The Patriots scored 49 unanswered points as they overcame an early 21-0 deficit to blow by the Bills 49-21 and clinch homefield throughout the playoffs. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four second half interceptions, the first two led to short touchdown drives and the third was returned for a score and the fourth put an exclamation point on the 6-10 season. The Bills came out like gang busters scoring three first quarter touchdowns to build a big early lead. Fitzpatrick was on his game early and followed a Tashard Choice 4 yard touchdown run with an 18 yard touchdown pass to Stevie Johnson and a 15 yard catch and run for a score by C.J. Spiller. Johnson was called for an excessive celebration penalty after his score and was benched for the rest of the game by Chan Gailey. The Patriots started their journey to back with two second quarter touchdowns. Two Steven Gostkowski field goals pulled them within one point late in the third before Fitz's miscues gave the Patriots total control of the game. Western New York native Rob Gronkowski scored two touchdowns for the Patriots. Tom Brady threw for 338 yards and three touchdowns.
The Turning Point:
Fitzpatrick's second interception. The Pats had already taken the lead but the Bills were on the move and seemed to get their offensive mojo back. A pass was tipped high in the air by C.J. Spiller and was picked off by Devin McCourty. A 44 yard pass completion to Aaron Hernandez on the next play was followed by a 3 yard walk into the end zone by BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The game was essentially over a that point.
The Big Drive:
After Fitz's first interception, New England went 25 yards in just 5 plays to their first lead of the game. The big play of the drive was a questionable illegal contact penalty on Kirk Morrison on a third down incompletion. Brady then hit Rob Gronkowski for a 17 yard touchdown pass followed by Danny Woodhead's two point conversion.
Stat I Did Like:
21 First Quarter points.
Stat I Didn't Like:
49 unanswered points given up.
- New England won the toss and elected to defer. They put their horrible defense on the field first instead of their high powered offense. The Bills went down the field and scored a touchdown.
- The Bills had nothing to lose and played like it early. On a 4th and 1 at their own 43 on the opening possession they faked a punt and George Wilson ran for the first down on the short snap. Besides the fake punt they also went for it on 4th and 4 and 4th and 12 in the first half.
- In 2003, the Bills beat the Pats 31-0 in the first meeting. The Pats then closed the season with a 31-0 win over Buffalo. This year the Bills came back from 21-0 down to beat Pats in first meeting and the Pats returned that favor today in blowing by the Bills.
After opening up a 21-0 lead a loss is usually tough to take. This game was different, I never really expected them to win even with the big early lead. They played the best team in the conference tough for three quarters, which is about two more quarters than I thought they would. The game meant nothing to them and a lot to New England but they fought hard early. They gave them all they had with a starting lineup that had players at wide receiver and the offensive line that wouldn't be on too many roster. In fact, many of them weren't on the Bills roster when the season started. Still players like Derek Hagan and Ruvell Martin gave it their all before the team gave out in the fourth quarter when they just had nothing left in them.
As far as the Stevie Johnson benching I'm torn. Writing Happy New Year on his shirt and showing it after scoring a touchdown is a weak penalty. However Johnson has been talked to by Gailey for his behavior after scoring touchdowns before. He should have also known the league is watching him closely after previous fines for celebrations. He put himself ahead of the team and got another penalty. Gailey showed some toughness by benching him and I don't blame him for doing it. Benching him the rest of the game though, that may have been excessive. It will be very interesting to see what effect, if any, it has on Johnson's offseason decision. Will he now not want to come back? Does the team now not want him back? I would hope both sides would get past this and get a new deal done. Johnson needs to use this incident to become a more mature player.
The long offseason. It's time for the front office to go back to the drawing board and continue this excruciatingly long and never ending rebuilding process.