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Where: Ralph Wilson Stadium, Orchard Park, New York
After squandering a nine-point lead in the final four minutes of a 31-30 loss at Baltimore last week, the New England Patriots find themselves with a losing record for the first time since they dropped the opening game of the 2003 season (they recovered to win the Super Bowl that year.) New England looks to climb back to .500 on Sunday at Buffalo against a Bills’ team it has owned for the past decade. The Patriots have won 21 of the last 23 meetings between the AFC East rivals.
One of those losses came in New England’s last visit to western New York, however, as the Bills recorded four interceptions and defeated the Patriots 34-31 on Rian Lindell’s 28-yard field goal as time expired. Once again, there are questions about the Patriots’ defense as they surrendered 503 yards against the Ravens. New England has not started 1-3 since 2001, Bill Belichick’s second season. The Patriots are also looking to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2002. Buffalo improved to 2-1 with a 24-14 victory over Cleveland. Third-string RB Tashard Choice ran for 91 yards on 20 carries last week after C.J. Spiller, who had been the NFL’s leading rusher, went down with a shoulder injury. Spiller had been filling in for Fed Jackson, who suffered a knee injury in the opener against the Jets, but Jackson hopes to return this weekend.
ABOUT THE PATRIOTS (1-2): Tom Brady has an 18-2 career mark against the Bills with 46 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. In last’s season game at Buffalo, wide receiver Wes Welker had career highs in catches (16) and receiving yards (217) and tied a career best with two TD receptions. Welker (6,356) needs 11 yards to surpass Troy Brown (6,366) for second on the team’s all-time list. The Patriots were able to generate little pressure last week against Joe Flacco and the lack of a strong pass rush may be another concern. New England only has three sacks, the second-fewest in the league, and is giving up 262 yards per game through the air, the 11th-worst mark in the AFC. Tight end Rob Gronkowski has 22 receptions for 314 yards and seven TDs in four career games against the Bills, and the Patriots may look to get him more involved in the offense after he had only two catches for 21 yards last week. But they will be facing defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, who signed as free agents with the Bills. Anderson played with the Patriots last year.
ABOUT THE BILLS (2-1): Despite the injuries to Jackson and Spiller, the Bills are averaging 178 rushing yards per game on the ground, the second-best mark in the AFC. Buffalo is seeking its second straight 3-1 start. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick may be sorry to see September end as it seems to be his favorite
month. Fitzpatrick has thrown an NFL-high eight touchdown passes after tossing nine in three September games last year to earn AFC Offensive Player of the Month. However, he struggled in October a year ago and threw just seven TD passes in his next seven games. In six September games over the last two seasons, Buffalo is 5-1 while averaging an NFL-best 33.3 points per game. The Bills released veteran punter Brian Moorman earlier in the week and signed rookie Shawn Powell.
1. With 193 career wins, Belichick needs one to pass Chuck Knox for eighth on the all-time list.
2. Brady (40,866) needs 57 passing yards to surpass Kerry Collins (40,922) for 11th all-time. He has thrown TD passes in 35 consecutive games, the fourth-longest streak in NFL history.
3. Fitzpatrick is looking to join Joe Ferguson (1975) and Jim Kelly (1992) as the only players in franchise history to throw multiple TDs in each of the first four games of the season.