ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- At halftime, the Patriots trail the Bills 14-7. Passing along some notes and observations from the second quarter:
1. Mesko drops a beauty. Punter Zoltan Mesko is off to a strong start and pinned the Bills deep in their own territory with a picture-perfect punt early in the second quarter. Credit goes to gunner Marquice Cole for flying down the field to keep the ball from traveling into the end zone and Mathew Slater for covering up the football and downing it at Buffalo's 2.
2. McCourty makes good on opportunity. Cornerback Devin McCourty plucked a Ryan Fitzpatrick throw down the sideline for his first interception of the season. It was a welcomed sign, as McCourty had a couple of drops on potential picks in Week 3. Credit McCourty for closing the gap on the intended receiver and high-pointing the ball for a big play.
3. Offensive line solid. Big kudos to the Patriots offensive line, which was very good in keeping Tom Brady upright for the most part (just one sack) and delivering a big push in the running game. The Bills' pass rush was expected to be an area of strength this season, but has been largely neutralized today. Nice work by Brady's five layers of protection, which should not go unnoticed in Logan Mankins' absence.
4. Gotskowski goes wide right, then left. After the McCourty interception, the Patriots' offense managed one first down before being halted at the Buffalo 31. That set up kicker Stephen Gostkowksi for a 48-yard field goal attempt, which sailed wide right. Later in the quarter, Gostkowski missed wide left. That's not good enough from the Patriots' kicker.
5. Cunningham's pressure a problem for Bills. Defensive end Jermaine Cunningham was effective as an edge rusher for the Patriots, drawing a hold penalty and applying pressure on Fitzpatrick. Cunningham has turned a strong offseason into a quality start in the regular season and continues to earn time as both an edge and interior rusher. His ability to get off the ball quickly has been a challenge for opposing linemen to handle.
6. Gronkowski drops the rock, Welker follows suit. Tight end Rob Gronkowski was off to a quick start, but had a pivotal fumble early in the second quarter to set the Bills up in Patriots territory at the 24. Just one play later, the Bills did what the Patriots had not been able to do, which was capitalize on a turnover. Fitzpatrick drilled tight end Scott Chandler on a pretty strike, beating safety Patrick Chung in tight man-to-man coverage. Receiver Wes Welker did the same as Gronkowski later in the quarter, again putting the Bills deep in Patriots territory. Fortunately for New England, linebacker Brandon Spikes delivered a massive shot to C.J. Spiller on the goal line, dislodging the football and preventing a Buffalo score.
7. Penalty box. No Patriots were called for a penalty during the second quarter.