FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills for the 14th consecutive time Sunday afternoon, winning an old AFL-style shootout, 38-30, at Gillette Stadium.

And for the defense, the only good thing about the afternoon was the result.

“I think we got a long way to go,” said safety Brandon Meriweather, who clinched the victory with an interception with 2:57 left. “I think we still got some things to build on, some things to do better. But I feel like we’ve got a long way to go.”

The defense gave up 30 points and 374 yards of offense to the Bills, who after two weeks were ranked last in total offense in the NFL. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for 247 yards and two key interceptions. In addition to Meriweather’s, Patrick Chung picked off Fitzpatrick in the end zone on the first play of the fourth quarter to blunt a Buffalo scoring chance. Both picks helped the Patriots’ escape.

Those interceptions, said Meriweather, showed the team has the ability to step up and make big plays. “But I still feel like we’ve got steps we’ve got to build on,” he said. “We caught the ball when they threw it to us. We’ve still got to work on communication and work on getting everything together.

“We’re still working hard to get to where we want to be.”

There were some changes. Kyle Arrington replaced Darius Butler at right cornerback, a week after Butler was torched by the Jets. Linebacker Jerod Mayo, who led the team with nine tackles and its only sack, said that wasn’t a factor.

“People replacing people, that’s part of football,” he said. “Whoever’s out there, we’re willing to play with.”

Mayo dismisses the inexperience of the defense as an excuse.

“We’re young, but these guys are hungry and they’re willing to learn,” he said. “We have a great coach in (Bill) Belichick and he’s putting us in position. We just have to execute better and make plays.”

Sunday, the Patriots made just enough.

“(The secondary) certainly could be better, but they’re making some plays and they’re aggressive,” said Belichick. “They’re getting better. We’ve just got to keep working at it and just come together more as a unit, do a little better job coaching. I think those guys are really trying hard. I have a lot of respect for what they’re doing.”

NEW ENGLAND’S 14 consecutive wins over the Bills is the third longest such streak in NFL history. Only Miami, which beat Buffalo 20 times in a row from 1970-79, and San Francisco, which beat the Rams 17 consecutive times from 1990-98, have longer such streaks.

BACK JUDGE Perry Pagnelli may have had the play of the game. When Tom Brady threw his 35-yard touchdown pass to Randy Moss in the third quarter, Pagnelli was caught in the middle of several players in the end zone.

He bounced off a Buffalo player, flipped head-over-heels and, as he rolled up off the ground, raised his hands in one motion to signal the touchdown.

MOSS SEEMED unimpressed with his individual achievements Sunday. He finished with two catches (both touchdowns) for 42 yards, giving him 14,604 career yards. With that he moved past Marvin Harrison into fifth place on the NFL’s all-time receiving yards list.

His two touchdowns also gave him 36 career games with two or more, second only to Jerry Rice (44) on that list. He is also just the second receiver in NFL history to catch at least 150 touchdown passes, his two giving him 151. “Just going to work,” said Moss.

SHAWN CRABLE’S time finally came for the Patriots. Signed off the practice squad Saturday, the former Michigan linebacker was active for his first NFL game. He played on special teams and got in as outside linebacker, assisting on one tackle.

Drafted in the third round by the Patriots in the 2008 draft, the 6-foot-5, 250-pound Crable was expected to be an impact player for New England. But he missed the last two seasons with injuries. As a rookie, he was inactive for the first eight games, before being placed on injured reserve with a shin injury. Last year, he suffered a groin injury in preseason and was placed in the IR before the season began.

He was released early in camp but was joined the practice squad Sept. 6.

FRED TAYLOR left the game in the third quarter with a toe injury, but the Patriots didn’t miss a beat with Sammy Morris and BenJarvus Green-Ellis taking over.

Green-Ellis finished with 98 yards rushing and a touchdown. He had a career-best 105 yards rushing against Buffalo in 2008.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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