Game notes: Patriots vs. Bills

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Game notes: Patriots vs. Bills

A quick look at the information you need to know about tonight's Patriots-Bills game:

GAME TIME: 8:30 p.m. EST

TV NETWORK: ESPN

TV ANNOUNCERS: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden and Lisa Salters

NATIONAL RADIO: Westwood One Sports

NATIONAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Kevin Harlan, Boomer Esiason and Steve Tasker

LOCAL RADIO NETWORK: Anchored by WBZ-FM (98.5 The Sports Hub)

LOCAL RADIO ANNOUNCERS: Bob Socci and Scott Zolak

ALL-TIME SERIES BETWEEN THE TEAMS: Patriots lead, 68-42-1

LAST MEETING: Patriots 40, Bills 32 on Sept. 20, 2015 at Ralph Wilson Stadium

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-- The Patriots are an NFL-best 42-15 in the month of November since 2001 (.737 winning percentage).

-- The Patriots are 70-19 (.787) in the regular season against AFC East opponents since 2001, the best intra-division record of any team in the NFL over that time span.

-- The Patriots are 3-0 in the AFC East in 2015.

-- The Patriots are looking for their 24th season-series sweep against Buffalo.

-- Bill Belichick is 27-5 as a head coach against the Bills, including 27-4 with the Patriots. Rex Ryan is 4-10 as a head coach against the Patriots, including 0-1 with the Bills.

-- This will be the third Monday Night Football matchup between the Patriots and Bills, all of which have been played in Foxboro. The Pats won the previous two: 27-14 on Oct. 23, 1995, and 25-24 on Sept. 14, 2009.

-- The Patriots and Bills have played regular-season and playoff games at eight venues, and the Pats have a winning record against Buffalo at six of them. In games at Buffalo, they were 7-6-1 at War Memorial Stadium and are 26-16 at Rich Stadium/Ralph Wilson Stadium. In New England, they were 2-1 at Nickerson Field, 3-3 at Fenway Park, 1-0 at Alumni Stadium, 0-1 at Harvard Stadium and 17-14 at Schaefer/Sullivan/Foxboro Stadium, and are 12-1 at Gillette Stadium.

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WHAT TO LOOK FOR

-- The Patriots are looking to start a season 10-0 for the second time in franchise history. The other was in 2007.

-- Rob Gronkowski (62) needs seven touchdowns to move past Stanley Morgan (68) and become the all-time leader in touchdowns for the Patriots.

-- Gronkowski (61) needs seven receiving touchdowns to move past Stanley Morgan (67) and become the all-time leader in receiving touchdowns for the Patriots.

Bill Belichick liked what Cyrus Jones brought as a returner vs. Texans

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Bill Belichick liked what Cyrus Jones brought as a returner vs. Texans

Cyrus Jones brought back four punts for 58 yards during Saturday's preseason game with the Texans, showing the vision and burst that made him a dynamic return man at Alabama and helped make him Bill Belichick's second-round draft pick in 2016.

Two of those four returns -- he also had one kickoff return for 17 yards -- stood out as Jones made "something out of nothing," as Belichick put it after the game. 

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On the first, Jones caught a Shane Lechler boot at the Patriots 27-yard line with three Texans bearing down on him. He sidestepped Dylan Cole with a subtle move to his left, then turned on his speed. Using good blocks from Jordan Richards, Duron Harmon and Justin Coleman, Jones had himself a 32-yard gain. 

After the fact, Jones was congratulated by a large swath of his teammates on the Patriots bench. Jonathan Freeny, Jonathan Jones, Elandon Roberts, Brandin Cooks, Nate Ebner, David Andrews, Shaq Mason, Marcus Cannon, James White and special teams coordinator Joe Judge all happily patted Jones on the helmet or shoulder pads to encourage the second-year corner. 

Jones has been open about how the difficulties he had holding onto the football as a rookie impacted him, but in the early going this year, ball-security has not seemed to be an issue. He muffed one punt on the first practice of training camp, he double caught another in West Virginia last week, but other than, he has handled his return responsibilities well. 

Defensively, he was involved on two long Jaguars touchdowns last week and opted not to speak with reporters afterward. Had his confidence been impacted, it didn't seem to last long. Belichick noted he liked the aggressiveness Jones showed as a returner, despite fielding one that turned into a loss of three deep in Patriots territory. 

"I though Cyrus did a good job in the return game, both in punts and kickoffs," Belichick said. "Ran hard. Ran aggressively. Made good decisions with and without the ball. Had a couple of situations where the ball either hit the ground or was going out of bounds. I thought he did a nice job."

The Patriots seem to have a solid top-four at corner with Malcolm Butler, Stephon Gilmore, Eric Rowe and Jonathan Jones. Cyrus Jones would seem to fall outside that group in competition for the fifth spot alongside players like Justin Coleman, Kenny Moore and DJ Killings.

But if Jones continues to show positive results in the return game, he could earn a roster spot for his abilities in that regard. Not only do the Patriots place a premium on the kicking game and the importance of field position, but if Jones could help take some of the load off of other returners like Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, there would be value in that as well. 

Perry: Garoppolo's accountability a winning sign in losing effort

Perry: Garoppolo's accountability a winning sign in losing effort

HOUSTON -- If Jimmy Garoppolo is destined to be a starting quarterback down the line, he showed one quality after the game that would seem to indicate he's just about ready.

He was accountable.

The strip-sack that nearly decapitated him and gave the Texans possession? On him.

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"The o-line did a great job tonight," Garoppolo said. "The sack-fumble was my fault. Can't let that happen . . . I'm the quarterback. It's just -- it's my fault."

His pick in the fourth quarter, a strange throw on the run that was out of reach for tight end Jacob Hollister? Well, yeah, no one else to blame there.

"You just gotta throw it away," he said. "Put more on it. Don't even give the guy a chance to do that."

It wasn't all ugliness in preseason game No. 2 for Tom Brady's backup. He hit DJ Foster on a quick toss over the middle that turned into a 25-yard touchdown. He climbed the pocket and drilled Austin Carr for a first down in the third quarter that started a streak of six straight completions, ending with Foster's score. He established chemistry with tight end James O'Shaughnessy, who had to sit during last week's game with the Jags. And he did it all behind the likes of Cam Fleming, Cole Croston, Jamil Douglas and James Ferentz.

One of Garoppolo's best plays of the night actually came on a sack. But instead of taking a vicious blow -- like the one he absorbed on the strip-sack -- he got on the ground just as the Texans were bearing down on him. He lived to see the next down, using an on-the-field awareness that may be tough to sharpen during practices when quarterbacks wear red jerseys and aren't allowed to be touched.

No, the final line wasn't sparkling, as it was a week ago. Garoppolo was 15-for-23 for 145 yards, a touchdown and an interception. He missed throws to O'Shaughnessy, Carr and Dion Lewis. He was nearly picked on a Brandon Bolden wheel route.

But the accountability Garoppolo showed after the fact is the kind of thing that doesn't go unnoticed by teammates, and it's one of the reasons he'll already have them won over if he ever gets another chance to start.

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