- Mike Reiss, ESPN Staff Writer
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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.