AFC East: 2013 Week 1 NWE at BUF

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 23, Bills 21

September, 8, 2013
9/08/13
4:26
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Rapid reaction from the Buffalo Bills' season-opening loss to the New England Patriots:

What it means: The Bills were one defensive stop from coming away with just their second win against the Patriots since 2004. After making some key stops on defense early in the game, the Bills' defense couldn't hold on in the last minute, allowing the Patriots to gain a first down on third-and-8. That set up Stephen Gostkowski's winning field goal. It was an encouraging performance by Buffalo, which was able to capitalize on two key turnovers by the Patriots to put itself in a position to win, but it ultimately wasn't enough.

Stock watch: Rising -- EJ Manuel. Against a division opponent that has had his team's number in recent seasons, Manuel never seemed overwhelmed by the pressure of the game. It wasn't the prettiest performance by Manuel in his NFL debut, but it was nearly enough to get the Bills the win. Manuel was nearly intercepted twice in the first half and had other throws come in off-target. He was most effective against the Patriots in the red zone, lofting touchdown passes to Robert Woods and then Steve Johnson. He finished 18-for-27 for 150 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

Spiller shut down: After praising Bills running back C.J. Spiller all week, the Patriots appeared to make stopping Spiller their priority. The Bills turned to Spiller as both a runner and receiver early in the game, but New England did not allow him to be a factor. Spiller finished with 41 yards on 17 carries. As the game progressed, the Bills turned to Fred Jackson, who was more effective against the Patriots' defense. He averaged more than 5 yards per carry.

Penalties problematic: Penalties were a major problem in the preseason for the Bills -- they led the NFL in flags through the first two preseason games -- and they cropped up again at key moments Sunday. Buffalo was called for 10 accepted penalties yet was still able to put itself in a position to win. The Bills won't be so lucky in future games if the penalty problems continue.

What's next: The Bills (0-1) remain at home for Week 2, squaring off against Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers next Sunday, Sept. 15. They do not face the Patriots again until the final week of the regular season.

Rapid Reaction: Patriots 23, Bills 21

September, 8, 2013
9/08/13
4:22
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- My thoughts on the New England Patriots' 23-21 victory over the Buffalo Bills.

What it means: The Patriots escape. In a game that was much tougher than many anticipated, Stephen Gostkowski's 35-yard field goal with five seconds left was the game winner. It was a struggle for the Patriots, but when they needed it most, they came through with a clutch final drive. The Patriots have now won 10 straight season openers.

Amendola sensational; his groin injury in focus: Fair or not, if there is a knock on receiver Danny Amendola, it’s his availability. So when he left the game late in the second quarter with a groin injury, some might have been quick to say, “Told you so.” But Amendola returned at the start of the third quarter and turned in a sensational overall performance; much like Wes Welker in his time with the Patriots, when the Patriots needed a first down, he was on the receiving end. Amendola was part of the two-receiver package before his injury, and only the three-receiver package after the injury. So his status bears watching.

Stock watch: Falling: running back Stevan Ridley. His fumble in the second quarter, which was recovered and returned 74 yards for a touchdown by safety Da'Norris Searcy, was a game-changing play. The Patriots led 10-0 at the time. Ridley didn’t play an offensive snap the rest of the game, with LeGarrette Blount and Shane Vereen assuming the duties at running back.

Growing pains for offense: This was not the explosive offense we have come to expect from the Patriots. One of the biggest offseason questions facing the team was how all the new faces would impact the offense, and this was a tough start for the unit. Some growing pains were expected, and they came to life.

Defense does its part: Outside of a breakdown at the end of the second quarter on a Robert Woods' touchdown catch, the Patriots’ defense mostly did its part. With seven of the Bills’ points coming on a 74-yard fumble return, and another seven coming after the Bills had a short field following an interception, the unit mostly did its part.

What’s next: The Patriots have a quick turnaround by hosting the New York Jets on Thursday night. Patriots Hall of Famer and current ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi will be honored at halftime.

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