They don't have Wes Welker. They don't have Rob Gronkowski or for that matter Aaron Hernandez. Their rookie receivers looked lost at times their tight ends were all but useless (at least as far as receiving is concerned) and their lead back couldn't hold onto the ball. But the New England Patriots still have Tom Brady. On Sunday that was enough to beat the Buffalo Bills. Brady engineered their 36th game-winning fourth-quarter comeback of his career driving the Patriots 49 yards in 12 plays to set up a 35-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal with five seconds to play that lifted them to a skin-of-their-teeth 23-21 victory. It salvaged an afternoon in which the Pats committed two turnovers that led directly to 14 Buffalo points committed another that cost them seven points of their own and found themselves trailing 21-17 with nearly 11 minutes left. "I didn't have a lot of doubt [that the Pats could pull it out]" said Brady. "I felt like that's what we were capable of doing." "Tom as always competed as he always does and made some great throws at critical times" said coach Bill Belichick. New England has now won 10 consecutive Opening Day games. It started as you'd expect with New England taking control early. A C.J. Spiller fumble -- forced by Kyle Arrington and recovered by Tommy Kelly -- gave the Patriots the ball on the Buffalo 16 and Brady rifled a nine-yard scoring pass to Julian Edelman 47 seconds later for a 7-0 lead. Then after a 16-yard punt return by Edelman set up New England at the 50 Gostkowski finished off a nine-play drive with a 48-yard field goal that made it 10-0. That was how the first quarter ended and the Pats continued their domination in the next quarter as they drove to the Buffalo 24. But that's when Stevan Ridley committed the second -- and last -- of his fumbles for the day (the Pats had recovered the first) stumbling to the ground untouched and dropping the ball. Da'Norris Searcy picked it up and raced 74 yards for a touchdown. It cut the Patriots' lead to 10-7 and earned Ridley a seat on the bench for the rest of the day. New England recovered nicely; Arrington forced another fumble -- Rob Ninkovich recovered this one -- and the Pats got the ball on the Buffalo 32. It took four plays for them to capitalize as Brady hooked up again with Edelman for an eight-yard TD that made it 17-7. And they seemed poised to add to the lead when the defense forced a three-and-out allowing Brady and company to take over on their own 25 with 1:14 left in the half.
Patriots rally for 23-21 victory over Bills
NBC Sports Boston | Sep 8