FOXBOROUGH - One moment, it seemed, the Buffalo Bills were on top of the world.
Dick Jauron's team was the darling of the AFC East after winning five of its first six games.
"The week after we beat the Chargers, everybody was pretty high and talking about being 5-1," said center Duke Preston, referring to a 23-14 victory over San Diego Oct. 19 in Orchard Park, N.Y. "That is the nature of the NFL and as fast as we got out to a good start, that's how fast it can go away."
Before a Gillette Stadium crowd of 68,756, the Bills got a sobering reminder of that yesterday after suffering a 20-10 setback against the Patriots in which Buffalo was limited to a season-low 168 yards of total offense, including 60 yards rushing on 18 attempts.
"I think it was pretty clear to everybody that we just weren't consistent enough to win the football game," said Jauron, whose offense had its best drive, an 11-play, 53-yard march in the second quarter, result in a 25-yard field goal by Rian Lindell that pulled the Bills within 10-3 with 7:05 left before halftime.
"Offensively, we couldn't put anything together," Jauron said.
The Bills were forced to settle for a field goal after Marshawn Lynch (14 carries, 46 yards) took a handoff from Trent Edwards on third and goal from the 4. Lynch was smothered by Richard Seymour, Mike Vrabel, and Jerod Mayo for a 3-yard loss.
"On fade throws outside, when they give you coverage - which they had all day - we have to check to a run," Edwards explained. "We, for some reason, miscommunicated it. I'd have to talk to those guys, I don't know, but we didn't convert down there on the goal line. That would have been big to put 7 points up on the board instead of 3."
Confounded not only by New England's clever defense, which kept disguising its coverages, Buffalo's sputtering offense also was hampered by a pair of interceptions by Edwards, who completed 13 of 23 for 120 yards. In his first four games of the season, Edwards completed 65.5 percent of his passes (78 of 119) for 930 yards with 4 TDs and two interceptions. Lately his productivity has declined and his mistakes risen; he's completed 58 of 93 for 624 yards with 2 TDs and five picks in his last three games.
Asked if he was concerned about Edwards's mounting turnovers, Jauron seemed puzzled.
"I don't really understand the question of [being] concerned," he said. "We are concerned when we lose games. We have lost a number in a row now. Not that you are concerned with Trent in particular. You don't want your quarterback to turn it over. I think we have a quarterback. I really like this guy.
"I think he is going to be a real fine quarterback," Jauron continued. "To start the season, he played so unlike a young quarterback that now, whenever he makes an error, we think there is something wrong. You don't want him to, but we are going to have to live with some things because I think he is an outstanding player."
Edwards redeemed himself late in the game when an 85-yard kickoff return by Leodis McKelvin set up at 14-yard touchdown pass to James Hardy with 1:45 left that prevented the Bills from being kept out of the end zone for the first time this season.
"I think it was the same old thing, the little mistakes here and there that killed the drive, or you turn the ball over and put your team in a bad spot," Edwards said. "It's tough to move the ball and consistently perform well when you shoot yourself in the foot. That's what has been happening lately and we need to [fix] that pretty soon."
Buffalo (5-4) is in a two-way tie for third in the AFC East with Miami.
"You know, it is a hole," Jauron said of his team's 0-3 division record. "It is a hole we would rather not be in. But I would certainly take 5-4 over starting to take more wins away from us. I would certainly choose to be where we are now over where we have been the past two years. We are in a decent position. Again, we would choose to be 9-0, clearly, but we are not there. We have to deal with 5-4, go on and prove ourselves, get better and solve some of these consistency issues, and take care of more of the details."
Over its three-game division skid, the Bills have nine turnovers and 17 penalties. The offense has mustered just 799 yards total while getting outscored, 71-43.
So what has been the common denominator in those setbacks?
"You can't lose the turnover battle in this league and not suffer the consequences," Jauron said. "We have turned it over. But inside of that, too, we are missing some opportunities on the field to make plays. Everybody in this league is good enough to beat you, so we have to play [at] a high level all the time. Certainly, everybody is pretty talented in our division. So we have to play at an even higher level there. And really, you just cannot continuously lose the turnover battle."
Michael Vega can be reached at email@example.com.