Patriots - Bills Week 1 Superlatives
CURIOSITY MOST QUICKLY SATISFIED
The idea of running back LeGarrette Blount as a returner, as seen in training camp, was always an interesting prospect. Not only had he never done it in a game before, but he's not exactly light on his feet at 250-pounds. Still, Blount got the nod to return the opening kickoff. How'd it go? Ball caught at the New England 1-yard line, Blount lumbered for all of 13 yards before getting absolutely stuffed.
(NEAR) WORST START TO THE 2013 SEASON
Another year for young running back Stevan Ridley, another offseason focused on ball security. Ridley took over as lead back last season and racked up 1,263 yards, but he also fumbled four times, losing two (including one in the playoffs). A new season meant proving he can be trusted to hold onto the football. Or that was the idea. Tom Brady handed off on the third play of the series. Ridley managed three yards before being tackled… and fumbling. The official ruling: Runner was down by contact. And that ruling was upheld even after a Buffalo challenge. Lucky for Ridley. Barely.
How about that Patriots defense? Buffalo, to the surprise of no one, started its first drive with rookie quarterback E.J. Manuel handing off to C.J. Spiller. Jerod Mayo didn't give Spiller more than a yard. On second down, the Bills back again got the rock and again, New England was ready. Cornerback Kyle Arrington forced a fumble and D-lineman Tommy Kelly recovered for Patriots possession that started in their red zone. Buffalo's first series lasted all of 32 seconds.
NICEST TEAMMATE TRIBUTE
If Tom Brady gets the ball on his opponents' 16-yard line, it's not a leap to assume the Patriots will score. Three plays later, on a 9-yard completion to receiver Julian Edelman, Brady got his touchdown. But the best part might have been Edelman's celebration -- a "Gronk Spike" in honor of New England's big tight end Rob Gronkowski, inactive today while recovering from back and forearm injuries. Well played.
REVISED: YES, ABSOLUTE WORST START TO THE 2013 SEASON
Despite Ridley's earlier ball security scare, the Patriots kept handing off to him and the back had nine carries for 46 yards with almost nine minutes left to play before halftime. So that's where Brady looked on first-and-5 at the Buffalo 24-yard line. He fumbled. No doubt about it this time. The ball was picked up by Bills safety Da'Norris Searcy and run back 74 yards for a touchdown. The score cut New England's lead to 10-7 and sat Ridley on the bench. Alone.
HAPPIEST SECOND-HALF SIGHT
Danny Amendola is a new Patriot, but one of few veterans in the receiving corps; when a groin injury sent him limping to the locker room shortly before halftime, you could almost hear Brady groaning. Amendola's 40 yards on three receptions (a 13.3 yard per-catch average) would not be easily replaced. Luckily for New England, they didn't have to worry about it for too long. Amendola returned in a big way for the Patriots' first drive of the third quarter, catching a 19-yard pass on third-and-6.
UGLIEST END TO A BEAUTIFUL DRIVE
It looked like the Patriots were putting something sweet together. New England was 14 plays into its series and knocking on the door: Third-and-1 on the Buffalo 1. Running back Shane Vereen next got stuffed or no gain, but there could be worse situations than Brady running a fourth-down play from the goal line. What are the odds the snap gets fumbled? Apparently, tremendous! Brady bobbled the ball and Buffalo recovered. It was… bizarre.
LEAST SURPRISING NUMBERS WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT IT
In the fourth quarter, Patriot pass catchers Kenbrell Thompkins, Josh Boyce, and Zach Sudfeld combined for four receptions. Not so great when you consider they were targeted by Brady 17 times. The brunt of the incomplete went to Thompkins, who had just four catches (42 yards) on 14 opportunities. But they're a trio of rookies. And Thompkins? Undrafted. Hard to expect the world in Week 1.
MOST SURPRISING NUMBERS WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE SCOREBOARD
The Bills got slapped with 10 accepted penalties for 75 yards over the course of this game -- everything from too many players on the field to illegal use of hands. It was as though Buffalo was trying to hand New England the game, but the Patriots wanted to take it the hard way. Another scary number? The road team dominated time of possession with over 36 minutes. Brady and the offense had opportunities. Finishing was the issue.
WEIRDEST END TO AN UP-AND-DOWN DAY
Tell me you predicted the Patriots would win, 23-21, thanks to a 35-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal with five seconds left in the game and I'll call you a liar. LIAR.