Most Rushing Yards in 23 Months Propel Patriots to Victory

The New England Patriots had already run the ball eight straight times. So they decided to run it again. BenJarvus Green-Ellis’s 7-yard touchdown run capped off a rush-heavy Patriots drive that pushed the lead to two touchdowns with just over eight minutes to go, and the Patriots held on to beat the Buffalo Bills, 38-30. It was their 14th consecutive victory against the Bills.

The Patriots rushed for 200 yards against the Bills Sunday in Foxborough, 128 of which came in the second half. This second-half rushing success allowed the Patriots to eat up over 20 minutes on six drives. Three drives resulted in touchdowns. Their 200 yards on the ground were the most since gaining 257 against the Denver Broncos in an October 2008 victory.

While Green-Ellis’s 98 yards and 6.1 yards-per-carry average were the best on the team, newcomer Danny Woodhead also showed why the Patriots signed him. Woodhead rushed for 42 yards on three carries, including a 22-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

After the game, Woodhead was quick to credit his teammates with springing him on that play. “I just tried to run the ball like I do every day, and the line did a phenomenal job,” Woodhead said.

When the Patriots weren’t running the ball up the middle, they were passing to eight different receivers. Tom Brady was Tom Terrific Sunday, completing over 75 percent of his passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns. Unlike last week, there was great balance between his passing performance in each half. 116 of his passing yards came after halftime. “Everyone contributed,” the quarterback said. “I think that was the great part about today.”

The top receiver for the second week in a row was rookie tight end Aaron Hernandez, who caught six passes for 65 yards and also rushed for 13 yards on a reverse play. His counterpart, Rob Gronkowski, caught all three passes thrown his way for 43 yards and his second touchdown in three games.

Brady had little fear of going deep with the football Sunday, completing nine passes for 10 yards or more, five for 20 yards or more. His longest throw of the day was a 35-yard bomb to Randy Moss, who for the second week in a row caught a touchdown pass in impressive fashion. Moss was jammed on the line, but then cut back inside and sprinted towards the middle of the end zone. The Bills had Moss surrounded on three sides, but Brady floated a pass that landed squarely in Moss’s hands. It was Moss’s second touchdown reception of the game, the 150th and 151st of his career. In his post-game press conference, Moss was nonchalant about this accomplishment. “Just going to work,” the wide receiver said.

Brady also pointed to what he called “good situational football” in his press conference. With 24 seconds left in the first half, Brady engineered 42-yard drive that ended in a 43-yard field goal from Stephen Gostkowski, which broke a streak of three missed field goals from the newly-extended place kicker. The drive featured two consecutive passes of more than 10 yards. The first was a 29-yard pass to a diving Brandon Tate, who had made the drive possible with a 32-yard kickoff return. The second pass was a 13-yard strike to the leaping Hernandez that put the Patriots in field goal range. The Patriots converted the opportunity and went into the locker room up 17-16. They received the second-half kickoff and scored a touchdown on that drive, setting the tone for the second half.

A week after giving up 28 points to the New York Jets, the Patriots did little to silence their defense’s detractors by giving up 30 to the Bills. The Patriots allowed their opponent over 130 yards rushing for the second straight week, and they allowed Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to throw for 247 yards, his highest total since a November 2009 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in which he threw for 297 yards.

However, when the Patriots absolutely had to have a stop, the defense made plays. On the first play of the fourth quarter, with the Bills down just one touchdown and facing a second-and-5 from the New England 20-yard line, Patrick Chung intercepted a Fitzpatrick overthrown pass in the end zone and returned it to the 25-yard line. The Patriots offense then drove down the field and scored on Green-Ellis’s touchdown, completing at least a 10-point swing in the Patriots’ favor.

A Patriots interception began the fourth quarter, and it ended it as well. Once again down one touchdown, Buffalo began its final drive at their 35-yard line with 3:04 to go. On the first play from scrimmage, Fitzpatrick once again overthrew his intended receiver. This time it was Brandon Meriweather who collected the overthrown pass. After that the Patriots ran it four times, including a 22-yard gain from Green-Ellis, and then knelt three times to run out the clock.

While both Brady and head coach Bill Belichick were ultimately pleased with the win, they also stressed the need for consistency in their play. They both said that while it was great to get a win Sunday, there was much improvement to be made. Belichick in particular described the victory as “far from perfect.” However, Brady also said that in the end, the win is all that matters. “It doesn’t really matter if you win by 50 or by one,” Brady said. “The goal is to win the game.”

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