Tom Brady, Patriots dismantle Bills, 52-28, to get back in first-place tie in AFC East

For a half today, the Patriots did just about everything possible to fall two games below .500 for the first time in 11 years. Then, just as quickly as they crashed, the Patriots found their groove and showed why they’re considered one of the most dangerous teams in the NFL.

The Patriots dismantled the Bills, 52-28, at Ralph Wilson Stadium to improve to 2-2 and get themselves back into a first-place tie with the Bills (2-2) and Jets (2-2).

Tom Brady had another big game against the Bills, completing 22-of-36 passes for 340 yards and three touchdowns along with one rushing score. He had help, too, as running backs Brandon Bolden (137 rushing yards, one touchdown) and Stevan Ridley (106 rushing yards, two touchdowns) forged through the Buffalo defense. Wes Welker (nine receptions, 129 yards) and Rob Gronkowski (five receptions, 104 yards, one touchdown) were Brady’s top targets through the air.

Defensively, Devin McCourty had two interceptions, Brandon Spikes forced two fumbles and Chandler Jones, Dont’a Hightower and Rob Ninkovich all had sacks. Tavon Wilson had an interception and fumble recovery.

The Patriots put an end to a mistake-filled first half by forging ahead in the third quarter. Brady put together an eight-play, 80-yard touchdown drive that was capped when he scrambled to stay alive on third-and-9 and dumping a pass to Danny Woodhead, who ducked into the end zone for a 17-yard score that cut the deficit to 21-14.

Brady’s maneuverability came in handy on the next drive, too, as he moved up in the pocket before recognizing a lane to the end zone. He shuffled forward to dive ahead for a four-yard touchdown that tied the game at 21.

After a second consecutive defensive stop, the Patriots’ offense quickly regained the lead, as Brady hit a wide-open Gronkowski for a 28-yard touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The Patriots kept the good times going on the next series when Spikes forced his second fumble of the game, unloading on Fred Jackson at the Buffalo 42, and Wilson recovered it. Six plays later, Ridley added his second touchdown run to push the lead to 35-21. It was the Patriots’ fourth touchdown in less than 12 minutes.

McCourty picked off his second pass of the game a few plays later, jumping in front of Stevie Johnson to pull down a pass and set up the Patriots in Buffalo territory. Brandon Bolden hit the end zone two plays later to push it to 42-21 with 10:29 remaining in regulation.

Brad Smith and Brandon Lloyd exchanged touchdown receptions and Gostkowski hit a 30-yard field goal to finish the scoring.

The Pats got off to a flying start, quickly marching down the field without seeing a third down on their first possession, and Ridley’s six-yard touchdown run put them ahead, 7-0.

That’s when things started to come unhinged. Vince Wilfork tipped a pass that got intercepted by Jerod Mayo, but the Pats went three-and-out. McCourty elevated to pull down a pass in front of T.J. Graham, but Lloyd dropped a third-down pass and Gostkowski missed his first of two field goals.

Then, the turnovers went in the other direction. Gronkowski lost a ball that led to Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Scott Chandler that tied it, 7-7, in the second quarter. Gostkowski missed his second field goal on the next drive, and Fitzpatrick and Chandler hooked up for another score to make it 14-7.

It could have gotten even worse before the half, when Welker fumbled at the Patriots 29. The Bills had second-and-goal from the 4, but Spikes crushed C.J. Spiller, and Wilfork recovered the fumble to keep it a one-score game before the half.

The Bills doubled their lead early in the third quarter, as Jackson gained 16 yards on a third-and-15 screen pass before Fitzpatrick hit a streaking Donald Jones for a 68-yard touchdown.

That’s when Brady orchestrated the first of six consecutive touchdown drives that changed the complexion of the game.

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