Patriots pull away from Bills, 38-30

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Patriots pull away from Bills, 38-30

By Art Martone
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- Better game managment? Check.

Rejuvenated running attack? Check.

A tightening of the defense? Well . . . let's just say it wasn't as bad as the 30 points allowed would indicate.

Scoring and statistics Play by play

Many of the problems that so worried Patriot Nation in last week's loss to the Jets were rectified -- for the most part -- in Sunday's 38-30 victory over the Bills at Gillette Stadium. The score was close most of the way, and so were the statistics, but the Patriots have reason to be encouraged with their second victory in three games this season.

The previously non-existent running attack exploded for 200 yards, a milestone the Pats didn't reach once in 2009.

"It was lot better than the two yards a carry that we had last week," said coach Bill Belichick.

Because of that, Tom Brady could abandon his gunslinger mentality and revert back to the sort of conservative, clock-killing game management that served the team so well during its championship run.

Even the defense has reason to be proud. Seven of Buffalo's points came on a 95-yard kick return by C.J. Spiller, and 10 others were the direct result of short fields that the Pats' offense handed the Bills. It wasn't perfect -- the Pats allowed Buffalo a 7-play, 80-yard scoring drive after building a 38-23 lead -- but key interceptions by Patrick Chung and Brandon Meriweather choked off Bills' threats.

"The second half, really playing four quarters after making your halftime adjustments, it's really just will and determination," said Randy Moss. "In the past we've stubbed our toe, but today was just good from all angles. Hopefully we can build on that."

And the stuff they've always done well? They retained some of that, too. A Patriots game wouldn't be a Patriots game without a Brady-to-Moss bomb, and Sunday's was a 35-yard hookup for a touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter, giving the Pats a 24-16 lead.

Spiller made it 24-23 on the ensuing kickoff, but the defense got its first big stop two series later. It halted a Buffalo drove at the Pats' 33 and Ryan Lindell missed a 51-yard field-goal attempt that would have given the Bills the lead.

"Typical Buffalo; it's always tough against those guys," said Belichick.

The Pats took over and then ate up 7 minutes and 21 seconds with a 13-play, 59-yard drive that included nine run attempts. The TD, ironically, was a pass -- five yards from Brady to Rob Gronkowski -- but BenJarvus Green-Ellis (16 carries, 98 yards) was the workhorse, carrying four times for 20 yards during march.

Green-Ellis was even more dominant in the next drive, with six carries for 19 yards, including a seven-yard TD run that made it 38-23 and sealed the deal.

The Bills got one touchdown back, but Meriweather clinched it with his interception and the Pats' second victory was in the bag.

The Patriots managed to overcome a spate of first-half mistakes to squeak out a 17-16 halftime lead.

Leading 7-3, the Pats twice gave the Bills a short field, resulting in 10 consecutive Buffalo points. The first occured on a first-down holding penalty that pinned them deep in their own territory; a subsequent 33-yard punt by Zoltan Mesko gave the Bills the ball on the Pats' 40. Buffalo moved it from there to the 21, where Lindell kicked a 39-yard field goal that made the score 7-6.

On the Pats' next possession, another first-down penalty -- this one for offensive pass interference -- pushed them back to their 15. An end-around run by Brandon Tate on third-and-15 got them close to a first down, but Tate fumbled and the Bills recovered on the New England 37.

A 19-yard run by Marshawn Lynch gave Buffalo a first-and-goal at the 4, and Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Spiller with a five-yard touchdown pass that put the Bulls on top, 13-7.

The Patriots answered immediately, going 76 yards in six plays. A 21-yard pass from Brady to Gronkowski gave the Pats the ball at the Buffalo 43, and Green-Ellis then ran 20 yards to 23. Two plays later, Danny Woodhead broke loose for a 22-yard touchdown run, giving New England a 14-13 lead.

"That's great for a guy who's been here for about 10 minutes," joked Brady about Woodhead, a Week 2 pickup who gained 42 yards on 3 carries.

The Bills put together an efficient end-of-the-half drive, moving from their 28 to the New England 17. But a review of a quarterback keeper by Fitzpatrick cost them the half-yard they needed for a first down, and they settled for a 34-yard Lindell field goal with 24 seconds to go.

Then it was the Pats' turn to put together the kind of end-of-half drive that rekindled memories of the glory years. Starting at their 33, Brady found Tate down the left sidelines for 29 yards to the Buffalo 38. They called time. On the next play, he hooked up with Aaron Hernandez for 13 more yards to the 25. Another time out. And as time expired, Stephen Gostkowski drilled a 43-yard field goal for a 17-16 lead.

"It's great to see when we don't make our own mistakes that we can get the ball in the end zone," said Brady.

And now, with this win under their belt, the Pats take aim at their next challenge: A Monday night game at Miami.

"This is going to be a big week for us," said Brady. "We've got to win a meaningful game on the road."

Art Martone can be reached at amartone@comcastsportsnet.com.

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Sanu on Patriots' Super Bowl comeback: Lady Gaga's long halftime hurt Falcons

Three weeks removed from his team blowing a 25-point, second-half lead in the Super Bowl, Mohamed Sanu offered a possible explanation for the Atlanta Falcons losing their edge against the Patriots.

Lady Gaga.

More specifically, it was the half-hour-plus halftime show that interrupted the Falcons' rhythm, the receiver said Friday on the NFL Network's "Good Morning Football."

“Usually, halftime is only like 15 minutes, and when you’re not on the field for like an hour, it’s just like going to work out, like a great workout, and you go sit on the couch for an hour and then try to start working out again,” Sanu said.

Sanu was asked if the delay was something you can simulate in practice. 

"It's really the energy [you can't duplicate]," he said. "I don't know if you can simulate something like that. That was my first time experiencing something like that."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick did simulate it. In his Super Bowl practices, he had his team take long breaks in the middle.

Sanu also addressed the Falcons' pass-first play-calling that didn't eat up clock while the Patriots came back.

"The thought [that they weren't running the ball more] crossed your mind, but as a player, you're going to do what the coach [Dan Quinn] wants you to do." Sanu said. "He's called plays like that all the time."


 

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

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It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.