In a win as ugly as the New England Patriots' 23-21 nail-biter over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, there are sure to be some players under scrutiny on sports talk radio for the next few days.
They wouldn't have won, though, without a few key players stepping up in the most dire of circumstances.
Here's a quick look at some players whose stock went up, and others who got off to a rough start to the 2013 regular season.
Shane Vereen: Stepped up in a big way when Stevan RIdley hit the bench after his fumble in the first half, and finished with 14 carries and 101 yards -- the first 100-plus-yard rushing performance of his NFL career. Two hands were consistently on the ball every time a defender drew close to making the hit. He also had seven receptions for 58 yards, and looked to be on the same page with Tom Brady aside from one pass that was overthrown for Vereen after the running back pulled a nifty double-move down the right sideline.
Kyle Arrington: Forced two fumbles that were recovered by the Patriots, one on the second play of the game on running back C.J. Spiller and another in the second quarter, both of which set up eventual Patriots touchdown drives. It's hard to tell whether Arrinton should have had help from safety Devin McCourty on the touchdown pass to Bills receiver Stevie Johnson, but he did a solid job in coverage for the most part, and he nearly came away with an interception.
Julian Edelman: Rookie receivers be damned, Julian Edelman is still on the Patriots roster. He came out as the team's second-leading receiver on the day with seven catches for 79 yards and both of Tom Brady's touchdowns. He made a nice adjustment to the ball in the air on the first touchdown pass, contorting his body to reel in a back-shoulder throw from Brady.
Danny Amendola: Picked up right where Wes Welker left off in his role as the chain-mover on third down, with seven of his 10 receptions coming on third down, including two third-down conversions on the game-winning drive.
Stevan Ridley: Fumblitis. He put the ball on the ground twice on Sunday. The first time wasn't truly a fumble, as he was down by contact, but there was no doubt that he wasn't down by contact on the second fumble. He hit the ground untouched, and simply lost control of the ball. He didn't see the field again after that.
Kenbrell Thompkins: He had a pair of drops, including one on a touchdown catch in the back of the end zone that would have put the Patriots ahead for good. He also ran a bad route on the goal line and knocked his teammate, Julian Edelman, off his route. These chemistry problems were expected, to a degree, but it looked like Thompkins and Brady were hitting stride during training camp and the preseason. It's clear there's still work to be done.
Zach Sudfeld: The tight end was targeted just once, and bobbled the pass, which was then intercepted by Bills cornerback Justin Rogers. Sudfeld, like Thompkins, had a dominant summer, but looked like a rookie on Sunday. Replacing Rob Gronkowski is a thankless job, so the sooner their All-Pro tight end gets back, the better.
Ryan Allen: The rookie punter has seen better days than his Sunday average of 36 net yards per punt. He had one punt from inside Patriots territory that traveled just 19 yards, and another punt out of the back of the end zone that netted just 35 yards. The Patriots didn't help Allen out by putting so much pressure on him, but they felt the absence of Zoltan Mesko in their first game without him.
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