Gostkowski clinches Pats' 23-21 win over Bills
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — New season, new receivers, familiar finish
for Tom Brady, who looked like his old self in the clutch.
Whatever chemistry Brady still lacks within the Patriots new-look
offense, the quarterback overcame by rallying New England to a 23-21
season-opening win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Brady marched New
England 49 yards in 12 plays to set up Stephen Gostkowski's 35-yard
field goal with 5 seconds left.
"I didn't have a lot of doubt," Brady said, referring to the final
drive, which began at the Patriots 34 with 4:31 remaining. "We've got a
team full of fighters. There's going to be some ugly wins, but we're
always going to fight until the end."
Shaking off a sloppy start, Brady completed all six attempts for 34
yards on a final drive during which he twice completed passes to
convert third downs. That included threading a throw to Danny Amendola
in traffic for a 10-yard gain on third-and-8 at the Bills 39.
Shane Vereen ran 15 yards on the next play, and the Patriots settled on
running time off the clock before Gostkowski won it.
Amendola, an offseason free-agent addition, showed grit by returning to
the game despite a nagging groin injury he aggravated late in the first
"He really toughed it out, which was impressive," Brady said of
Amendola, who led the Patriots with 10 catches for 104 yards — similar
numbers to what Wes Welker used to provide for Brady.
And Brady leaned heavily on his most experienced returning receiver,
Julian Edelman, who caught both touchdown passes.
"I was proud of our team today," coach Bill Belichick said. "Obviously,
it wasn't perfect. And there's a lot of things we can do better. But
they played the last few minutes of the game the way we needed to play
Brady finished 29 of 52 for 288 yards and two touchdowns in helping the
Patriots win their 10th straight season opener. That ties
Portsmouth/Detroit (1930-39) for the NFL's third-longest streak.
It also marked the 36th time of Brady's career that he's led the
Patriots to victory while tied or trailing in the fourth quarter.
Belichick won his 206th career game to move one ahead of Marty
Schottenheimer for sixth place on the NFL list.
The new-look Bills nearly pulled off a stunning upset in their first
game under coach Doug Marrone and rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel.
It instead turned into an all-too-familiar outcome for the Bills
against their AFC East rivals. They dropped to 1-19 in their past 20
meetings. They are 3-24 in 27 games since Bill Belichick took over as
Patriots coach in 2000.
"You talk about sense of disappointment: It is devastating," Marrone
said. "When we go out there and we have opportunities, and you can't
win that game, I'm letting them down."
The Bills squandered an encouraging debut by Manuel, the rookie
first-round draft pick out of Florida State.
Manuel was inconsistent, but looked poised in the pocket in completing
18 of 27 passes for 150 yards with two touchdowns.
After trailing the entire first half, Manuel put the Bills ahead 21-17
on the first possession of the third quarter by capping an 11-play,
80-yard march with an 18-yard pass to Stevie Johnson.
The Bills had difficulty mustering any further offense, managing just
three first downs and 73 yards on their final five possessions.
"Overall, at the end of the day, we lost. So I can't really say we did
this great, we did that great," Manuel said. "At the end of the day you
want to win."
The Bills also squandered a sturdy effort by a revamped defense that
forced three turnovers, including safety Da'Norris Searcy returning
Stevan Ridley's fumble 74 yards for a touchdown. The Bills also limited
the Patriots to 6 points on three drives inside Buffalo's 20 in the
Discipline was an also an issue for Buffalo, which was penalized 10
times for 75 yards.
The Patriots' defense was opportunistic, too. Cornerback Kyle Arrington
forced two fumbles, both of which set up touchdowns.
"It's a game of opportunity. You've got to capitalize as much as
possible," Arrington said. "We were just very fortunate to come away
with enough plays to win the game. It wasn't perfect."
Patriots rookie receiver Kenbrell Thompkins with four catches for 42
yards despite being targeted 14 times.
And then there was Ridley. After fumbling by slipping at the line of
scrimmage without being touched, Ridley spent the rest of the game on
the sideline with his helmet perched on his head. Vereen took over
finished with 14 carries for career-high 101 yards.
NOTES: Marrone had no update on WR Marquise Goodwin, who did not return after hurting his right hand late in the
first half. ... Gostkowski also hit a 48-yard field goal in the first
quarter. ... The Bills have lost 14 of their past 20 openers, and
dropped to 21-33 overall.
Gostkowski Boots Patriots Past Bills 23-21
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