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Patriots overcome ugly start to scatter Bills in Buffalo

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The Bills (6-6) put up a fight, but it wasn't enough in a game that ended as so many of these New England-Buffalo showdowns do: with another Patriots (10-2) victory. Here's what we learned from their 23-3 win:

1a. You can't commit self-sabotaging mistakes against the Patriots. Buffalo's opening drive was a thing of beauty until disaster struck, with the Bills milking seven-plus minutes off the clock and mining their way to New England's 6-yard line before Tyrod Taylor lobbed a pass right into the hands of Patriots defensive end Eric Lee. The throw was ugly, but Taylor also failed to sense the rush as New England's Alan Branch pushed center Eric Wood into the quarterback as he unfurled the doomed toss. The Bills left additional points on the board when Joe Webb took the ball on a Wildcat snap and narrowly missed a wide-open, on-the-run Travaris Cadet on what would have been an easy score. By the time Taylor took a disastrous, drive-killing, 20-yard sack in the second half -- with Buffalo down 16-3 -- this affair felt entirely out of reach for a Bills team that has been outscored 65-6 over the team's past five third quarters.

1b. Adding insult to defeat, Taylor was carted off in the fourth quarter with a left knee injury, bringing rookie Nathan Peterman back into our lives. Taylor admirably played through the pain after appearing to suffer the injury on the team's first drive, but the pain became too great by the final period.

2. Tom Brady was frustrated early by a Bills defense that tested New England's line and forced the star quarterback into an off-kilter, third-down completion that left the Patriots to settle for a field goal. Minutes later, CBS cameras caught Brady exploding on offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels along the sideline.

Brady crossed 65,000 career passing yards on Sunday, but threw for just 82 first-half yards against a Bills front that unleashed a bevy of three- and four-man blitz packages and took down the signal-caller three times as New England managed just nine points over the first 30 minutes. Brady came out of the break wisely aiming throws to his backs and tight ends, with Rob Gronkowski (9/147) taking over after the half with 50 yards off three catches on a 10-play touchdown drive that put the Patriots up 16-3. New England simply held on from there.

3. "Trying to tackle LeSean [McCoy] is scary in and of itself," Patriots safety Duron Harmon said this week of Buffalo's workhorse runner. McCoy ran well Sunday, keeping the Patriots defense honest with a variety of quick-cutting, gashing runs. Shady plowed for 60 first-half yards at 6.0 yards per tote before finishing with 93 yards on the day, but was ultimately outshined by Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead, the Patriots duo who combined for 170 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

4. Lee, by the way, played lights out in his second game for the Patriots. The undrafted defensive end notched a sack, a tackle for loss, two passes defensed, countless hurries and the game-changing pick against the Bills, who housed him on their practice squad mere months ago. After notching a sack last week, too, Lee has given New England some much-needed pass-rushing juice.

5. This Buffalo crowd was ultra-loud out of the gate, but Sunday wound up as one of the home team's most frustrating losses all year. Now sitting at 6-6, the playoffs are in danger with games remaining against the Colts, Dolphins, Patriots and Miami to close their season. The Pats, meanwhile, play the Dolphins next week before engaging in a tilt for the ages with the high-flying Steelers in Week 15.

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