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Sunday, September 26, 2010
First impressions: Pats 38, Bills 30

By Mike Reiss

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- First impressions from the Patriots’ 38-30 victory over the Bills:

What it means: The Patriots (2-1, 1-1 AFC East) get back in the win column after living all week with the bad taste of last week’s 28-14 loss to the Jets. It’s an important win, as it comes in the AFC East and is the second part of a three-week stretch of all division games. The Bills drop to 0-3 overall and 0-2 in the division.

What’s next. The Patriots visit the Dolphins in a Monday night clash on ESPN. The Dolphins host the Jets tonight in a game that will also reshape AFC East picture.

Danny Woodhead a surprise story. When the Patriots signed the former New York Jet last Saturday, some assumed that it was solely a case of gamesmanship leading into the team’s game against the Jets. But Woodhead was a key performer in this game, with a 22-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He added a 15-yarder in the fourth quarter as he was part of the team’s plan to fill the void created by losing Kevin Faulk’s to a torn right ACL.

Patriots defense does enough, but still a concern. The Patriots’ defense rose up in some crucial situations, such as third down, but this was an overall shaky performance from the unit. The secondary, in particular, had a rough day as the Bills seemed energized by the quarterback change with Ryan Fitzpatrick taking over for Trent Edwards, which created more of a deep-ball threat.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis an unsung performer. When the game was close in the third quarter and the Patriots needed a sustained drive, the third-year running back delivered some hard-charging running. Green-Ellis helped settle the Patriots’ offense down at a time when the team had to adjust on the fly without Fred Taylor (toe injury). He also showed situational awareness by staying in bounds on the team’s final drive.

Aaron Hernandez emerging as big part of the Patriots’ offense. For the second straight week, the rookie tight end had six catches (for 65 yards), while adding a 13-yard run. The Patriots combined Hernandez, receiver Julian Edelman and running back Danny Woodhead to replace injured running back Kevin Faulk, and it was an effective plan.

C.J. Spiller shows why he’s a first-round pick. The Bills running back was a sparkplug, with a 5-yard touchdown reception, long run of 19 yards, and a 95-yard kickoff return for a score. He’s explosive, and this game had to be what Buffalo general manager Buddy Nix had in mind when selecting Spiller ninth overall.