FOXBORO -- New England's 37-31 win over Buffalo had an odd aftertaste. Seeing as the Patriots won by the skin of their teeth, you'd think the locker room would be somewhat sober.
Not so. There was a lot of laughter and general joy.
On that note.
Cornerback Devin McCourty on whether he's more frustrated the game was so close or happy the Patriots won in the end:
DM: "The first thing I learned when I got to the NFL was that its hard to win each week. We never take that for granted. Its big to come out and get a win, especially against a division team. Like any other game, we have to go work on the things we need to work on. Well break the film down. We still have seven more games to go and its all going to depend on how good and how well we improve over this time. If we can keep improving all the way down to the end of the season and string good games together and string wins together, well be in good shape."
True. If the Patriots -- hypothetically speaking -- go back to the Super Bowl, nobody will be talking about the fact they almost lost to Buffalo in early November.
Unless they lost that Super Bowl. That's when every misstep from every game would get dredged up and used as testimony for what, in retrospect, was certain doom.
I'm exaggerating, but the point is, no one will deny it's better to avoid situations where late-game heroics are needed to secure a victory.
Press conferences sound like this on the other side.
Bills coach Chan Gailey on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Question transcribed verbatim: "This was a game where he seemed to be answering his critics and then, in the end, it was like Yeah, well, he is going to throw that late interception."
On to Gailey's answer:
CG: "Yep, I hate it for him. He played so good and then to have that happen. Ive got to help him. Ive got to make a couple better calls at the end there that might help him. So, if I do a little bit better of a job, then maybe he doesnt have to do that by himself."
Nice of Gailey to take the bullet, but Fitzpatrick can't completely duck and cover.
Yes, the numbers show a strong offensive effort for Buffalo: 481 total yards and 35 first downs, the most New England has ever allowed. Fitzpatrick completed 27 of 40 passes for 337 yards, two touchdowns, and a 99.7 rating. He and his arsenal executed 25 plays of 10 or more yards.
But that interception.
That's really what the effort boils down to in the end. When a team grants its quarterback a 59 million extension over six years, one that includes 24 million guaranteed, that team will generally frown upon game-winning touchdown passes thrown errantly to opposing defensive backs.
Bills receiver T.J. Graham on missing the game-winning reception:
TG: It was a good pass, I should have made that play. I take blame for that one. That might be why I dont get on the field as much.
Graham is actually a strong candidate to take blame for the ball McCourty intercepted Sunday evening. From the looks of it, the 23-year old should have run across McCourty instead of toward the post. Whether or not Fitzpatrick should have fired anyway. well he did.
Maybe the play should have been drawn up for Donald Jones instead.
Buffalo's Jones on the receiving corps:
DJ: I have been saying all year as a receiving core we dont feel anyone can stop us on the outside. We were moving the ball pretty good. It was tough I didnt make that one catch and I take that one on myself. It is hard that I couldnt come down with that one. We dont feel anyone can stick with us on the outside and we will keep on playing that way.
We've already gone over Buffalo's offensive numbers, so Jones' confidence is not unfounded, even in the loss. What's interesting is the way the team attacked New England with many mid-range strikes to the outside. Opposing offenses have, to this point, had success gouging the secondary with 20-plus yard bombs over the middle.
Sunday was just the second time a team put 30 or more points on the Patriots (Baltimore scored 31 in its Week 3 win).
Fitzpatrick on the comparison between Houstons defense (which the Bill's couldn't score against last week) to the Patriots defense:
RF: "I dont want to get into the comparisons. You can look at the statistics and Houstons obviously a top five defense I really dont want to compare them."
The Harvard Guy did his homework: Houston has the No. 3 defense in the NFL, surrendering just 285.6 yards per game. Buffalo dug in for 304 total net yards against the Texans in Week 9, but went 0-for-3 in the red zone for just nine points.
On whether or not the Patriots defense is a top five defense:
RF: "If you look at the statistics theyre obviously not a top five defense, but these guys and what they do, they have a great offense and theyre going to make you earn it all the way down the field and I thought our guys until the very, very end there, made a lot of plays and unfortunately came up one play short in the end."
New England has the league's best offense at 430.3 yards per game. It has the 25th-ranked defense in terms of yards surrendered per game (382.1). It was fair of Fitzpatrick to not put that latter number alongside Houston's.
Nose tackle Vince Wilfork on the Bills rushing attack:
VW: They run the ball very well. We have two running backs like that and it is just very tough to defend those guys. Like I said, the biggest stat is to win. We can always get better and do things a little differently going forward."
How impressive is C.J. Spiller? Sunday, he looked like a much different back than the one New England saw in Week 4. Spiller started off hot in 2012 before injuring his shoulder against the Browns. He got snaps when the Patriots came to town, but had just 33 yards on eight carries. This weekend Spiller averaged 7.8 yards on his nine carries for 70 total. Fred Jackson tossed in another 80 yards on 16 carries.
The Patriots run defense was tied at seventh-best in the NFL coming into this week, giving up just 88.6 per contest. Buffalo's 162 team total was impressive.
Bills defensive end Mario Williams on the game in general:
MW: We got to play better, there are eleven guys on the field we all got to play better. Ive never seen that many penalties in a game. This is my first year playing with everybody as a group, but Ive never seen that many penalties. I dont know what was going on.
Someone was a little flag-happy.
The Bills were whistled for 14 accepted penalties for 148 yards. They were hit for 10 of them in the first half alone. One drive in particular saw Fitzpatrick go from a third-and-1 situation to third-and-21 after three straight flags.
And yes, some of the calls were questionable. I'm still waiting to hear how a guy can get hit for defensive pass interference when the ball is thrown 10-yards out of the end zone and the "intended receiver" is in a different zip code.
Head coach Bill Belichick on Stephen Gostkowski's kickoffs giving the defense good field positions today:
BB: "Right and we had good coverage on the couple they brought out and that was good. That was good. This is the best kickoff return team in the league great returner, punt and kickoff returner, and that was one of the things we needed to do: neutralize Leodis McKelvins production in those areas and we did a decent job of that."
I'm including this quote because kickers are people too, gosh darn it, and Gostkowski did have a great night.
McKelvin is indeed an explosive kickoff returner. Only two players in the league have a better return average than his 29.8 yards. But he had just one opportunity (21 yards) Sunday because six of Gostkowski's eight kickoffs were boomed for touchbacks.
Gostkowski was also a perfect 4-for-4 on extra points and 3-for-3 on field goals.