ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) – Tom Brady exchanged cordial greetings with former teammate Drew Bledsoe before and after yesterday’s game.
Brady saved his biggest statement for the game, sparking the New England Patriots to a 38-7 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
Completing 23 of 27 passes for 310 yards and four touchdowns it was the most efficient performance of Brady’s career. His 154.1 passing rating was 4.2 points short of perfection, and it came in his biggest test of the season.
Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions (4-4) snapped a four-game losing streak to climb back into the AFC East race. And it came against Bledsoe, the Patriots’ former franchise player, who was facing New England for the first time since being traded to the Bills in April.
In a game billed as “The Bledsoe Bowl,” Brady showed up his former mentor yet again, a year after taking his job. Brady, however, said that was the “last thought on my mind.”
A better explanation for Brady was the Patriots reclaiming a sense of urgency, something they hadn’t felt for quite some time.
“For one reason or another, the last four weeks we just haven’t played Patriot football,” Brady said. “You talk about a sense of urgency, and today we had it.”
Patriots’ running back Antowain Smith made a major contribution against his former team with 111 yards rushing and three touchdowns.
By comparison, the 5-4 Bills unraveled, ending a three-game winning streak and squandering a chance to push the Patriots further out of the race.
Bledsoe, who entered the game as the NFL’s leading passer, didn’t exactly have an off day, finishing 28 of 45 for 302 yards. But he was stymied by an aggressive Patriots defense, which at times lined up in curious formations, including a four-man linebacker front.
“Back to the drawing board after that,” said Bledsoe. “After the game, you shake hands and live to fight another day.”
Ahead 17-7 at the half, the Patriots put the game away with a 14-point third quarter.
The backbreaker came with the Patriots ahead 24-7 and facing fourth-and-3 at the Bills’ 34. Brady hit Smith for a 5-yard pass, and five plays later, Smith capped the 76-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.
Kevin Faulk, with a 45-yard reception, and Christian Fauria, with a 5-yard touchdown reception, also scored touchdowns for the Patriots, while Adam Vinatieri kicked a 46-yard field goal.
It was quite a turnaround for a Patriots team that managed a combined 53 points in its previous four games.
“This is like taking 500-600 extra pounds on your back and just throwing it off, feeling like yourself again,” Patriots offensive tackle Matt Light said. “This is huge for us. There’s a feeling in here that we haven’t felt in here for a long time. And really, it’s about time. We’ve been beating up ourselves and playing some pretty undisciplined ball.”
The Bills had entered the game as the NFL’s only team to score 23 or more points in its first eight outings.
While Bledsoe had difficulty finishing drives, he got little help from usually reliable kicker Mike Hollis, who missed all three field-goal attempts.
Bledsoe also had no control over how his defensive teammates played. After holding opponents to 34 points in its previous 10 quarters, Buffalo suddenly reverted to old form.
On New England’s first three scoring drives, Brady converted four third downs, including a 3rd-and-8 on a screen pass to Smith, who ran it 13 yards for a touchdown to put the Patriots up 14-0.
Faulk’s 45-yard touchdown reception also came on a screen pass in which he ran untouched up the left sideline.