Bills show their youth, lose 19-17

A veteran Patriot club pulled it together after a sloppy first half in which the Bills defense held them in check. New England went ahead on a fourth-quarter safety to beat the Buffalo Bills 19-17 on Sunday. It was a powerful comeback from a poor start that had the Patriots trailing by 10 at halftime.

Ty Warren's sack of J.P. Losman in the end zone with 8:55 on the clock propelled the New England Patriots to a season-opening come-from-behind 19-17 win at Gillette Stadium.

The Buffalo Bills looked more like the defending division champions after  London Fletcher scored on a fumble return just 12 seconds into the game. On the first play from scrimmage, Tom Brady fumbled as he was blitzed and hammered by Takeo Spikes, and Fletcher ran the recovery in for a five-yard touchdown.

Buffalo dominated early, starting with the sack by Spikes. Their defense harried Tom Brady for the first two quarters, limiting him to 3-for-11 passing and a mere 30 yards. However, the Patriots managed to tie the game with their ground attack. Lawrence Maroney and Corey Dillon moved the Patriots into scoring position on the Patriot's first possession following the Fletcher TD.  The Patriots tied it 7-7 on their second possession on Brady's nine-yard scoring pass to Troy Brown.

On the ensuing drive the Bills nearly turned the ball over twice on the  two plays. A shotgun snap sailed over Losman's head but he recovered to find Josh Reed who made a spectacular sideline grab for 20 yards. On the next play, Losman and Willis McGahee fumbled the hand off exchange, but Losman recovered. Not to be deterred, the Bills drove to the Patriot 34 and settled for a 53-yard Lindell FG.

The Buffalo defense kept the pressure on Brady, even forcing a fumble that was recovered by Patriot center Dan Koppen. The Bills then took their second possession of the game 73 yards on 8 plays. Bills backup RB Anthony Thomas accounted for all but 7 yards on the drive, capping it with an 18-yard TD run. McGahee missed most of the drive due to an ankle injury  that was getting re-taped. It would be the last points the Bills would score on the afternoon.

Midway through the first half, both starting safety Troy Vincent and LB Takeo Spikes were lost for the game due to hamstring injuries. From that point on, the pressure the Bills would muster on Tom Brady would wane- and the Pro Bowl QB would make the Bills pay. Tom Brady finished the game going 11-for-23 for 163 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Brady is 10-1 versus Buffalo with 19 touchdowns and 10 picks for his career.

To open  the second half, Losman drove the Bills 69 yards in 9 plays to the Patriot 7 yard line. Leading 17-7 and facing 4th and 1 at the Patriot 7, Bills head coach Dick Jauron gambled, and lost- on 4th down. McGahee was stopped a foot short, swinging the game's momentum in the Patriots favor.

Tom Brady drove New England 93 yards on 12 plays to bring the score to 17-14. Kevin Faulk's diving catch in the corner of the end zone capped the drive. Faulk retained possession despite getting injured on the play, hurting his ribs. Hampering the defensive effort was another defensive injury, as CB Terrance McGee missed most of the drive after getting shaken up tackling Lawrence Maroney.

Buffalo went three- and- out, and the Patriots scored on the next drive. With 4 and sometimes 5 rookies in the Bills defensive alignment, Brady led a 14-play drive of 68 yards, ending when Patriots rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski connected on a 32-yard field goal that tied it 17-17 with 9:33 remaining. Exactly one minute later, the Patriots took the lead for good on the third play of Buffalo's possession, sending the Bills to their sixth straight loss against New England.

A special teams penalty put the Bills on their own 9-yard line. On the first two plays, Losman threw the ball away under a heavy rush and McGahee was thrown for a one-yard loss. Then Losman dropped four yards into the end zone as linebacker Tully Banta-Cain rushed from Losman's left and got a hand on the quarterback. Ty Warren, charging in from the other side, tackled Losman for the safety just inside the goal line.

On the third play of the Bills' next possession, Richard Seymour sacked Losman for a six-yard loss, Brian Moorman punted and the Patriots held the ball for the remaining 6:15. Oddly, the game was sealed when the Patriots converted on their second 4th and one attempt of the game.

Losman was 15-of-23 for 164 yards while Willis McGahee rushed the ball 20 times for 70 yards for the Bills (0-1), who play the Dolphins in Miami in Week Two. McGahee also made two receptions for 24 yards.

With wide receiver Deion Branch continuing his holdout, the Patriots put together a 183-yard running attack with rookie first-round draft pick Laurence Maroney gaining 86 yards and Corey Dillon adding 73. Brady, who led the league in yards passing last year, threw for only 163 yards but passed for two touchdowns.

Game Notes

Fletcher scored his first career touchdown...The Bills haven't beaten the Patriots since their 31-0 rout on the opening game of the 2003 season...Thomas' TD run was the longest by the Bills since Shaud Williams reeled off a 27-yard run versus San Francisco on December 26, 2004...New England linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who is recovering from a broken right wrist, was inactive for the game...Gostkowski was the first player to attempt a field goal for New England other than Adam Vinatieri since December 16, 1995...New England coach Bill Belichick won the 100th regular season game of his career.


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