon Gilmore was there to break up the pass. Great job by Gilmore, who broke up a pass earlier on the drive but somehow due to some crazy laws of physics still gave up a reception. But not this time.
Gilmore had broken up a pass in the end zone earlier in the drive, too. Nice homecoming for Stephon.
So, a long, long drive results in zero points for the Bills once again.
Fourth quarter, 12:58, 23-3 Patriots: The Pats had to punt, after Brady threw a terrible pass that should have been intercepted on third-and-3. But on comes Nathan Peterman, he of the five-pick debut, for an injured Taylor.
Fourth quarter, 14:42, 23-3: Eric Lee got another huuuuge hit on Tyrod Taylor to force a second-down incompletion, and following offsetting penalties on third down, the replay of the down led to an overthrow to Thompson on a deep ball.
Bills punt, and it feels like this one’s over. A few chunk runs for the Patriots, and most of this clock will be drained.
Third quarter, 1:08, 23-3: And that just might be your ballgame. Thanks in large part to a terrible spot. A historically terrible spot, actually.
On a third-and-10 at the Buffalo 34, Brady dumped a pass to White, who made a defender miss and fought through a tackle to reach for the sticks. He definitely came up almost a full yard short. The ball seemed to even be placed a yard short too. But all of a sudden, it was first down and the chains were moving. Brady rushed the offense to the line and before the Bills knew what happened, Burkhead had run for 10 yards.
The Bills sideline was upset — justifiably so. But Sean McDermott hasn’t bathed himself in glory in this game. And on the next play, sure enough, Burkhead burst for 14 yards and a touchdown.
The play was reviewed, and while it looked like Burkhead might have been down a foot shy of the goal line, there was no angle to properly determine if he was. So the touchdown stood.
But that first-down gift by the officials was just … bad. Really, really bad.
Third quarter, 5:54, 16-3 Patriots: Tyrod Taylor picked up a first down with a five-yard run on third-and-1, but on the next third down, Taylor just kept going backward. Facing a blitz, Taylor couldn’t find a receiver while backtracking. He escaped one sack, but instead of throwing the ball away or making a play, he kept going toward his own goal line. Eventually, Van Noy and Harris sacked Taylor for a 20-yard loss.
It looked like the Patriots might benefit with some good field position, but Colton Schmidt booooomed a 50-yarder, and Johnson Bademosi got called for holding on the zero-yard return.
So the Patriots take over at their own 29. Nice job by the punter.
Given the offensive futility of the Bills (161 total yards), it feels like another New England touchdown drive could actually ice this one.
Third quarter, 9:02, 16-3 Patriots: Gronkowski. Lewis. Burkhead. Touchdown.
At long last, the Patriots found the end zone. It came thanks to three catches for 50 yards from Gronkowski, a 15-yard run by Lewis, and a 1-yard plunge from Burkhead.
Gronkowski really was immense on that drive, as he wiped out two of his own penalties (OPI, false start) with big gains.
Brady threw for 59 yards on 5-of-5 passing on that drive.
Third quarter, 13:08, 9-3 Patriots: After a bogus OPI call on Gronkowski to negate an 11-yard catch, the Patriots faced an uphill climb for a first down. And after a four-yard completion to Cooks and a five-yard screen to White, it was third-and-11 from the 29.
But the Bills, for whatever reason, decided to rush seven. And when you rush seven, Brady tends to carve you up — especially when you leave Gronkowski uncovered up the left seam. Terrible football by Buffalo. Just terrible.
Brady completed the easy 19-yard gain to Gronkowski, and the Patriots are in business.
Leonard Johnson of the Bills suffered an injury on the play, leading to a break in the action.
Third quarter, 14:54, 9-3 Patriots: Second half underway.
Halftime, 9-3 Patriots: The Bills didn’t just take a knee. Instead, Taylor passed to Cadet, who flat-out dropped it. Taylor handed to Cadet for a short gain on the next play, and the clock ticked to zeroes.
Odd first half overall. The Patriots offense has three scoring drives but doesn’t have much of a flow at all. Brady hasn’t been great. The running game has been great at times and not-quite-so-great at others.
Defensively, the Patriots have been OK since that first drive, limiting Taylor to just 48 passing yards in the half. But they lucked out when Webb overthrew Cadet on what could have — and should have been — a game-changing play.
Second quarter, :15, 9-3 Patriots: The Patriots drive went like this.
Rex Burkhead, on second down, running through a perfectly blocked right side of the line, for 31 yards. Things were looking up.
Three plays later, Burkhead motioned to the backfield on third-and-8 and then ran a route over the middle to beat the zone and make an easy catch to move the chains. Things were still looking up.
But then, on a second-and-7, Brady took a sack for a six-yard loss. Solder then took a false start. So on third-and-13 from the 20, things were not looking up. The Patriots essentially decided to settle for a field goal, handing to White, who ran for five yards to set up a 39-yard attempt. Gostkowksi kicked the ball a mile, right down the middle.
So the Patriots got the first part of their “double score,” though they have yet to reach the end zone.
Brady will end the first half just 8-for-14 for 96 yards with no touchdowns or picks.
Second quarter, 2:00, 6-3 Patriots: With a simple pass to Gronkowski over the middle, the offense converts a second-and-8 with a 12-yard completion. Brady let the clock tick down to the two-minute warning, so the Patriots have 61 yards to go if they want to get into the end zone and about 25 yards or so to go to get into field-goal range. (It’s hard to put an exact number on field-goal range, given the wind patterns.)
Second quarter, 3:05, 6-3 Patriots: An interesting drive from the Bills, who get a 22-yard run by Joe Webb out of the wildcat but then get a misfire from Webb while passing out of the wildcat on a play that had touchdown potential. Joe Webb giveth, Joe Webb taketh away.
The pass came on a second-and-10 at the New England 37, and Travaris Cadet was uncovered streaking up the middle of the field. But Webb threw it just out of Cadet’s reach, leading to an incompletion. Buffalo threw short on third down, setting up a Stephen Hauschka field goal. It didn’t look good, but the 49-yarder made its way through the goal posts to get Buffalo on the board.
Patriots having some trouble with that wildcat, though.
Now they will very badly want to execute a double score, going into and coming out of halftime. Given their stuck-in-the-mud level thus far, that’s easier said than done.
Second quarter, 6:26, 6-0 Patriots: Sometimes the Patriots just make it look easy.
On second-and-8, Brady casually stood tall and threw a perfect little rainbow to Gronkowski, who hauled it in without breaking stride, ran through a defensive back and gained 16 yards.
On the next play, Dion Lewis took a carry through the right side of the line, broke a tackle, sped away from another would-be tackler, and flew up the right sideline for 44 yards.
Two plays, 60 yards. Points.
Now, it was only three points, because the red zone offense remains a problem for the Patriots, who couldn’t make anything happen. Burkhead ran for two yards on first-and-goal from the 7. Brady lobbed a low-probability pass to a tightly covered Burkhead on second down and then took a sack on third down from Kyle Williams. Brady had already given himself up, but the veteran D-lineman nevertheless celebrated his sack to fire up the home crowd.
Gostkowski kicked the 31-yarder, though the ball appeared to be spinning sideways. Again, it’s windy in Buffalo.
Long story short, the New England offense showed some promising signs but ultimately couldn’t finish the job. You can bet Brady is frustrated at this moment, because the Patriots are just one play away from trailing.
Second quarter, 9:48, 3-0 Patriots: The Bills go three-and-out, but only due to an Eric Wood holding penalty that negated an 11-yard McCoy run up the gut on second down.
Kyle Van Noy tipped a pass at the line on third down, leading to the punt.
Newcomer Bernard Reedy got his first touch as a Patriot, returning the punt 11 yards before getting decleated by Lafayette Pitts. Pats take over at their own 31.
Second quarter, 10:53, 3-0 Patriots: The Pats had to punt, after White couldn’t hold on to a pass while getting absolutely clobbered over the middle of the field. He was short of the sticks on third-and-5 anyway. So the Patriots punted and the Bills take over at their own 27.
But the real story was Sean McDermott making the dumbest challenge in NFL history. On second down, Brady tripped over Rex Burkhead’s foot, and after falling to the turf, he threw in the area of Hollister as a throwaway to save the yardage. McDermott challenged the play, arguing that Brady was down by contact — unaware of the fact that you’re not down by contact if your own teammate touches you before you go down. What an embarrassing challenge.
Second quarter, 13:32, 3-0 Patriots: The Patriots do get their stop, though it’s thanks in large part to McCoy, who dropped a pass off his hands while running a slant on third-and-4 near midfield. It was a well-designed play, with McCoy essentially protected by a receiver running a slightly deeper slant just outside of him to prevent a wall against defenders. But McCoy couldn’t haul in the pass, and the Bills punted through the end zone.
An irritable Brady takes over at the New England 20-yard line.
End of first quarter, 3-0 Patriots: The Patriots’ defense was in great position to get the ball back to a very angry Tom Brady (he blew up on Josh McDaniels on the sideline while coming off the field after the third-down incompletion), thanks to an Eric Lee sack on first down and good rush defense on the second-and-long. And on third-and-10, Taylor had nobody to throw to, and Wise had him in the crosshairs. But Taylor took off, avoided all white jerseys, and outraced Wise to turn his desperate scramble into an 18-yard run up the sideline. Big whiff for the Pats’ defense on a third-and-10.
It’ll be first down at the Buffalo 38-yard line when the second quarter begins.
First quarter, 1:35, 3-0 Patriots: The Patriots did a good job on that drive, picking up four first downs, but ultimately they stalled out at the Bills’ 30-yard line. Stephen Gostkowski was able to waltz onto the field and drill a 50-yard field goal, and the Patriots have a lead. Great kick by Gostkowski there on a windy day in Buffalo.
Brady was 4-for-6 for 46 yards, including a 27-yard pass to Danny Amendola running a corner route on a second-and-15.
Four players had at least a carry, with Burkhead gaining 10 yards on his lone carry, and Cooks having an 11-yard run turned into a 5-yard run thanks to a Nate Solder block in the back.
The drive ended with Brady throwing incomplete on a third-and-11 to Cooks, who tried to settle into a zone in the middle of the field but wasn’t 100 percent in lockstep with Brady on what looked like an improvised play.
First quarter, 7:57, 0-0: The Bills offense was having a perfect — perfect — opening drive to the football game. They had marched 66 yards and had a first-and-goal from the 6-yard line. Taylor was 4-for-5 for 35 yards. McCoy had run for 29 yards on five carries. The Bills were doing whatever they wanted.
But Taylor absolutely goofed on a first down pass, throwing a wobbler directly to new Patriot Eric Lee, who made the easiest interception he’ll ever make at the goal line and returned it out to the 9-yard line. Lee, of course, is a former Bills practice squad member.
That was just dreadful for Taylor. And the Bills’ promising opening drive goes up in smoke, just like that.
Credit to Alan Branch for pushing his man back into Taylor to affect the throw.
First quarter, 13:30, 0-0: Tyrod Taylor escaped the rush of Deatrich Wise on the first play of the drive, and the QB tried to scramble to the left side. But veteran linebacker David Harris showed perhaps his best burst of the year to chase Taylor and drag him down for a zero-yard sack. Taylor ended up hurting his foot or ankle on the play. He stayed in the game, but that warrants attention, obviously.
The Bills converted a third-and-1 out of the wildcat formation.
First quarter, 14:54, 0-0: Brandon Tate was forced out of bounds near the 30-yard line. Tyrod Taylor and the offense are getting to work.
1 p.m.: The Pats have won the toss and elected to defer. The Bills will receive to start the game.
12 p.m.: It’s a wonderful day for football out in Western New York, where the Bills will try to keep their season alive and the Patriots will try to maintain their spot atop the AFC.
Obviously in this “rivalry,” the Bills have played the role of little brother. But nothing in football is ever guaranteed, and wins are always difficult to come by — even if the final scoreboard doesn’t always suggest it. So it ought to be a decent contest out in Orchard Park, at least for the majority of the afternoon.
The inactive list that came out for the Patriots didn’t include any surprises, and it revealed that Cameron Fleming will be starting at right tackle in place of the injured LaAdrian Waddle (who himself was filling in for the injured Marcus Cannon). So keep an eye on that right side of the line, as the Bills will try to exploit that weakness by sending their best rushers on that side of the line.
David Andrews, though, is back, and so is cornerback Eric Rowe, who’s been out for a lengthy stretch with a groin injury.
It’s also noteworthy that running back Mike Gillislee is once again a healthy scratch, meaning he won’t get to exact any type of revenge on the team that let him go.
For the Bills, receiver Kelvin Benjamin is inactive, which was expected. LeSean McCoy is active, which, likewise, is no surprise.
We’ll have all the updates and all the analysis right here in the live blog all afternoon long, so check back early and often.