Patriots roar back from 14-point deficit, stun Bills, 52-28

Patriots roar back from 14-point deficit, stun Bills, 52-28
September 30, 2012, 8:26 pm
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If you turned off your television in disgust at about 3 o'clock Sunday, well . . . what you missed.

The Patriots' offense -- which rewrote the record books in 2007 and came close to doing it again in 2011 -- outdid itself in the final 26 minutes against the Buffalo Bills.

After a wasteful, sloppy performance on both sides of the ball that had them trailing the Bills, 21-7, with 11:08 to play in the third quarter, the Pats went into NBA mode. They scored 35 consecutive points -- five unanswered touchdowns -- in the next 15 minutes and 39 seconds, put up 45 points overall before the end of the day, and became only the second team in NFL history to have two 100-yard rushers and two 100-yard pass receivers in the same game as they stunned the Bills, 52-28.

The 100-yard rushers? Brandon Bolden (137 yards) and Stevan Ridley (106 yards). The 100-yard pass receivers? Wes Welker (129) and Rob Gronkowski (104). The maestro of this 580-total-yard masterpiece? Tom Brady, who completed 22 of 36 passes for 340 yards and 3 touchdowns.

The shell-shocked victims? The Bills, who, early in the third quarter, could taste their second consecutive home victory over the Patriots, which a) would have put them in sole possession of first place in the AFC East and b) given them a two-game lead over New England. Instead, the teams are tied at the top of the division at 2-2.

The explosion started with a surgical 8-play, 80-yard drive that took 2 minutes and 58 seconds and was capped by a 17-yard Brady-to-Danny Woodhead pass -- made possible by some nifty scrambling from Brady which enabled Woodhead to break free in the secondary -- that cut Buffalo's lead to 21-14. The New England defense forced a three-and-out, its first of the game, on Buffalo's next possession, and that opened the floodgates:

A four-yard scramble by Brady with 3:53 left in the third quarter, capping an 8-play, 85-yard drive that tied the game at 21-21.

A 28-yard TD pass from Brady to Gronkowski on the first play of the fourth quarter, completing a 5-yard, 63-yard that put New England ahead to stay, 28-21.

A two-yard scoring run by Ridley that finished a 42-yard drive started when Brandon Spikes forced his second fumble of the game, a drop by Fred Jackson that was recovered by Tavon Wilson.

A seven-yard TD run by Bolden that made it 42-21 after the second interception of the game by Devin McCourty -- yes, the much-maligned Devin McCourty -- had given New England possession on the Buffalo 12.

Five possessions. Five touchdowns. Fifteen minutes of action.

The game was far from over at that point -- there was still 10:29 to play -- but it was garbage time. The teams traded TDs (a 35-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Brad Smith for Buffalo, a 25-yard pass from Brady to Brandon Lloyd for New England) and Stephen Gostkowski added a 30-yard field goal for the 52-28 final.

And it all was 180 degrees from how the first two-plus quarters had played. The Patriots had gone ahead, 7-0, on a 90-yard scoring drive off their first possession -- Ridley scored from six yards to finish it -- but that was virtually the only thing they did right; Gostkowski missed two field goals and they were unable to convert two Buffalo turnovers into any points. The Bills, meanwhile, got a a pair of Fitzpatrick-to-Scott Chandler TD passes, of 24 and 20 yards, to move ahead 14-7. The lead could have been higher, but Spikes caused C.J. Spiller to fumble at the goal line in the final 30 seconds, and Vince Wilfork recovered the ball to keep New England's deficit at seven points.

But the Bills were able to make it 21-7 anyway, on a 68-yard touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick to Donald Jones with 11:08 to play in the third quarter.

At that point, the Bills were soaring, Ralph Wilson Stadium was in an uproar, and the Pats were staring into the abyss of a 1-3 start. Televisions were no doubt being turned off throughout New England.

What they missed.