Orchard Park, NY – Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes and was backed by a potent ground attack as the New England Patriots dominated the second half on their way to a 52-28 win over the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The prospect of their first three-game losing streak in nearly a decade seemed very likely with the Patriots trailing by 14 in the third quarter. But New England produced touchdowns on six of its final seven possessions to stun a Buffalo team that has lost 22 of the last 24 meetings in the series.
Brady ended with 340 passing yards and added touchdown run for the Patriots (2-2), while the tandem of rookie free agent Brandon Bolden and second-year running back Stevan Ridley carved up the Bills' defense.
Bolden had 137 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries and Ridley rushed 22 times for 106 yards with a pair of scores.
Ryan Fitzpatrick registered 350 yards and four touchdown passes for Buffalo (2-2), but he was also picked off four times.
"Obviously, (the loss) showed us that we're not there yet," Fitzpatrick said. "To have that type of lead, we've got to be able to just continue to put the pressure on them."
Bills running backs C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson were limited to 33 and 29 yards, respectively, by New England's defense. Spiller suited up despite injuring his shoulder last week, while Jackson had missed the previous two games with a knee injury.
Buffalo reached the end zone on its first drive of the second half to go up 21-7. Jackson made a one-handed grab on a screen play, turned upfield and converted a 3rd-and-15 from the Buffalo 12 with a 16-yard gain. Two plays later, Donald Jones caught a Fitzpatrick pass over the middle at the Buffalo 39 and outraced the New England defense for a 68-yard touchdown with 11:08 remaining in the third quarter.
It was all Patriots from that point on.
New England advanced the ball with a steady ground attack on its next possession before Brady and Danny Woodhead connected for a 17-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter.
The Bills were then unable to move the chains, and the Patriots tied the game when Brady scrambled for a four-yard touchdown. Following another brief offensive series for Buffalo, Rob Gronkowski caught a 28-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter to put New England back in front.
The Patriots then cashed in consecutive Buffalo turnovers to further extend their lead. A Jackson fumble and Fitzpatrick interception led to touchdown runs by Ridley and Bolden, the latter of which came with 10:29 to play and made it a 42-21 game.
Brad Smith caught a 35-yard touchdown pass for the Bills with 6:32 left, but Brady answered with a 25-yard scoring strike to Brandon Lloyd shortly afterward that put New England ahead by a 49-28 score.
Another Fitzpatrick interception resulted in a 30-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal to finish the scoring.
"We missed some opportunities, but we made a lot of plays," said New England head coach Bill Belichick. "That's a good feeling to come in here and be able to do that."
New England got off to a fast start, as Brady completed all five of his passes on the Patriots' opening drive, including a 41-yard downfield strike to Gronkowski. Ridley capped off the 90-yard march with a six-yard touchdown run.
Like Brady, Fitzpatrick started the game 5-for-5 through the air, but his sixth pass attempt was tipped at the line by Vince Wilfork and intercepted by linebacker Jerod Mayo at the Buffalo 49-yard line.
The Bills' defense forced New England to go three-and-out, but Fitzpatrick's next incompletion resulted in another interception. This time, cornerback Devin McCourty picked off an underthrown ball intended for T.J. Graham.
Once again, the Patriots were unable to capitalize on the turnover. New England moved the ball to the Buffalo 31, where Gostkowski missed a 49-yard field goal wide right.
After beginning their previous two drives at their own six and two-yard lines, the Bills were in favorable field position following Gostkowski's miss. Buffalo, though, wound up punting the ball away.
On the first play of the ensuing drive, Brady hit Gronkowski and the Western New York native lost the ball while fighting for extra yards.
Free safety Jairus Byrd forced and recovered the fumble for the Bills, who unlike the Patriots, were able to convert the turnover. Buffalo tied the game on a 24-yard pass from Fitzpatrick to Scott Chandler on the next play.
Gostkowski then missed another field goal, hooking a 42-yarder wide left.
Buffalo countered with a five-play scoring drive that featured a 34-yard reception by Jackson along the left sideline on 3rd-and-3 from the Buffalo 39. After a seven-yard run by Spiller, Chandler hauled in his second touchdown of the game to put the Bills on top with 3:30 left in the first half.
Byrd generated another fumble after his hit on Wes Welker dislodged the ball, which was recovered by Buffalo's Bryan Scott with 2:15 left in the second quarter.
The Bills were on the verge of padding their lead prior to halftime, but Wilfork recovered a Spiller fumble near the goal line.
The Patriots' four rushing touchdowns tied a franchise record ... Bolden and Ridley became the first Patriots to each rush for at least 100 yards in the same game since Dec. 19, 1982 at Seattle. Tony Collins (103) and Mark van Eeghen (100) were the last Patriots rushers to accomplish the feat ... New England hasn't lost three consecutive games since a four-game slide from Sept. 29-Oct. 27, 2002 ... Brady tied Brett Favre by throwing at least one touchdown pass in 36 straight games, the third-longest streak in NFL history ... Welker, who had 129 yards on nine grabs, moved past Troy Brown and into second place on the New England all-time receiving list ... Fitzpatrick joined Joe Ferguson (1975) and Jim Kelly (1992) as the only players in team history to throw multiple touchdown passes in each of the first four games of a season.