No one said it'd be easy for Tom Brady to break in a gaggle of young New England Patriots receivers. The veteran quarterback overcame a sloppy overall performance by his offense Sunday for a 23-21 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Brady averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt on 52 throws, struggling to get in rhythm for much of the day. Undrafted rookie tight end Zach Sudfeld dropped a pass that turned into an interception. Undrafted rookie wide receiver Kenbrell Thompkins made a number of mental mistakes. Running back Stevan Ridley was benched after fumbling without getting hit. Brady fumbled the ball on the goal line. (The Bills converted those turnovers into 14 points.)
The Bills held the lead entering the fourth quarter, but they picked up just two first downs in their final five drives. Brady, Julian Edelman, Shane Vereen and Danny Amendola slowly wore down the Bills' defense to set up a game-winning field goal with nine seconds left.
Despite the sloppiness, there was plenty to be encouraged about on both sides of the ball. Bills quarterback EJ Manuel didn't look like a rookie in his first NFL start. He avoided big mistakes and made a handful of very nice throws. For all of the Patriots' problems, they dominated the flow of the game with 89 plays and their time of possession at nearly 38 minutes. (For perspective, the Patriots led the NFL with 74 plays per game last season.)
Perhaps it was a best-case scenario for Bill Belichick. This reminded his young team how far it has to go, but it still got an AFC East road win.