FOXBORO -- You don't win 10 consecutive games to start a season without being able to win in different ways.
The Patriots' offense -- already missing Dion Lewis (for the season) and Julian Edelman (until the playoffs) -- took a double hit Monday night when wide receivers Aaron Dobson and Danny Amendola were both knocked out of the game by injury. And that was after the Pats had already been slowed by a superlative effort from Buffalo's defense.
So it was New England's defense that stepped up and saved the day.
The Patriots held the Bills to 13 points and enabled them to escape with a 20-13 victory that increased their record to 10-0 and kept them on pace for the top overall seed in the AFC playoffs.
The Pats scored on their first possession -- a chip-shot 35-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski -- but that was the last thing that went according to form for most of the first half. The Bills' relentless pass rush, fueled by Rex Ryan's confusing schemes, had Tom Brady hurrying his throws for most of the first two quarters, and Buffalo's front line shut down the Patriots' running game. It was soon apparent this wouldn't be the New England fireworks show we'd seen in Week 2 in Orchard Park.
When the Bills tied it on a 52-yard field goal by Dan Carpenter in the second quarter, there was concern in Patriots Nation. That concern turned to worry when LeSean McCoy appeared to score the go-ahead touchdown on a 30-yard pass from Tyrod Taylor in the final minute, but Devin McCourty was able to knock the ball out of McCoy's hands and save the TD.
Then, suddenly, normalcy -- New England style -- returned. Carpenter clanked a field-goal attempt off the uprights, keeping the score tied. And the heretofore silent New England offense out together a patented end-of-half drive that ended with a 20-yard, Brady to James White TD pass in the final 20 seconds, giving the Patriots a 10-3 halftime lead.
The "normalcy", however, didn't last. The Patriots not only were unable to add to the lead with the first drive of he second half, but they allowed Buffalo to tie the score with a five-play, 56-yard drive -- Buffalo getting the short field after Gostkowski missed a 54-yard field-goal attempt -- that was capped by a 27-yard TD run by McCoy.
So it was obvious this wasn't going to be your typical Patriots evening. And they wound up taking command in a very atypical way.
With their defense.
The Patriot defenders rose to the occasion, taking the have-to-score-on-every-possession pressure off the offense. And the Pats were gradually able to put enough points on the board to secure the victory.
They made it 17-10 when White capped a six-play, 64-yard drive with a six-yard scoring run in the third quarter. They got a giant break when Leodis McKelvin fumbled while returning a punt, giving them possession at the Buffalo 30. They couldn't punch in it, but a 35-yard field goal by Gostkowski early in the fourth quarter put New England in front, 20-10.
Then it was up the defense to hold it. The Bills got into the red zone once, but the Pats stiffened and held them to a 35-yard Carpenter field goal. And a late Bills drive fell short, securing the Patriot victory.