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Monday, December 21, 2009

Patriots find a pass rush, beat the hapless Bills

Once again, it wasn't pretty (at all) but the Patriots beat the Bills yesterday 17-10 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

It was New England's (9-5) first true road win since their only other win away from Gillette was in London.

They also received two early Christmas presents as the Jets lost to the Falcons and the Dolphins lost in overtime to the Titans. The Patriots are two games up in the AFC East with two games to play.

The two things to take away from yesterday (besides how pathetic Buffalo is) were the reappearance of Randy Moss off milk cartons and post office walls. Plus, the Pats non-existent pass rush stopped by and sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick and Trent Edwards a combined six times.

Tully Banta-Cain led the Patriots' defense with three sacks, while Derrick Burgess, Gary Guyton and Mike Wright also recorded sacks. Finally, Jonathan Wilhite had an interception.

Buffalo (5-9) looked like world-beaters on their opening drive as they held the ball for 14 plays and 9:24 but they stalled in the red zone and were forced to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Rian Lindell.

Without Vince Wilfork (one of the NFL's best) and Ty Warren (a very solid defensive end), the Patriots defensive line was completely pushed around on that first drive.

Rookie Ron Brace (4 tackles) started in the middle for New England and Wright (6 tackles, sack, 2 tackles for loss) subbed for Warren. Brace proved why he's been inactive much of the season while Wright continued to get everything out of his limited ability.

Moss (5 catches, 70 yards) put the Pats up 7-3 in the second quarter on one of Tom Brady's (11 for 23, 115 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT) only good throws: a perfect 13-yard strike to the back of the end zone that Moss controlled and tapped his feet down before going out of bounds.

Laurence Maroney (23 carries, 81 yards) gave New England a 14-3 lead with 24 seconds left in the first half. Nobody will ever credit him until he has an injury-free, solid season, but Maroney is slowly becoming the weapon he's shown glimpses of in the past.

Buffalo couldn't get out of its own way as they had 10 penalties in the first half-an NFL record this season-and finished with 11 overall for 124 yards.

Stephen Gostkowski's 30-yard kick put the Pats up 17-3 but the Bills made it close when Lee Evans caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Fitzpatrick.

The Bills recovered the ensuing onside kick but rookie Aaron Maybin was offsides so they chose to kick it deep and they never saw it again.

Jacksonville comes to Gillette next Sunday and then the Patriots wrap up the regular season at Houston in two weeks. If New England wins on Sunday, they'll clinch the division and would have to think hard about resting Brady since he's clearly banged up and not himself. He has an interception in four straight games.

If the playoffs started today, the Broncos would be coming to Gillette in the Wild Card round. Not a bad matchup.

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