ORCHARD PARK — As much as the Patriots entered Sunday’s game at Ralph Wilson Stadium with visions of using a relentless ground game to wear down their opponent, the Bills also started with an impressive drive that relied heavily on the run.
Buffalo marched down the field with six straight runs to open things up, using four carries from Fred Jackson and a pair from rookie C.J. Spiller to move from their own 28-yard line to the New England 13. After missing on a pair of passes, however, the hosts were forced to settle for a field goal.
After that, however, the running game slowed dramatically. In fact, after getting 65 rushing yards on their opening drive, the Bills amassed just 60 more the rest of the way.
On the team’s next possession, Buffalo opened with a penalty, then employed a shotgun package that failed to net a single first down.
After the contest, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and head coach Chan Gailey both said the team didn’t abandon the running game, but insisted they were forced into the play-calling change by the Patriots’ scheme.
“The first series we were out there they played nickel defense against our nickel offense and then when we went out there the second series with the same offense they put all their big people out there,” Gailey said. “They basically were saying we’re going to stop the run by putting those seven guys up in there — you’ve got to throw it to move the football. We couldn’t throw it well enough, consistently to move the football.”
Meanwhile, the Patriots nearly broke a big play on their first snap from scrimmage as quarterback Tom Brady had tight end Rob Gronkowski alone deep in the middle of the field, but underthrew him.
From there, the running game opened up, as BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead combined for 197 yards on 32 carries.