Tom Brady and the New England Patriots fought off the Buffalo Bills on Monday night. Photo by Kamil Krzaczynski/UPI | License Photo
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Tom Brady amused himself on Instagram last week, warning #billsmafia that he was coming for them and all but guaranteeing another Patriots' win over a team and a fan base tormented like none other in the NFL.
Brady has toyed with the Bills throughout his career against very little resistance, so he wasn't exactly sticking his neck out going into the game Monday night in New Era Field. His 14 career victories in Orchard Park were more than all but three Bills quarterbacks.
The Patriots were 14-point favorites and had averaged 39 points over the previous four games while the Bills scored a total of 31 points over the same span. The simple math suggested the Patriots would improve to 6-2 while the Bills would fall to 2-6.
It wasn't quite that easy.
New England failed to get its offense into high gear but still prevailed in a 25-6 victory over Buffalo.
The Patriots didn't break through for a touchdown until James White scored from the 2 for an 18-6 lead with 9:58 remaining in the fourth quarter. Devin McCourty put the game out of reach when he returned an interception 85 yards for a touchdown with 5:54 left.
Brady completed 29 of 45 passes for 324 yards and failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time in 12 games. The Patriots produced enough offense to beat the Bills, the lowest-scoring team in the NFL. Buffalo has had problems moving the ball all season.
Brady has dominated many teams throughout his career but none quite like Buffalo. He has a 29-3 career record against the Bills while abusing them for more yards (8,122) and touchdowns (68) than any quarterback has thrown against any opponent.
The only two Buffalo quarterbacks who had more wins than Brady in Orchard Park were Jim Kelly (66), Joe Ferguson (43) and Drew Bledsoe (18). It speaks to Brady's success in Buffalo and the Bills' history of quarterbacks who struggled throughout his career.
Lost in the hoopla over the Bills playing their first Monday Night Football game at home in a decade and a halftime ceremony honoring Hall of Fame back Thurman Thomas, who had his No. 34 retired, was the fact the Bills were grossly undermanned on offense.
Buffalo has nine points total in the past two weeks, has not scored a touchdown in eight consecutive quarters and has just one TD in the past 15 quarters. The Bills had a season-high 333 yards in total offense after being held to fewer than 300 in the first six weeks.
Derek Anderson, the 35-year-old quarterback signed three weeks ago off the street, made his second straight start for injured rookie Josh Allen. Brady had thrown 60 touchdown passes over the previous two seasons, the same number Anderson had in his NFL career.
It explains why the Bills, in an attempt to confuse the Patriots, relied heavily on the wildcat formation with direct snaps to LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory. Pull back the curtain on the offensive gimmickry, however, and there was a great disparity in talent.
New England had a 15-play drive in the first quarter and twice traveled into Buffalo territory in the second but had only three field goals to show at halftime. Stephen Hauschka countered with a 47-yard field goal in the second quarter and drilled another in the third quarter to keep the Bills within striking distance.
It seemed a matter of time before the Pats' offense returned to familiar form, but they never found their rhythm. The Bills' offense produced only three points in a 37-5 loss last week to Indianapolis. Buffalo hadn't had a touchdown drive that started in their own territory since a Week 2 win over Minnesota.
The Bills' fourth-rated defense contained Brady & Co., for most of the game, but once again it wasn't enough for Buffalo. The Bills' offense was averaging 11.6 points per game going into the game, less than half of the league average, and never really threatened Monday.
New England was far from picture-perfect by its standards. As usual, it was enough to beat Buffalo.