FOXBORO -- The Patriots needed help, and the Bills provided.
Buffalo was penalized 14 times for 148 yards on Sunday, making the already difficult task of beating New England at home -- Buffalo hasn't done it since 2000 -- even tougher. The fact that the final score was as close as it was, a 37-31 win for the Patriots, only made the Bills penalties sting more.
"Even through all that, to be right there at the wire, it says a lot," defensive end Mario Williams said. "But if we hadn't shot ourselves in the foot, it definitely would've been a different outcome. In the first half it might've been 100 yards in penalties. I mean, that's crazy. We gotta play better."
Buffalo out-gained the Patriots 481 yards to 347 and had 35 first downs to New England's 27. They seemed to move the ball at will, except, of course, when they weren't flagged and moving backwards as a result.
A few of the calls that went against Buffalo were questionable, and they lingered with the Bills in their locker room moments after the loss.
Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore was called for pass interference on Brandon Lloyd in the end zone even though Tom Brady's pass looked to be uncatchable. It gave the Patriots a 37-yard gain and set up Rob Gronkowski's 2-yard touchdown in the second quarter, giving New England a 24-10 lead. It was Gimore's second pass interference of the game.
"Some of it was bull," said Bills receiver Stevie Johnson. "They called a bunch of defensive pass interferences that was pretty bogus. Then we go down and have a fade route -- he's holding me, too. I'm not saying that play was a pass interference, either. But if you call it on Gilmore then you're going to have to call it on their defensive player also."
George Wilson was called for a pass interference call on Gronkowski in the first quarter that helped lead to the Patriots' first touchdown of the day, a one yard run by Stevan Ridley.
"I don't feel like I impeded his progress," Wilson said. "But obviously the ref made the call. Gotta roll with it. Can't dwell on it. Gotta go on to the next play."
While Bills penalties slowly dragged them down throughout the course of the game, the turnovers they committed were the mistakes that proved most costly.
When Vince Wilfork strip-sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick in the first quarter, it gave the Patriots possession on Buffalo's 13-yard line. Five plays later the Patriots were in the end zone.
"That's something we talked about going into the game," Fitzpatrick said. "Not giving these guys more opportunities than what they deserve. Unfortunately that fumble was a big turning point, essentially giving them seven points early in the game. That's something that we weren't able to overcome over the course of the game."
Bills running back Fred Jackson fumbled at the one yard line early in the fourth quarter to stop what looked like it would be a 94-yard scoring drive to bring the Bills within a field goal of tying the game.
Then Fitzpatrick made the Bills' final, definitive mistake when he threw an interception to Patriots safety Devin McCourty as Buffalo was looking for the go-ahead touchdown with less than a minute remaining.
It was yet another deflating moment in a game full of them for the Bills.
"I thought maybe . . . 'It's our turn now,' " Johnson said. "But they showed why they are the New England patriots, one of the top teams in the league. And we gotta fight to get to where they are."