Curran: Pats-Bills engaged in old school shootout

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Curran: Pats-Bills engaged in old school shootout

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com Patriots Insider Follow @tomecurran
ORCHARD PARK, New York -- Another week, another old AFL shootout underway. The Patriots and Bills combined for 528 yards of first-half offense in this semi-showdown in the AFC East between 2-0 teams. Nothing much has changed for the Patriots on Sunday from the first two weeks. Offensively, they stayed as absurdly efficient early in the game as they have been. Tom Brady went 7-for-7 on the Patriots' opening drive and New England went 80 yards to go up 7-0 on a 14-yard throw to Wes Welker who took a thrown in the left flat and motored in. On the Bills' second play from scrimmage, Ryan Fitzpatrick's pass ricocheted off an intended receiver and was picked by Kyle Arrington (who had two first-half picks). Brady this time hit tight end Rob Gronkowski with a 1-yard pass that was perfectly placed. The Bills' second drive ended with another Arrington pick on a fourth-and-14 from the Patriots 35. New England did nothing with that or its next possession. But with 7:33 left in the half, a 5-play drive covering 65 yards took just 1:33 before Gronkowski again was on the receiving end of a terrific throw by Brady from 26 yards out. Gronkowski (5 catches for 71 yards in the first half) more than made up for the absent Aaron Hernandez' absence, splitting out in a flex position like Hernandez as opposed to being an on-the-line tight end. The Bills finally got going just before half. After being backed up to their 4 yard line by penalty, the combo of Fitzpatrick, Stevie Johnson, David Nelson and Fred Jackson plowed downfield. With the Patriots continuing to play mostly man-to-man in the secondary and getting limited pass rush up front, corner Devin McCourty's life remained difficult. He got beat by Johnson for an 11-yard score with two minutes left on a fade to the right when he appeared to fail in jamming the Bills wideout. That touchdown made it 21-7 Patriots. A penalty-aided drive took the Patriots into the Bills' red zone with 1:09 left in the half, but a throw to Danny Woodhead in the right flat, bounced off Woodhead's hands and Bills DB Bryan Scott came up with the pick. The Bills turned that into three points just before the half on a 42-yard Rian Lindell field goal. Brady finished the half 16 for 22 for 222 yards and three touchdowns; Fitzpatrick was 20 for 29 for 224. The Patriots didn't get any pressure on Fitzpatrick with their front-seven. Were it not for the Bills committing seven penalties for 67 yards things may have been different.
Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran