Tom Brady and the New England Patriots sit comfortably atop the AFC East after edging the Buffalo Bills 37-31 in a Week 10 matchup between division rivals. And I just have to say that the Patriots seem determined to give Patriot Nation a collective aneurysm with games that shouldn't be as close as they are.
New England had a golden opportunity to put the game out of reach twice, but allowed Buffalo to keep a drive alive with a successful 4th down conversion; while Brady failed to seal the win with just over 2 minutes to go in the game and a first and goal at the 2-yard line.
In the end, it was the defense, which had difficulty stopping the Bills attack for much of the game, that came up big in the final seconds. With the game hanging in the balance, Devin McCourty saved the day with an heroic interception in the end zone, dashing the hope of a dramatic comeback win for the opposition.
Amazingly enough, that is enough to make him my hero of the game. Credit the defense, specifically the secondary, for coming up with big plays when it counted most. In fact, the two biggest plays at the most crucial situations were turned in by the much maligned (and young) Patriot secondary. The defense was fairly impressive with 3 sacks, forcing 3 fumbles, and McCourty's interception.
This week the New England offense did just enough to win; Danny Woodhead had a good day with 2 touchdowns (1 by air and 1 by ground) and Brady threw 2 touchdowns, extending his consecutive TD game record to 41, but otherwise it was not a noteworthy performance. This Sunday did not see a 100-yard rusher or receiver. And at Brady's current rate, he may not even exceed 5,000 yards like he did last year.
Which brings me to the goat of the game for the cellar-dwelling Bills: Can I get out of it by saying it is a toss up between Fred Jackson and Ryan Fitzpatrick? While both men had decent numbers overall, both also lost the ball to the Patriot defense, giving away the game when it was within their grasp. You just can't expect to win games when you blow red zone opportunities.
Buffalo also had plenty of penalty yards, amassing twice as many as their division foe today. Some of those were early on to allow the Patriots to take command of the game from the start.
We can clearly pin this one on Fred Jackson for dropping the ball at the goal line in the fourth quarter, and McCourty gets the nod for hero for recovering that fumble and the last second interception.