Brady and "Special Teams Miracle" Help Pats Avoid Huge Scare
Let me start this article off by stating some of the intangibles heading into last night's AFC East showdown. The Pats had never lost a home opener at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots had won 11 in a row against the Bills. It was Brady's first game back in more than a calender year.
Blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda...
I can go on for hours about the trends going into the game, but last night proved that none of that stuff matters once kickoff happens.
A rough first quarter featured the Pats recording two three-and-out drives, and a nice pass by Trent Edwards to young tight end Shawn Nelson for the first touchdown of the game.
The Bills started the second quarter with the ball, but couldn't produce any points right away. They punted the ball to the Patriots 28-yard line, where the Patriots began their first scoring drive of the night.
Thanks to Tom Brady's arm and Fred taylor's legs, the Patriots drove down the field 72 yards. The drive concluded with a 1-yard touchdown run by Taylor.
The very next drive for the Bills ended with a three-and-out, resulting in a punt. The Bills defense came up huge on the first play of the Pat's next drive, when defensive end Aaron Schobel made a spectacular one-handed grab to intercept Tom Brady's pass. He then ran it back 26 yards for the pick 6.
The Patriots marched down the field while time was winding down in the first half, only to end up with a last second field goal by Stephen Gostowski, despite making it as close as the Buffalo 2-yard line.
The third quarter started with a short possesion by the Bills, then a 61 yard drive by the Patriots, only to come up short because of a failed 4th and 2 conversion. The Bills scored a field goal on their very next drive, a drive which featured Terrell Owens first reception as a Buffalo Bill.
And then there was the fourth quarter...
The fourth quarter got under way with the Patriots yet again failing to score a touchdown in the red zone, but they did get 3 points on a chip shot field goal from Stevie G.
The next drive for the Bills would be huge. If they could score a touchdown, they would be 11 points ahead of the Pats, and that much closer to breaking the 11 game skid against the division rivals. And score a touchdown is exactly what they did.
The Bills capped off a 14 play, 62-yard drive with Trent Edwards second passing touchdown of the game. The play was a 10-yard screen pass to Fred Jackson.
All the Bills defense had to do now was stop Brady and Co., which would seem easy, as they had pretty much shut them down all night.
Or so they thought...
With 5:32 left in the fourth quarter, the Patriots offense walked onto the field, poised and focused as ever. Brady lined up in shotgun, and, almost flawlessly, marched the Patriots down the field. On the Buffalo 18-yard line, Brady throws a strike to tight end Benjamin Watson on a post-pattern for the score. The Pats try to go for the 2-point conversion, to reduce the lead to only 3 points. They fail.
This is the part where Bill Belichick steps up to silence all the wannabe coaches out there. Instead of going for an onside kick like 31 other coaches would have done, he makes Gostowski kick it deep. The pressure would be on the defense, who has done a less than spectacular, but better than poor job on containing the Buffalo offense.
But what happened next, I don't even think the great Ms. Cleo could've predicted (You're a libra, aren't ya darling? No..).
Gostowski kicks the ball off to Buffalo's Leodis McKelvin (who I will be sending a fruit basket to to thank him for what he does next). Instead of taking a knee in the endzone for the touchback, McKelvin runs the ball out. He then gets drilled by safety Brandon Meriweather who, with the help of linebacker Pierre Woods, strips the ball from the defenseless kick returner. The ball was recovered by, of all people, Stephen Gostowski.
The Patriots now had the ball at the Buffalo 31-yard line, with just under two minutes to go. Short pass to Moss. 6 yards. Short pass to Welker. 9 yards.
Belichick reaches into his playbook, and picks a great play. It is actually the same exact play that the Patriots scored on less than one minute ago.
Brady steps back, and finds Ben Watson in the back of the endzone yet again, thanks to the same post-pattern. Tom Brady does it again, this time with a little help from "The Special Teams Miracle". The Pats go for the 2-point conversion yet again to make it a 3-point game, and come up with the same results as last time. Failure.
With less than one minute remaining, the Patriots just need to make sure that the Bills do not get into field goal range. The Bills last drive was a very sloppy one. It concluded with an attempted never-ending lateral play. But guess what. The play ended. And so did the game.
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