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.”
Shaking off a sloppy start, Brady completed all six attempts for 34 yards on a final drive during which he twice completed passes to convert third downs. That included threading a throw to Danny Amendola in traffic for a 10-yard gain on third-and-8 at the Bills 39.
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.
“He really toughed it out, which was impressive,” Brady said of Amendola, who led the Patriots with 10 catches for 104 yards — similar numbers to what Wes Welker used to provide for Brady.
The new-look Bills nearly pulled off a stunning upset in their first game under coach Doug Marrone and rookie quarterback EJ Manuel.
It instead turned into an all-too-familiar outcome for the Bills against their AFC East rivals. They dropped to 1-19 in their past 20 meetings.
“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.”
Manuel was inconsistent, but looked poised in the pocket in completing 18 of 27 passes for 150 yards with two touchdowns.