ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- New season, new receivers, familiar finish for Tom Brady, who looked like his old self in the clutch.
Whatever chemistry Brady still lacks within the Patriots' new-look offense, the quarterback overcame by rallying New England to a 23-21 season-opening win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Brady marched New England 49 yards in 12 plays to set up Stephen Gostkowski's 35-yard field goal with 5 seconds left.
"I didn't have a lot of doubt," Brady said, referring to the final drive, which began at the Patriots 34 with 4:31 remaining. "We've got a team full of fighters. There's going to be some ugly wins, but we're always going to fight until the end."
Shane Vereen ran 15 yards on the next play, and the Patriots settled on running time off the clock before Gostkowski won it.
Amendola, an offseason free-agent addition, showed grit by returning to the game despite a nagging groin injury he aggravated late in the first half.
And Brady leaned heavily on his most experienced returning receiver, Julian Edelman, who caught both touchdown passes.
"I was proud of our team today," coach Bill Belichick said. "Obviously, it wasn't perfect. And there's a lot of things we can do better. But they played the last few minutes of the game the way we needed to play it."
Brady finished 29 of 52 for 288 yards and two touchdowns in helping the Patriots win their 10th straight season opener. That ties Portsmouth/Detroit (1930-39) for the NFL's third-longest streak.
It also marked the 36th time of Brady's career that he's led the Patriots to victory while tied or trailing in the fourth quarter.
Belichick won his 206th career game to move one ahead of Marty Schottenheimer for sixth place on the NFL list.
"You talk about sense of disappointment: It is devastating," Marrone said. "When we go out there and we have opportunities, and you can't win that game, I'm letting them down."
The Bills squandered an encouraging debut by Manuel, the rookie first-round draft pick out of Florida State.
Manuel was inconsistent, but looked poised in the pocket in completing 18 of 27 passes for 150 yards with two touchdowns.
After trailing the entire first half, Manuel put the Bills ahead 21-17 on the first possession of the third quarter by capping an 11-play, 80-yard march with an 18-yard pass to Stevie Johnson.
The Bills had difficulty mustering any further offense, managing just three first downs and 73 yards on their final five possessions.
"Overall, at the end of the day, we lost. So I can't really say we did this great, we did that great," Manuel said. "At the end of the day you want to win."
Discipline was an also an issue for Buffalo, which was penalized 10 times for 75 yards.
"It's a game of opportunity. You've got to capitalize as much as possible," Arrington said. "We were just very fortunate to come away with enough plays to win the game. It wasn't perfect."
And then there was Ridley. After fumbling by slipping at the line of scrimmage without being touched, Ridley spent the rest of the game on the sideline with his helmet perched on his head. Vereen took over finished with 14 carries for career-high 101 yards.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press