What it means: The Patriots (2-2) won a big game to get back to .500 and force a three-way tie in the AFC East. New England could not afford to fall behind at 1-3. The Patriots certainly played that way in the second half. New England trailed Buffalo, 21-7, in the third quarter before reeling off 35 unanswered points. The Bills (2-2) suddenly went cold when it mattered most. New England, Buffalo and the New York Jets (2-2) are tied atop the division. But the Patriots made a statement Sunday that they are still the beasts in the AFC East.
Welker phased in: Remember all the talk of Patriots receiver Wes Welker being phased out of the offense? That seems like a distant memory now that injures to Aaron Hernandez and Julian Edelman have made Welker a huge part of New England’s offense again. The Patriots went to Welker early and often. Welker had nine receptions for 129 yards. Buffalo could not cover him over the middle of the field.
Surprise contribution: The Patriots have been stashing training camp standout Brandon Bolden on the roster during the regular season. But Bolden got more opportunities Sunday and had by far his best performance. Bolden rushed for 137 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Starting running back Stevan Ridley also rushed for 106 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. Buffalo's revamped defense was run over by the Patriots.
Spiller struggles: Bills running back C.J. Spiller made his return from a shoulder injury this week, but the move didn’t pay much dividends. Spiller clearly was impacted by the injury. He didn’t run as hard as he usually does and did a lot of running sideline to sideline. Spiller also fumbled at the goal line before the end of the first half, which left points on the board for Buffalo. He finished the game with eight rushes for 33 yards and a fumble.
Gostkowski on the hot seat: Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski has lost his mojo. He missed two big kicks in the first half that killed momentum early for New England, in addition to his potential game-winner two weeks ago in a loss to the Arizona Cardinals. The Patriots won big but this cannot make New England coach Bill Belichick happy. New England may bring in some kickers to work out to at least shake Gostkowski up.
Injury update: There were tons of injuries in this game. The Bills had two key players on offense suffer head injuries, which could have implications next week. Buffalo starting tight end Scott Chandler and Donald Jones were checked for concussions. Starting left tackle Cordy Glenn also injured his lower left leg in the second half and didn't return. New England rookie linebacker Dont'a Hightower also injured his hamstring.
What's next: The Bills have a pair of tough road games against NFC West teams. Buffalo will play at the San Francisco 49ers next week followed by a road game against the Arizona Cardinals. The Patriots will return home to face quarterback Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.