Bills upset Patriots 34-31 in thriller
By Steve Keating
ORCHARD PARK, New York (Reuters) - The Buffalo Bills overturned a 21-point deficit to shock the New England Patriots 34-31 on Sunday and maintain their perfect start to the National Football League (NFL) season.
Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed two touchdowns while an inspired Bills defense intercepted Tom Brady four-times as Buffalo snapped a run of 15 consecutive losses over eight years to their AFC East division rivals.
When the scheduled was announced, a clash between the mighty Patriots and the rebuilding Bills would not have jumped out but the Week 3 matchup featuring two unbeaten teams with explosive offenses was suddenly one of the most intriguing of the young season.
The edge-of-your seat cliffhanger was eventually decided by a 28-yard Rian Lindell field goal with no time on the clock, giving the Bills a 3-0 start to the season and handing the Patriots (2-1) their first loss.
The Bills are becoming the masters of the comeback having also trailed the Oakland Raiders by 18 points last Sunday before rallying for a 38-35 victory.
"You keep playing, there's ups and downs in this game," Buffalo coach Chan Gailey told reporters. "Just keep playing gentlemen.
"If you keep playing good things will happen to you."
Fitzpatrick, a Harvard University graduate who has transformed the Bill's offence into the highest scoring unit in the NFL, completed 27 passes for 369 yards, including touchdowns to Stevie Johnson and Scott Chandler, to overshadow an imperfect Brady.
The New England quarterback had another productive day tossing four touchdowns, a pair each to Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski.
But Brady, who holds the record of 358 regular season pass attempts without an interception, was picked off four times, Drayton Florence returning one for a touchdown.
The four interceptions were the most surrendered by the NFL's most valuable player in a game since November 2006 and were as many as he threw all last season.
"We turned the ball over four-times, you don't win many games that way," offered a stern faced Patriots coach Bill Belichick. "We just need to score more and give up less."
Brady was on target early in the game, hitting Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski for early touchdowns as the Pats opened up a 21-0 lead.
The Bills offence finally got in gear, late in the second quarter, Fitzpatrick finding Johnson alone in the end zone and then added a 42-yard Lindell field goal to enter the intermission trailing 21-10.
The Bills carried the momentum in to the second half, Fitzpatrick connecting with Chandler on a three-yard touchdown that sliced the Patriots 21 point advantage to 21-17.
New England halted the slide with a 23-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal but the Bills kept up their assault, Fred Jackson diving over for a one-yard touchdown early in the final quarter to tie game at 24-24.
The Bills took the lead for the first time 14 seconds later when Florence scooped up a tipped Brady pass and returned 27-yards for the score.
Brady shook off the miscue and hit back with a six-yard touchdown pass to Welker but the relentless Bills would not be denied, Fitzpatrick marching his team down to the New England goal line and sealing the upset with a Lindell field goal.
(Editing by Julian Linden)