Bills Lose Heartbreaker 23-21
Gostkowski hits game winner with :05 left.
by Steve Saslow
Week 1
Patriots  23
Bills  21
Gameday Grades
The Skinny:
Stephen Gostkowski hit a :35 yard field goal with :05 left in the game to allow the Patriots to escape Orchard Park with a 23-21 victory over the Bills. EJ Manuel threw two touchdown passes to Robert Woods and Stevie Johnson as the Bills took the lead in the third quarter and held it to the final seconds. Da'Norris Searcy returned a fumble 74 yards for the Bills first touchdown to cut in to an early 10-0 Patriots lead. Justin Rogers had a late first half interception that led to the Woods' touchdown two plays later to make it 17-14 at halftime in favor of New England. The Patriots would get no second half touchdowns but two fourth quarter field goals by Gostkowski was the difference. Tom Brady turned fumbles from C.J. Spiller and Marquise Goodwin into touchdown passes to Julian Edelman in the first half.

The Turning Point:
The Winning FG: Stephen Gostkowski hit the game winning kick in the final seconds to beat the Bills was the last of many turning points in this one.

The Big Drive:
The Final One: The Patriots took the ball over at their own 34 with 4:31 left in the game and methodically moved them down the field thanks to two third down conversion passes to Danny Amendola something that was a theme for the game.

Stat I Did Like:
Manuel's Stats: 18 of 27 for 150 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. Not a bad first game too bad he didn't get the victory.

Stat I Didn't Like:
Penalties: 10 of them for 75 yards and they always seemed to come at the most inopportune time.

Quick Slants:
- Doug Marrone struggled getting the flag out of his pocket but threw it in time to make his first challenge as a coach. He was looking to have a Stephan Ridley down by contact reversed to a fumble. The play was upheld but what was interesting it looked like New England recovered anyway.
- Don't like Marrone punting on 4th and 1 from the Pats 44 early in the 2nd quarter. The Bills were just getting into a rhythm and moving the football and a punt that went for a touchback netted only 24 yards. It deflated the fans and maybe the players as boos rained down.
- Tom Brady turned two first half fumbles into their two first half touchdowns both on third down passes to Edelman.
- EJ Manuel's first career completion went to Scott Chandler. His first touchdown went to fellow rookie Robert Woods. Who got to keep that ball? Manuel said Woods can keep it. - The no huddle offense came back to hurt the Bills when they had a 1:20 possession and had to punt leading to the Patriots winning field goal drive.

Key Matchup Results:
The winners of the battles highlighted in our preview article:
RB C.J. Spiller vs. LB Jerod Mayo: Winner: Mayo. Spiller was not good in this game as Fred Jackson totally outplayed him. He only had 41 yards on 17 carries.
WR Stevie Johnson vs. CB Aquib Talib: Winner: Talib. Johnson scored a touchdown but had a big drop and just three catches for 39 yards.
DE Mario Williams vs. Nate Solder: Winner: Williams. Had no sacks but good pressure.
LB Kiko Alonso vs. RB Stevan Ridley: Winner: Ridley. He had 46 yards on just 9 carries but Shane Vereen had 101 yards on 14 carries.

Keys To The Game Results:
How the keys highlighted in our preview article turned out:
1. Pressure Brady: Success! They got a lot of pressure on him until it counted the most in the fourth quarter. He was knocked off his feet a few times. They had two sacks
2. Run The Ball: Failure! Jackson and Spiller combined for 108 yards on 30 carries, not bad but not enough.
3. Win Turnover Battle: Success! They won the battle 3-2 but the two turnovers were two too many.

My Take:
It was another moral victory for the Bills. They didn't get blown out by the Patriots but it would be nice to eventually start beating them from time to time. There is a good feeling after Manuel passed his first test with flying colors. Two touchdowns, no interceptions and he showed poise in the pocket. That is something to hold your hat on as it does appear better days are ahead. Unfortunately Bills fans have been waiting for those better days for way too long now.

What's Ahead:
The Bills stay home for a second straight week for interconference battle with the Carolina Panthers. They are coming off an ugly 12-7 loss to Seattle on opening day. The team will be celebrating all Wall of Famers in a special ceremony at halftime.

  • Da'Norris Searcy - He had a sack and a 74 yard fumble return for a TD not to mention a great tackle on the opening kickoff.
  • Leodis McKelvin - Did a solid job in coverage all day long.
  • Justin Rogers - Had a big interception and was decent in coverage most of the day.
  • EJ Manuel - Looked solid in his NFL debut.

  • Goats
  • C.J. Spiller - He just seemed a step slow all day long as he was not his electrifying self.
  • Marquise Goodwin - Caught his first NFL pass and fumbled it away.

  • Player Of The Week
  • Da'Norris Searcy - Had a solid performance before leaving with cramps.

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