Here are five quick-hitting thoughts from what transpired between the Patriots and Bills on Sunday afternoon . . .
PATRIOTS 23, BILLS 3
1) Rob Gronkowski has always loved heading back to Western New York. Going into Sunday he averaged almost 100 yards and a touchdown in his career in Orchard Park. He was relatively quiet in the first half, but the Patriots made a concerted effort to feed their big man coming out of the break. He finished with 9 grabs for 147 yards, including one emasculating catch when Gronkowski ripped the football from the hands of rookie corner Tre'Davious White.
2) White and his teammates played Gronkowski physically throughout the course of the game, and eventually Gronkowski lost his mind. White held and pushed Gronkowski during one pass play in the fourth quarter that resulted in a White interception. With the Bills' defensive back on the ground Gronkowski threw himself at White, appearing to injure him with the unnecessary late hit. On the same play, Danny Amendola launched himself at Micah Hyde, resulting in a brief scrap that saw both players get penalized. Unhappy with the outcome, Bills linebacker Jerry Hughes said something to an official that earned him a flag. When it was all said and done, the Bills had possession, but they were looking at a first-and-25 situation. Gronkowski has long been frustrated by the physicality he believes defensive backs get away with in coverage on him, but that was an out-of-character moment for No. 87.
3) Eric Lee had a nice little homecoming of his own at New Era Field. On the Bills practice squad a couple of weeks ago, he faced off against his old club and made a big impact. Though he had issues setting the edge early, he got more comfortable as the game went on. He had a critical pick deep in Patriots territory on the Bills' opening drive, he recorded a sack on Buffalo's second series, he had a pass-breakup to start the fourth quarter, he put a hit on Tyrod Taylor to force an incompletion on the very next play, and he recorded a sack in the final two minutes. With Trey Flowers out, Lee saw a serious uptick in work, and he responded.
4) Sure! Let's do it! Let's add another Patriots player with Bills ties to the Happy Returns list. Stephon Gilmore, who spent the first five years of his career in Buffalo, was particularly lock-down late. After Taylor left the game injured, giving way to Nathan Peterman, Gilmore got his hands on the football three times. Zay Jones caught one pass off of Gilmore's deflection, but the other two were batted away for incompletions in the end zone -- and one came on fourth down. Another nice day for Gilmore. He's been solid since the bye week.
5) The Patriots dared the Bills to stop their power running game, and Sean McDermott's defense never really did. Getting their linemen on the move -- particularly athletic right guard Shaq Mason -- the Patriots were able to open up huge running lanes for both Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead. The Bills allowed over 600 yards running in losses to the Saints, Chargers and Jets last month. The Patriots tested them to see if they'd solved their issues. They hadn't.