Defense reaches for positives — interceptions
FOXBOROUGH — Patrick Chung couldn’t help himself. The throw from Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick sailed and continued toward the end zone where Chung, the Patriots safety, was waiting.
In a flash, Chung secured the interception and — instead of taking a knee — bolted out of the end zone and returned it 26 yards on the first play of the fourth quarter.
The Bills had easily moved downfield and were facing second and 5 from the Patriots’ 20, so the play couldn’t have come at a better time for the Patriots, who were protecting a 31-23 lead.
Fitzpatrick later said he could make the pass intended for an open Roscoe Parrish “100 times’’ in his sleep, but it sailed into the belly of Chung for his first interception of the season.
Brandon Meriweather also had a key interception, grabbing the 10th of his career with 2:58 left in the game to end the Bills’ comeback hopes.
Chung also came up with a tackle in the third quarter that stopped Parrish in his tracks on third and 12 from the New England 41. Parrish picked up 8 yards on the play, but Chung stopped him short of the first-down marker. Rian Lindell’s 51-yard field goal attempt was wide left, allowing the Patriots to keep their 24-23 lead midway through the third quarter.
But the interception later is the type of play that can build confidence, said Chung, who is in his second season.
“It helps,’’ Chung said. “We can’t get too complacent. We got a lot of games to go. A lot of different teams to prepare to face. We just got to keep going.’’
The Bills attempted to call back-to-back timeouts as they were facing fourth and 1 from the Patriots’ 17 with 28 seconds to go. Initially, the Bills were given the timeout, but officials quickly realized the mistake and hurried to restart the game. Meanwhile, Belichick was livid and looking for an explanation.
Referee John Parry described the situation to pool reporter Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com after the game.
“There is no foul for calling a second timeout in the rulebook,’’ Parry said. “We shouldn’t have granted it. We shouldn’t have shut the play down. But, there is no penalty. There is no 5-yard penalty for what we did. [The procedure is to] get the players reset, the second timeout is not allowed, resume play, which is what we did.’’
Once the mistake was made, Parry said the next step to remedy the situation was to “bring the players out, we reset the play and we go.’’
After the game, Belichick said he thought the officials handled the situation “OK’’.
“They did the right thing,’’ Belichick said. “I was just upset because I didn’t really know what happened, I mean, I knew what happened but then they reset the clock and it was fourth and 1 and we had to really rush and get everything that we were . . . we just didn’t get it as quickly as we should have. I thought the play should have been stopped. They didn’t want it delayed any further by coming over to talk about it. I understand what John did. I think he handled the situation OK.’’
The Bills kicked a 34-yard field goal after play resumed to take a 16-14 lead, but the Patriots drove down the field in 18 seconds to answer with a 43-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski to go back ahead, 17-16.
“I thought [the fans] were great,’’ Brady said. “I really did. I thought they were into it. They were really loud. That’s a great advantage for us when the crowd is loud. . . . There was some musket fire today, so that got it pretty loud. I tell you, seeing [Brandon] Meriweather and Tully [Banta-Cain] up there on the big screen [exhorting the fans] on that high-def isn’t the best looking thing in the world. Trying to get everyone fired up.’’
Moss said he wanted to do something special to recognize Faulk after a tough week for the running back.
“I was asked a couple of questions about [wearing] his jersey and I really didn’t want to get into that, but me and Kevin have a long history before I even became a Patriot,’’ Moss said. “What he’s accomplished here as a Patriot speaks high volumes, but losing him for the year is very disappointing. I don’t really have an answer or explanation for wearing his jersey. That’s my boy and I just wanted to put his jersey on just to represent him.’’
Moss only had two catches against the Bills but both went for touchdowns. He hauled in a 7-yard pass from Brady in the first quarter to put the Patriots ahead, 7-3. Moss came back in the third to snag a 35-yard touchdown catch that extended the Patriots’ lead to 24-16.
Both scores inched Moss up a few all-time lists. He is tied with Ben Coates for the second-most touchdowns with the Patriots (50). Stanley Morgan has 68. He also moved past Marvin Harrison into fifth place in receiving yards with 14,604.
Despite a defensive backfield featuring an inexperienced starter at cornerback and a four-safety rotation, Arrington thought things went fairly smoothly.
“I thought the communication was good. We could have executed a little better, though, on a couple plays. I thought the communication was good though,’’ he said.
Butler, who struggled mightily in the Week 2 loss to the Jets, wasn’t benched strictly because of that performance; it is believed he also was being sent a message by the coaching staff because he was not playing the techniques he had been taught.
Butler did not take the field until the second quarter, and Fitzpatrick completed a 9-yard pass to Parrish with Butler in coverage on the second snap he played.
Shalise Manza-Young of the Globe Staff contributed to the report.