Despite a massive offseason overhaul there are enough veterans in the Patriots locker room to understand what happened yesterday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

These Pats are more than happy if not guiltily relieved to fly home with a 23-21 victory in the season opener against the Buffalo Bills. But they remained smart enough to know the outcome won’t always be in their favor if they continue to make that many mistakes.

Tom Brady orchestrated his 37th game-winning drive including 27 fourth-quarter comebacks to help fulfill the purpose of the trip. Stephen Gostkowski closed out the win with a 35-yard field goal with 5 seconds remaining but the buildup to his late mastery was unsettling on the sideline.

“Definitely I think everyone is happy that we won” left guard Logan Mankins said “but I think a lot of guys especially guys that have been around and know this league know we didn’t play good enough. Three turnovers offensively one on the 3-inch line so we’ve just got to tighten those things up. I think we moved the ball well. We just didn’t score points.”

It could have been easier and for a while it almost was. Yet the Patriots’ three turnovers derailed a hot start and interrupted a blowout in the making. Brady who completed 29-of-52 passes for 288 yards two touchdowns and an interception gave the Pats a 7-0 lead when he found Julian Edelman in the end zone for a 9-yard score and Gostkowski’s 48-yard field goal pushed the first-quarter margin to 10-0.

Then it fell apart as quickly as it came together. Running back Stevan Ridley lost a fumble and for the rest of the day his job when he slipped on the turf and put the ball on the ground for Da’Norris Searcy to recover and run freely for a 74-yard touchdown.
For a while the Pats got it back together as Kyle Arrington forced his second fumble of the game and Rob Ninkovich’s recovery set up the Pats at the Bills 32-yard line. Brady found Edelman four plays later for an 8-yard touchdown to make it 17-7 with 1:55 to go in the second quarter.

The Patriots had an opportunity to increase the lead a minute later after forcing a fast three-and-out but Zach Sudfeld couldn’t corral a Brady pass that eventually was intercepted by Justin Rogers. Bills rookie EJ Manuel closed the gap to 17-14 two plays later by connecting with Robert Woods for an 18-yard TD after Woods blew past Aqib Talib.