|Elsa / Getty Images|
|Wes Welker played a big part in the Patriots' victory over the Bills, finishing with 10 catches for 107 yards.|
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- You could watch 100 years of football and not find a more flat-lined, tedious game than the one Buffalo and New England played here on Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
It was monotonous. It was plodding.
It was just what the Patriots wanted. It was art -- beauty in their eyes.
And you have to hand it to the Patriots for their ability to put a team in a box and simply force it to suffocate. That is what New England did to Buffalo.
That is how little pep and verve Buffalo brought to this matchup.
Sure, Buffalo was missing key, injured players, including defensive end Aaron Schobel and receiver Josh Reed. The Bills took the approach that they would try to "hang around" and be close in the fourth quarter and win it late. All they did was hang around. They were hardly a threat.
It made Patriots fans wonder how these Bills reached a 5-1 start. How they entered this game just like the Patriots with a 5-3 record. How both teams could have been tied for first place in the AFC East when the Bills looked so ordinary. So average.
"A long day for our team," is the way Bills coach Dick Jauron described it, this ridiculous showing by the Bills where they ran 43 plays and the Patriots ran 78. Where New England maintained possession almost a full quarter longer than the Bills. Where the Buffalo defense allowed New England to convert 11 of 18 third-down chances and one drive that lasted 19 plays and another that rolled for 13.
Jauron did his part in making sure the Bills would basically be irrelevant in this game.
On the Patriots' first drive (the Bills had gone three-and-out on the game's opening possession), they faced a second-and-6 from the Buffalo 38. Matt Cassel found receiver Wes Welker streaking toward the sideline. A 21-yard completion was the call but, clearly, Welker stepped out of bounds before making the catch. Clearly.
So, Jauron mulls it, gets information on his headset, mulls it again and then barely tosses his red challenge flag onto the field. The next Patriots play is close to starting. Jauron and his staff and his players stand there. They begin to wave. No urgency. Patriots snap it. Ludicrous.
"I guess I need to run out on the field in that instance," Juaron said afterward.
That entire sequence told you all that was required to know about the Bills on this day, because New England finished that drive with a Cassel 13-yard scoring run up the middle -- and the Bills would trail for the rest of the game. They did not look like a team that came to beat New England. Only one that came to hang around. They looked very much like a team that just lost its 10th straight game to the Patriots.
"We need an attitude adjustment," Bills linebacker Kawika Mitchell said. "I just think it's an attitude thing. We've got the ability to make a run. But first, we have to make a change. Get aggressive and play with a little more fire."
New England led 20-3 with 1:57 left. Only rookie Leodis McKelvin's 85-yard kickoff return and a Trent Edwards-to-James Hardy 14-yard touchdown pass immediately afterward made the score a little closer, made the Bills feel a little better.
The Buffalo defense expected the New England offense to play the game on the perimeter, with quick outside screens. But the Patriots countered with a gut-attack and kept piercing a soft Bills middle. The Patriots confused Edwards with their multiple formations and techniques, forcing him into two interceptions. They also expected Buffalo to keep running the football left behind tackle Jason Peters and guard Derrick Dockery. Buffalo did. New England was ready. Marshawn Lynch did not produce a run of longer than 8 yards. Buffalo finished with only 60 rushing yards.
New England, however, gained 144 on the ground and that was all Cassel needed to hit a groove and to keep finding Wes Welker (10 catches, 107 yards). Welker became the first player in league history to have six or more receptions in each of the first nine games of a season. Welker figured prominently in New England's 10 first-half points followed by 10 second-half points.
Buffalo just finished a three-game spree through the AFC East and lost all three (Dolphins, Jets and Patriots). It is home next against Cleveland for a Monday night game. New England just began a three-game divisional run (Bills, Jets and Dolphins) to be followed by a home game vs. Pittsburgh.
New England (6-3) plays the Jets (6-3) here on Thursday night in what will be a salute to former Patriots receiver Troy Brown. A second-straight divisional game for first place for these Patriots. A division they have dominated for so long is still in their grasp.
No Tom Brady. Few frills. Little flash.
Yet the Patriots still command the presence and blueprint to treat a team like it is a pet they are training for a few hours before patting it on the head and sending it home.
This is exactly what it did to Buffalo.
And this after what occurred the last time they met, in November of last season. Remember that one? It was New England 56, Buffalo 10, right in the Bills' backyard.
Bills receiver Roscoe Parrish said: "We've got to get home, really study this film, see exactly what happened here, pay attention and fix it."
"We know the Jets," defensive end Richard Seymour said. "We know they like to change things up like we do. But both teams know the other one well. I don't see why we shouldn't be better the second time around in this game. You are always working in the season to get better, to build on week after week."
And build that dimension of being able to play outside of the box when required. And, on marvelous occasion, sealing the opponent inside one.