Sunday, September 8, 2013
Rapid Reaction: Patriots 23, Bills 21
By Mike Rodak
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.