By 3:32 into the third quarter on Sunday, the New England Patriots were written out of the race for the AFC East for the 2012 season. By the end of the game, they looked like the same old Patriots that have won eight of the past nine division titles.
Week 4 is not usually the time for gut-check games for the Patriots—those usually happen closer to January and February than the end of September. A 21-7 deficit halfway into the third quarter raised the stakes and stacked the odds against them, but in the face of the greatest adversity, New England's true character was revealed.
It was at that point which the Patriots offense finally began to complement the defensive stands of the first half, which carried over into the second half.
"We realized that we had to execute a lot better than we had been," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said, according to The Boston Globe. "We talked about it on the sideline and and we talked about it at half, in order to score points, we had to really stop stubbing our toes."
The offense has been inconsistent all season long, and sputtered once again after they took the opening drive 90 yards for a touchdown, with those seven points being the only seven points they scored in the entire half. The only thing they did consistently in the second half was score touchdowns.
That was largely a result of quarterback Tom Brady.
What started out as a pedestrian day at 10-of-18 passing for 141 yards and a rating of 81 in the first half gave way to a dominant second half, where the future Hall-of-Famer went 12-of-18 passing for 199 yards and three touchdowns for a passer rating of 143.3.
This was just another in a long history of dominant performances by Brady against the Bills, but it was about more than just the quarterback, though.
He got some help from the few healthy skill position players left, beginning with wide receivers Wes Welker and Brandon Lloyd, tight end Rob Gronkowski combined with big games from running backs Stevan Ridley and Brandon Bolden.
The Patriots got a well-rounded offensive performance with big-time contributions from the running game, which piled up 247 total yards on the Bills defense. They were balanced almost evenly—40 rush attempts, 37 total drop-backs—but more importantly, both aspects of the offense were effective—6.2 yards per carry, 9.4 yards per pass attempt.
In fact, the Patriots became just the second team in NFL history to have two 100-yard receivers (Welker and Gronkowski) combined with two 100-yard rushers (Bolden and Ridley).
A huge offensive turnaround swung the momentum, but some ugly play from the Bills offense certainly helped.
In the first half, the Patriots picked up zero points off three turnovers, with the Bills cashing in two Patriots turnovers for touchdowns. In the second half, the Patriots picked up 17 points off three turnovers, and New England was able to stay clean on the turnover sheet.
If the Patriots can carry this momentum into their next game, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos will have their work cut out for them at Gillette Stadium in Week 5. Coming off a huge game against the Oakland Raiders, though, this looks more like a clash of the titans.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.
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