First quarter: Double teamed
New England’s two most talented defenders combined to make the big play of the first quarter.
Ryan Fitzpatrick was looking to throw a swing pass to C.J. Spiller on a second-and-7 play from the Bills’ 23 midway through the quarter. But Pats linebacker Jerod Mayo read the play and flashed out to the flat to guard Spiller. That caused Fitzpatrick to pull the ball down. That gave Vince Wilfork, the ninth-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowler, enough time to split a double-team and knock the ball out of the quarterback’s hands. New England recovered on the Buffalo 13.
Key play: Stevan Ridley plunged over from the 1 to give New England a 10-0 lead.
Second-guess: The Pats benefited from two dubious pass interference calls on their 13-yard drive to their first touchdown.
Bills safety George Wilson was flagged for grabbing Rob Gronkowski in the end zone. Gronkowski stumbled on his own. It was a bad call.
Two plays later, Stephon Gilmore made full contact with Brandon Lloyd a yard deep in the end zone. Gilmore was holding his position and Lloyd ran into him.
Second quarter: Big targets
Tight ends were the focus of a second quarter in which the teams combined for 31 points.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski made a great, diving catch in the corner of the end zone to stake the Pats to a 24-10 lead with 3:54 left in the half. It was the ninth touchdown catch in six career games against the Bills for Gronkowski, who grew up in Amherst. It was Gronkowski’s eighth TD catch of the season.
The Bills responded with the help of tight end Scott Chandler, who capped an 80-yard march with a 3-yard TD catch with 31 seconds left in the half. Chandler had four catches for 57 yards in the second quarter.
Key plays: The Pats also scored on a 15-yard TD run by Danny Woodhead. Buffalo’s other touchdown came on a 14-yard run by Fred Jackson. Rian Lindell added a 41-yard field goal for Buffalo.
Flag football: The Bills outgained the Pats, 229-153, the first 30 minutes. But the Bills made one turnover and the Pats made none. And the Bills had 10 penalties for 119 yards in the first half, while the Pats made two for 30.
Third quarter: A mite too fast
Diminutive backup running back Danny Woodhead has 11 touchdowns in 38 games for the New England Patriots. Five of them have come against the Bills.
The 5-foot-9 Woodhead scored his second TD of the game to give the Patriots a 31-17 lead with 7:06 left in the third quarter. It was a maddening play for the Bills’ defense, which blitzed Tom Brady and almost had him caught in a collapsed pocket. Brady stepped up and leaned over as if expecting to get hit. But at the last second he dumped the ball to Woodhead on a short crossing pattern and the back scampered into the end zone.
Woodhead produced 61 yards from scrimmage against the Bills. He’s averaging 47 a game.
“The biggest thing is ... it’s hard to see him,” Pats cornerback Devin McCourty said of Woodhead. “I make fun of him all the time for his height, but he uses it to his advantage.”
Key play: Fred Jackson scored on a 1-yard plunge to cap an 11-play, 84-yard drive with 1:37 left in the quarter. It pulled the Bills within 31-24.
Fourth quarter: Picked apart
New England safety Devin McCourty made one of the easier interceptions of his career to seal the Patriots victory with 23 seconds left in the game. McCourty was standing in the end zone when Bills receiver T.J. Graham ran the wrong route, going behind the defender instead of in front of him.
“That was one of those right place, right time moments right there,” said McCourty, a first-round pick out of Rutgers in 2010.
The beat goes on: The Pats swept the season series with the Bills for the 10th time in the past 12 years. New England has scored 30 or more points against Buffalo six straight games.
Key plays: New England’s Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 48-yard field goal 50 seconds into the quarter to give the Pats a 34-24 lead. His 27-yard field goal with 2:06 left put the Pats ahead, 37-31.
Unsung plays: On the Pats’ last drive, Kyle Williams stuffed Stevan Ridley for a 2-yard loss on a first-and-goal play at the 2. On third down, Mario Williams pressured Tom Brady into an incompletion. The Pats had to settle for a field goal, which gave the Bills a chance at a game-winning drive.