Patriots solve years-long problem in upset of Bills

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Week after week it’s felt like the same old story. The Patriots start slow. The Patriots fall behind. The Patriots lose.

Yet on a Sunday that brought no shortage of twists and turns, the most unexpected may have been the way the game began.

The Patriots offense got off to its best start of the season, opening the game with two straight scoring drives to jump out to an early 10-0 lead over the heavily favored Buffalo Bills.

Rookie receiver Demario Douglas powered the quick start with three catches for 35 yards in the opening two drives, and thanks to the interception thrown by Josh Allen on his first pass attempt of the game, the Patriots had a two-score lead before the Bills even really got a chance to touch the ball.

New England tacked on a field goal in the second quarter as well and went into halftime leading 13-3. Considering what a slog it’s been for the Patriots offensively over the past few weeks, Sunday’s fast start was especially satisfying.

“Huge, awesome, it was great for that first series, a couple of explosive plays and staying ahead of the sticks, no negative plays,” said tight end Mike Gesicki. “It was what we’ve been talking about doing and finally went out there and did it.”

The early cushion proved essential after the Bills rallied for three second-half touchdowns, including two in the final six minutes to take a 25-22 lead with 1:58 to play. That set the stage for the big finish, with quarterback Mac Jones leading the Patriots down the field for the game-winning touchdown pass to Gesicki.

All told the Patriots compiled 364 total yards and averaged 6.6 yards per offensive play, the team’s highest average of the season.

“I think it was one of our most consistent offensive performances of the year, we had a couple of long drives last week and today we only punted a couple of times, it wasn’t very many, which is always a good thing,” Bill Belichick said afterwards. “(Bill O’Brien) did a good job all week with the gameplan and the team went in there and played with good competitive level, better fundamentals and better execution, so it’s a good place to start.”

What changed for Mac Jones in Patriots’ first game-winning drive in over two years

A case could be made this wasn’t just one of New England’s best performances this year, but in recent memory. Not only had the Patriots not gotten off to a hot start this season prior to Sunday, but they really didn’t all of last season either.

You could make a case for last year’s Week 17 win over Miami, when the Patriots took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, but the Dolphins tied it 7-7 going into halftime and the game was neck-and-neck after that. Before that New England led Indianapolis 13-0 at halftime in Week 9 but didn’t score in the first quarter, and in Week 5 against Detroit the Patriots led 16-0 at halftime but only managed a field goal in the first.

The last no-doubter was all the way back in Week 17 of the 2021 season, when New England opened a 28-3 halftime lead on the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars in an eventual 50-10 win.

That New England was able to ambush a team like the Bills, a perennial playoff contender against whom the Patriots were 1-6 since 2020 coming in, was especially encouraging. Now the question is whether this was a one-off performance or the start of a major turnaround, and how the Patriots look next weekend against first-place Miami will tell us a lot about this team and its future prospects.

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