In good hands
Julian Edelman shed his injury-prone label this season and helped rescue the New England Patriots’ offense.
The Patriots weren’t counting on Edelman in a big way entering the season. The fifth-year slot receiver caught just 32 passes the previous three seasons, and they signed him to a one-year, minimum contract. New England targeted Danny Amendola to play the slot. He was signed to a $28 million contract.
But Amendola has been nagged by injuries and missed five games. Edelman has been the go-to guy out of the slot.
He entered the game with 96 catches, fourth best in the NFL. Edelman caught three passes in the first quarter, all on a 59-yard drive to a field goal that put the Patriots ahead, 6-3.
Key plays: New England’s Stephen Gostkowski kicked field goals of 43 and 35 yards. Buffalo got a 51-yard field goal from Dan Carpenter. It was a tough kick, into the wind and rain.
Ducky weather: A steady, cold rain fell all afternoon, and the Pats adapted with a power run game. New England ran on five of its first six plays and eight of its first 10.
Quality running backs often are available as undrafted free agents. Another example is LeGarrette Blount, who has proved to be a shrewd offseason addition for the Patriots. New England acquired him from Tampa in a trade that sent backup Jeff Demps and a seventh-round draft pick to the Bucs.
Blount, who entered the game with 583 rushing yards, gashed the Bills for 118 yards in the first half. He had a 36-yard touchdown run to put the Pats ahead, 13-3.
Blount was an elite talent at the University of Oregon who went undrafted because of off-field issues. He was suspended briefly in his first year at Oregon, then was suspended for much of the 2009 season when he punched a Boise State player in a postgame fight. Blount ran for 1,007 yards as a rookie with Tampa in 2010. He was nagged by injuries in 2012 and managed only 151 yards that season.
Key plays: Stephen Gostkowski set the Patriots record with his 37th field goal of the year, a 29-yarder to end the first half. ... Defensive tackle Stefan Charles burst up the middle for a 7-yard sack of Tom Brady. It was Buffalo’s 57th sack of the season.
Scoring on the fly
A heads-up adjustment by T.J. Graham pulled the Bills within 16-10 late in the third quarter.
On a second-down play from the Pats’ 12, quarterback Thad Lewis scrambled to his left. Graham faked like he was going to block for a Lewis scramble, then ran to the end zone and was wide open for a touchdown pass.
The Bills’ momentum was short-lived, however, because New England returned the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to the Buffalo 20.
Bad penalties: The Bills took two of them on the same play. Defensive tackle Alan Branch got into a shoving match near the end of a play with Patriots center Ryan Wendell. Wendell pushed Branch after the play. Branch shoved him back, directly in view of an official, and he was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct foul. While referee Ed Hochuli was announcing the foul, Bills linebacker Jerry Hughes apparently said something foul to an official. Hughes was flagged 15 more yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
It all went for naught, however. Tom Brady punted on a third-and-32 situation from his own 46. The punt went 32 yards.
Juggernaut rolls on
Chalk up another win for Tom Brady. The Patriots’ quarterback only passed for 122 yards in the win over Buffalo but his assault on the NFL record books marched on.
The victory was Brady’s 148th as a starter in the regular season, tying him for third most ever with John Elway. Brady is 148-43, for a winning percentage of .774, best in the Super Bowl era. Elway was 148-82-1 (.643). The top two winningest QBs ever are Brett Favre (186) and Peyton Manning (167). Brady is 36.
Key plays: Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 35-yard field goal with 7:57 left to give the Pats a 27-17 lead. … T.J. Graham dropped a fourth-down pass with 5:38 left to give the Pats the ball at midfield. But Buffalo got the ball right back at 5:03 when Manny Lawson intercepted a Pats screen pass at the Buffalo 48. … New England pulled away with a 35-yard TD run by LeGarrette Blount with 2:31 left.
Hats off: The Patriots’ crowd deserved credit. The stands in the lower bowl and upper deck were surprisingly full well into the fourth quarter, despite the fact the downpour never let up from the kickoff.