ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Some notes and nuggets from the New England Patriots’ 25-6 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Monday night at New Era Field:
— Though the final score line seemed to indicate a relatively comfortable Patriots win, this one was a slog for Tom Brady and the New England offense, which struggled on third down (5-for-14) and in the red zone (1-for-3) and didn’t find the end zone until the fourth quarter.
After punting on their opening possession, the Patriots had their next four drives stall on Buffalo’s 7, 22, 20 and 32-yard lines, forcing them to settle for four field-goal attempts. Stephen Gostkowski made the first three before missing the fourth — a 50-yarder — in the closing seconds of the first half.
“We were just moving it down the field, and we got in the red area, and we just couldn’t get the ball in the end zone,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “Just not enough positive plays down there. We had a couple opportunities that we just didn’t take advantage of. I think if we score those touchdowns, we feel a lot better.”
Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who was held to three catches on eight targets for 43 yards in the win, echoed his quarterback.
“We’ve got to put some touchdowns up,” Gronkowski said. “Can’t just come away with field goals all day. It just comes down to execution — getting more open and giving Tom more room to throw the ball. (We’ve) just got to execute down there better for sure.”
The Patriots got another field goal from Gostkowski in the third quarter before finally putting together a touchdown drive early in the fourth. Brady completed key passes to Julian Edelman (26 yards on third-and-6), James White (9 yards on third-and-8) and Chris Hogan (20 yards to the Buffalo 1-yard line) before handing off to White for a 1-yard score.
Wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who started the game at running back in place of an injured Sony Michel, also ripped off a 22-yard run during the scoring march.
— One silver lining for the Patriots: They finished a game with zero turnovers for the first time this season.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t do that well in the red area,” Edelman said. “We actually did terrible. But we took care of the ball. We didn’t turn it over, which was good against a defense that gets the ball out.”
— Edelman and White were the Patriots’ most reliable offensive players in the victory.
Edelman tallied nine catches on 10 targets for a game-high 104 yards in his best performance since returning from suspension in Week 5, while White continued to pile up numbers as a pass-catching back, finishing with 10 receptions on 13 targets for 79 yards to go along with his rushing touchdown.
“In tight games like this, somebody just has to find a way to make a play,” White said.
White’s stats this season are nothing short of fantastic. He has 55 catches for 459 yards and six touchdowns through eight games — leading the team in all three categories — is on pace for 110 receptions, which would be an NFL record for a running back.
“James is Mr. Do It Right,” Edelman said. “He’s accountable. You can trust him. He does his job. He’s a leader on this team. He goes out and performs like that every weekend. It’s been awesome to watch, and it’s been great to have.
— The Patriots’ defense, meanwhile, did a superb job of limiting Pro Bowl running back LeSean McCoy.
McCoy gained 12 yards on his first carry of the game, then totaled just 1 yard — yes, 1 yard — on his final 12 carries.
His final line: 12 carries, 13 yards. Woof. (He did contribute in the passing game with six catches for a team-high 82 receiving yards.)
“We couldn’t get him going,” Bills coach Sean McDermott acknowledged after the game.
— Patriots coach Bill Belichick opened his postgame news conference by saluting the Boston Red Sox, who had spent the previous 24 hours celebrating their World Series title.
“First of all, big congratulations to Dave (Dombrowski), Tony (LaRussa), Alex (Cora) and the Red Sox for a great season and a championship and just a fabulous year,” Belichick said. “They set the bar on top, and it was a good weekend for Boston.”
Thumbnail photo via Rich Barnes/USA TODAY Sports Images