Patriots PASTEURIZE Bills!

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The sun shone brightly over Foxboro Stadium for most of New England's 21-11 win over Buffalo on Sunday.

 

At least above the Patriots' sideline.

"When it rains, it rains hard," said Bills running back Travis Henry."And it's raining right now for us."

The Bills outgained the Patriots, but fatal penalties kept them out of the end zone until 2:43 remained and they trailed by 11 points.

Buffalo held New England to 205 net yards, but gave the Patriots less than half a field to cover on both of their touchdown drives (one of which was sustained by a pair of defensive pass interference penalties).

Rookie punter Brian Moorman, whose kicking was one of the scarce bright spots through the first seven games, couldn't handle the southern Massachusetts wind as the Bills brace for the gusty portion of their home schedule.

Even a perfectly designed and executed onsides kick that would have given Buffalo a chance at a win that it in no way deserved wound up bouncing away from two Bills. Two plays later, exiled Bills running back Antowain Smith ran over free safety Travares Tillman on his way to a clinching 42-yard touchdown.

And to top it off, Rob Johnson finally endured the serious injury that his own indecision and the line's season-long inability to protect him made all but inevitable. Rolling toward the right sideline, Johnson was driven into the ground by blitzing Patriots cornerback Ty Law and left the field in obvious pain.

Bills officials declined comment on Johnson's condition, but a local television report quoted the x-ray technician who examined him as saying that he suffered multiple breaks to his clavicle, an injury that could finish his season.

Johnson's injury came with Buffalo trailing 14-3 and 4:17 remaining. But the Bills' problems started long before, in every phase of the game.

"Again, as we put ourselves in a position to win or a position to be close enough to make it a game, we find a way to have an error," said Bills coach Gregg Williams after his team fell to 1-7.

The Bills defense, particularly the front line, turned in its best performance of the season. Rookie linemen Aaron Schobel, Tyrone Robertson and Kendrick Office each had two sacks. Office, seeing his first National Football League action, also forced two fumbles and finished with seven tackles, six of them solo.

Buffalo's six sacks were a season high, and the Bills limited Smith to 58 yards on 19 carries before collapsing on his final run, which produced his second touchdown with 51 seconds left.

Smith said finishing with 100 yards added to his satisfaction with New England's win, but doing it against his old team didn't.

"We got the win -- that's the main thing," said Smith, who spent most of his last two seasons in Buffalo injured or on the bench. "It also helped that I had a pretty good performance out there ... to me that's just icing on the cake.

"There's nobody on that coaching staff that was there when they first drafted me or when I played my four years there. So that's a whole new coaching staff and I have nothing against them. Actually, I have nothing against the old coaching staff, really."

Williams said the breakdown on Smith's second touchdown epitomized Buffalo's afternoon.

"I thought defensively, we played extremely well all day long and there at the end, we had about three broken tackles where they're gambling to try to get the ball out," Williams said.

Smith's first score, a 1-yard plunge, was set up by a 20-yard Moorman punt, a third-down interference call on Bills linebacker Kenyatta Wright and an end-zone flag on cornerback Antoine Winfield.

"We had two receivers to our right and they ran a switch route, where they crossed, and me and Nate had the read on it," said Winfield, who ended up on intended receiver David Patten. "He ran a post and I got to him. I guess they said I didn't look back at the ball. There was a little contact there."

Buffalo's defensive performance went to waste largely because of the Bills' inability to achieve any semblance of offensive consistency. Wide receiver Eric Moulds, who caught three passes for all of 7 yards, said Buffalo's problems started well before the ball was snapped.

"Some of the plays today, I don't even think they were in our playbook," Moulds said. "I think they mixed the calls up a lot and confused the receivers and backs a lot."

The confusion forced the Bills to burn two second-half timeouts, which kept them from killing the clock in the final moments. Several players, including Moulds, said the complex terminology used to relay the play calls was too lengthy.

"If that's the circumstance and we're burning timeouts because we can't get lined up right, then maybe we should simplify," said quarterback Alex Van Pelt, who generated Buffalo's lone touchdown.

That came on a 17-yard strike to Peerless Price, two plays after Office sacked Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, forcing a fumble recovered by Bills linebacker Keith Newman. Price had an apparent 19-yard scoring grab from Johnson on the previous series negated by a holding penalty on Jay Riemersma.

"It was a route we had designed to get either Jay or Peerless open," Van Pelt said of the touchdown that counted. "They covered Jay with a safety and a linebacker and the safety leaving the middle of the field opened up a huge hole for Peerless and he came in there and did a nice job on the route."

It was one of the few times that anything Buffalo tried worked as drawn up. The Bills showed a greater commitment to the run, at least until the Patriots extended their lead to 11. But after gaining 30 yards in the first quarter, Henry managed just 21 the rest of the way.

The biggest breakdown in the running game came on Buffalo's first series. Facing fourth-and-1 at New England's 28-yard line, Henry got buried by Willie McGinest and Ted Johnson for a 1-yard loss.

Another short-yardage situation, a third-and-goal at New England's 1-yard line early in the second quarter, blew up when left tackle Jonas Jennings, returning after missing two games with a sprained left arch, moved too soon. After Johnson overthrew Moulds at the back of the end zone, Buffalo settled for Jake Arians' 24-yard field goal.

"What I attributed the (penalty to) was, Jonas getting back in there, and it's loud down there -- another young mistake," Williams said.

Moorman's problems dealing with the wind led first to a 28-yard line drive that Troy Brown returned 29 yards, putting the Patriots at Buffalo's 35. Six plays later, Brady connected with Kevin Faulk for a 6-yard score and a lead New England never surrendered.

Early in the third, again kicking into the wind, Moorman bounced a 20-yarder that long snapper Dan O'Leary downed at Buffalo's 40, giving the Patriots a short field to cover before Smith went in over the left side. A 12-yard shank later in the third brought Moorman's average for five punts down to a dismal 27.5.

"On the second one, the wind was gusting there, and you saw it blew the drop," Williams said. "He almost missed it because of the gust at that time. The first one, same thing, and he kicked it low and that created the poor field position that led to the first touchdown."

The loss, along with the ominous uncertainty over Johnson's status, left the Bills in a daze after the game and facing a gloomy second half of the season.

"It just seems like we can't get nothing -- calls or anything," said rookie fullback Phillip Crosby, who saw the onsides kick attempt bounce out of his hands. "There's negativity all around us. But we've just got to stay positive and stay focused."


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