Final, Patriots 23-3: And that will do it.
After failing to reach the end zone in the first half, the New England Patriots rode two third-quarter touchdowns by Rex Burkhead and a nine-catch, 147-yard performance by Rob Gronkowski to a 23-3 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
Gronkowski’s day ended on an ugly note, however, as he could face discipline for hitting Tre’Davious White in the head after the whistle late in the fourth quarter.
New England’s defense dominated its division rival, holding Buffalo to 268 total yards and limiting quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Nathan Peterman to just 85 passing yards on 34 attempts. Defensive end Eric Lee tallied a sack and an interception against his former team, and ex-Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore broke up two passes in the end zone.
Next up for the Patriots is a Monday night matchup with the Dolphins in Miami.
Fourth quarter, 1:57, Patriots 23-3: The Patriots punted it back to the Bills as we reached the two-minute warning. Rob Gronkowski did not play a snap on New England’s latest drive, which probably would have been the smart play even if his post-whistle outburst hadn’t happened.
Fourth quarter, 3:40, Patriots 23-3: Four-and-out for the Bills. Fans are beginning to head for the exits.
Fourth quarter, 4:39, Patriots 23-3: This has been Rob Gronkowski’s best game ever in this building — which is saying something — but he nearly sparked a fight after losing his cool on Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White.
After White intercepted a pass intended for Gronkowski, the tight end speared the rookie corner long after the whistle, slamming his elbow into the back of White’s head.
Though the penalties handed out following the post-whistle scrum that ensued actually ended up benefiting the Patriots, there’s a chance Gronkowski could be suspended for the hit, especially if White suffered a concussion on the play.
That obviously would be bad news for both the Patriots and Gronkowski, who has torn up the Bills today to the tune of seven catches on 11 targets for 147 yards.
Fourth quarter, 8:47, Patriots 23-3: Nathan Peterman guided the Bills down to the Patriots’ 1-yard line, but two excellent pass breakups by Stephon Gilmore in the end zone prevented Buffalo from putting its first touchdown on the board.
With the exception of the one drive he missed to begin the second half, Gilmore has been fantastic today.
Fourth quarter, 13:00, Patriots 23-3: As if things couldn’t get any worse for the Bills, they’ll now be without their starting quarterback for the remainder of the game.
Tyrod Taylor was carted off the field with a towel over his head after suffering a knee injury. Rookie Nathan Peterman, who threw five interceptions two weeks ago in his NFL debut, will take over under center.
Third quarter, 1:08, Patriots 23-3: We’ve got the makings of a blowout on our hands. The Patriots forced a punt on defense after Kyle Van Noy and David Harris combined for a 20-yard sack. Van Noy was injured on the play and is questionable to return with a leg injury. He came into the game nursing a calf ailment.
The Patriots then marched down the field for another touchdown. Rex Burkhead capped off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown run. Gronkowski picked up a chunk play when he snatched the ball away from Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White on a 31-yard catch.
The Patriots are closing in on 200 yards rushing on the afternoon. They have 183 yards on the ground and 192 through the air. — DK
Third quarter, 9:02, Patriots 16-3: The Patriots finally got in the end zone on their first offensive drive of the second half, and they did so despite two costly penalties.
Gronkowski was charged with offensive pass interference on the first play of the series, and he was flagged for a false start later in the drive. He more than made up for it with two catches for 34 yards, however.
Lewis had three carries for 24 yards on the drive, and Burkhead pounded the ball into the end zone on a 1-yard touchdown run.
The Patriots are up to 156 yards on the ground, while Brady only has passed for 155 yards. — Doug Kyed
Halftime, Patriots 9-3: The Patriots’ final possession of the first half mirrored the one that preceded it.
Rex Burkhead took advantage of some excellent blocking up front — especially by pulling guard Shaq Mason — to rip off a 31-yard run, and the Patriots drove the ball into the red zone before stalling again.
Joe Thuney allowed his second sack of the game, Nate Solder jumped offsides on the next play, and a handoff to James White on third-and-18 didn’t come close to picking up the necessary yardage, leading to Stephen Gostkowski’s third field goal of the afternoon.
Second quarter, 3:05, Patriots 6-3: To the surprise of just about everybody in attendance here at New Era Field, Joe Webb is playing a major role in this game.
Webb, the Bills’ third-string quarterback, has played just three snaps all season entering today, but he now has carried the ball three times for 27 yards in this first half, including a 22-yard scamper on Buffalo’s latest drive. He also failed to connect with a wide-open Travaris Cadet on his lone pass attempt.
Stephen Hauschka capped Buffalo’s latest possession with a 49-yard field goal to put the home team on the board.
Second quarter, 6:44, Patriots 6-0: Dion Lewis ripped off the longest run of his career, but the Patriots couldn’t find the end zone, setting for another Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
Lewis accelerated through a gaping hole in the Bills’ defensive line and took off down the sideline for a 44-yard gain, stiff-arming safety Jordan Poyer into oblivion in the process.
After a 2-yard rush by Rex Burkhead and an incomplete pass, Kyle Williams beat Joe Thuney for an 8-yard sack, forcing New England to send out Gostkowski and Co.
Second quarter, 9:47, Patriots 3-0: Another Bills punt allowed us to get our first look at Bernard Reedy, who was promoted from the Patriots’ practice squad yesterday.
Reedy returned Colton Schmidt’s punt 11 yards before being hit hard by Lafayette Pitts.
Second quarter, 10:53, Patriots 3-0: The Patriots’ second possession ended in a punt and featured a baffling challenge by Bills coach Sean McDermott.
On second-and-5, Tom Brady dropped back to pass and tripped over running back Rex Burkhead. He fired the ball in the direction of Jacob Hollister as his knee touched the turf resulting in an incomplete pass.
McDermott argued, however, that Brady should have been down by contact despite the fact he never was touched by a Bills defender. The officials disagreed, and Buffalo lost a timeout.
Bad decision by the first-year head coach.
Second quarter, 13:32, Patriots 3-0: Eric Lee is showing up in his first game back in Buffalo.
After ending the Patriots’ first defensive series with an interception, he began their second by sacking Tyrod Taylor. Taylor did rip off an 18-yard run later in the drive — that could have been longer had he not stepped out of bounds — but Buffalo ultimately was forced to punt.
First quarter, 1:30, Patriots 3-0: The Patriots responded with a lengthy drive of their own, capping it with a 50-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski to open the scoring.
The highlight of the drive was a 27-yard pass from Tom Brady to Danny Amendola.
A sack a few plays later helped kill New England’s momentum, and Brady threw incomplete to Brandin Cooks on third down to bring the field-goal unit out.
There appeared to be some tension on the Patriots’ sideline after that incompletion.
First quarter, 7:51, 0-0: A prolonged opening drive by they Bills ended in disappointment thanks to a disastrous blunder by quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Facing a first-and-goal from the Patriots’ 6-yard line, Taylor tried to hit running back LeSean McCoy on a crossing pattern but had his pass intercepted by defensive end Eric Lee.
Lee, whom the Patriots signed off the Bills practice squad last week, was in perfect position to make the interception, and Taylor never saw him.
The pick ended a 13-play, 66-yard drive that took 7:09 off the clock.
Also of note during the series: David Harris sacked Taylor on the game’s opening play, linebacker Kyle Van Noy remained on the sideline until late in the drive, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore was roundly booed after making his first tackle. Gilmore, of course, called this stadium home during his five seasons with Buffalo.
The Patriots also had trouble setting the edge against McCoy, with Lee getting sealed off on an 18-yard gain around the left end.
First quarter, 15:00, 0-0: The Patriots won the opening coin toss and chose to defer. It’ll be Bills ball first as we get things started at New Era Field.
11:30 a.m.: Mike Gillislee won’t see the field today against his former team.
The running back will be a healthy scratch for the fourth consecutive game as the Patriots continue to roll with Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead and James White.
LaAdrian Waddle also is inactive after testing out his injured ankle in pregame, meaning Cameron Fleming likely will start at right tackle for New England.
Here’s the full list of Patriots inactives:
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy, center David Andrews and cornerback Eric Rowe all are active after being listed as questionable. Andrews missed the last two games with an illness, and Rowe missed the last seven with a groin injury.
It will be interesting to see how Rowe fits back into the cornerback rotation, as third corner Jonathan Jones has played well in his absence.
Newcomers Bernard Reedy and Nicholas Grigsby both are active, as well. They’ll make their Patriots debuts today.
10:44 a.m.: LaAdrian Waddle, who’s questionable with an ankle injury, just went through a pregame workout with the Patriots’ teams doctors and trainers. That means he’ll be a game-time decision.
If Waddle can’t go, Cameron Fleming likely would start at right tackle for New England.
10:30 a.m.: More than a dozen Patriots players had custom cleats designed for today’s game as part of the NFL’s “My Cause, My Cleats” initiative. Head coach Bill Belichick also is participating, wearing football-patterned Nikes with emblazoned with the logo of his Bill Belichick Foundation.
Here’s a look at some of the designs:Second quarter, 10:53, Patriots 3-0:
8 a.m. ET: Good morning from New Era Field in Buffalo, where the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills will square off this afternoon in their first meeting of the season.
The Patriots will be shorthanded for this AFC East clash, as wide receiver Chris Hogan, right tackle Marcus Cannon, defensive end Trey Flowers and linebacker Trevor Reilly all have been ruled out with injuries.
Flowers’ injury is especially concerning, as New England was thin on the edge even before he left last week’s game with injured ribs. The third-year pro is the Patriots’ best pass rusher, leading the team in both sacks (six) and quarterback hits (19) this season, and he hadn’t missed a game since the 2015 season.
Hogan is one of several former Bills on this Patriots roster. Cornerback Stephon Gilmore and running back Mike Gillislee both played for Buffalo last season. The former has been one of New England’s best defensive backs in the second half of the season, while the latter is hoping to avoid his fourth consecutive healthy scratch.
The three remaining inactives will be announced around 11:30 a.m. ET. Six Patriots players currently are listed as questionable: center David Andrews, offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle, cornerback Eric Rowe, special teamer Matthew Slater and linebackers Kyle Van and Marquis Flowers.
Wide receiver Bernard Reedy is set to make his Patriots debut today after being recalled from the practice squad Saturday. Reedy, who started the season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is a talented kick/punt returner who could lessen the load being placed on Dion Lewis and Danny Amendola.
The Patriots treated the Bills like a punching bag during the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era, going 28-4 against their longtime division rivals since 2001. Jacoby Brissett started at quarterback for the Pats in one of those losses, and Jimmy Garoppolo played the second half in another — a meaningless Week 17 tilt in 2014.
Will that dominance continue today? We’ll find out in just a few hours. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET, but be sure to check back here throughout the morning for full pregame coverage.