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Extra Points

5 Takeaways From the Patriots' 37-22 Win Over the Bills

1. Tom Brady and the Offense Are Both Just Fine

After the offense finally got on track last week against the Bengals, the prevailing theme was along the lines of, "That's nice. Now do it again so we know it wasn't a fluke."

It wasn't a fluke.

The Pats exploded for 37 more points against the Bills, giving them a cool 80 in two weeks. 24 came in the second half, when they gained 297 total yards and scored on five straight possessions. That's some vintage, Josh McDaniels' offense stuff. Tom Brady was 27-of-37 for 361 yards (9.8 yards per attempt) and four TDs, good for a passer rating of 139.6. Not exactly what anyone would expect of a QB in decline or on his way out, eh?

Brady completed passes to 10 different receivers (none of them named Danny Amendola, who had exactly zero targets) with Rob Gronkowski (7-94), Brandon LaFell (4-97, two TDs) and Julian Edelman (9-91) doing most of the damage. He also showed that he can still throw the deep ball when necessary, completing a Randy Moss-esque, 46-yard TD bomb to Brian Tyms despite Tyms being blanketed by three Bills' DBs. With the Jets and Bears and their weak pass defenses coming up the next two weeks, this roll Brady and the offense are on should continue.

2. Line Issues Can't Hinder Pats' Attack

After the Patriots finally seemed to sort out their offensive line problems last week against the Bengals, news of rookie center Bryan Stork's early deactivation on Saturday was a cause for alarm. Still, the Pats looked OK with former center Ryan Wendell moving back there from right guard and Josh Kline, who played well up front late last season, moving into the starting lineup. Brady was hit just once with the combination of Nate Solder, Dan Connolly, Wendell, Kline and Sebastian Vollmer protecting him.

Then Connolly left the game late in the second quarter with a head injury and in stepped Jordan Devey. For the first couple of possessions after that, it suddenly looked like Oakland and Kansas City all over again.

But the Pats not only survived, they flourished after halftime. They posted four scoring drives and save for a holding penalty by Devey that wiped out a pretty Brady-to-Gronk TD pass, the makeshift line held up. Brady was sacked twice and hit a handful of times (more than one of them thanks to yet another subpar game from Solder), and there were plenty of quick drops and throws called to keep him safe. Three quarters of the Bills powerful front four (Marcell Dareus, Kyle Williams and Mario Williams) was invisible, with only Jerry Hughes doing any damage. Even without Stork and Connolly, the big guys up front held their own

3. Defense Comes Through Again

Jerod Mayo was carted off and Dont'a Hightower didn't play at all but that hardly slowed down the Pats' D, which forced three turnovers and registered five sacks. Rob Ninkovich had his best game of the year by far, with three sacks, four more hits of Bills' QB Kyle Orton and three tackles for a loss. Darrelle Revis completely shut down Bills' rookie phenom receiver Sammy Watkins, who had just two catches and was targeted only three times, all after halftime. The Pats overcame their previous weaknesses against the run, holding the Bills to just three yards per rushing attempt and despite some issues in coverage away from Revis (Alfonzo Dennard had another down week and this team still can't cover tight ends, as evidenced by Scott Chandler's enormous game), the secondary hung tough. And some unsung guys like Deontae Skinner, Casey Walker and Zach Moore all made impact plays. Mayo's loss notwithstanding, this defense still looks very, very solid.

4. Health is a Real Problem

Not only did the Pats lose Mayo and Connolly in this one, Stevan Ridley left in the third quarter with an knee injury and didn't return and Gronk departed temporarily with what looked like an issue with his surgically repaired arm although he did come back to make a couple of huge plays. The biggest area of concern is at linebacker, especially if Hightower, who was a gametime decision and didn't do enough during his pregame workout to be activated, isn't back soon. It's too soon to tell how serious Mayo's injury was but it didn't look good at all. The Pats made it all the way to the AFC Championship last season despite a slew of injuries so it's not like they can't function under such circumstances. But a thin group still got thinner on Sunday.

5. This Team is Incredibly Tough

Even at 2-2, plenty of folks tried to leave the Pats for dead after the Monday night massacre in Kansas City two weeks ago. The attempts at an early burial continued throughout this past week too, despite the convincing win over Cincinnati. And then in Buffalo, playing against a fired up Bills' team for first place, with all the pageantry that came with new owner Terry Pegula's first game in charge and dealing with a tidal wave of injuries, the Pats blew the doors off.

This is a resilient bunch that won't roll over. They didn't look that way against the Chiefs two weeks ago. They looked like exactly the opposite. But since then, they've won two games by a total of 80-39 and are back in familiar territory, alone in first place. It hasn't always been nice to look at (the penalty problem still exists in a big way), but whatever was adjusted after the KC loss is working.


Jeremy Gottlieb can be reached at jeremy.gottlieb@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jmg2776.

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