FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Tom Brady regained his touch against his personal pushovers.
The New England Patriots retained theirs against Buffalo with a 38-30 win Sunday, their 14th straight over the Bills.
Brady improved to 16-1 against the Bills, completing 21 of 27 passes for 252 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. Two of those scores went to Randy Moss as Brady bounced back from a mediocre performance in a 28-14 loss to the New York Jets in which he fumbled on the Patriots’ last offensive play.
“He just has this good composure and keeps everything calm and doesn’t let people panic,” Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez said. “When he’s calm, everyone else is calm.”
Brady hasn’t lost to the Bills since the 2003 opener, but they stayed close for most of the game only to be done in by fourth-quarter interceptions by Patrick Chung and Brandon Meriweather.
“Beating them (again) wasn’t easy,” Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo said. “We still have a lot of work to do. Any division game is tough.”
New England tied Miami for the third longest winning streak against a single opponent. The Dolphins beat the Colts in 14 straight games from 1980-1987.
First-round draft pick C.J. Spiller scored his first NFL touchdowns on a 5-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick and a 95-yard kickoff return, but Buffalo’s last chance faded when Fitzpatrick threw an interception to Meriweather with 3 minutes left.
The mobile Fitzpatrick provided a spark after starting in place of Trent Edwards, who led the Bills to the NFL’s least productive offense in the first two weeks of the season. Fitzpatrick completed 20 of 28 passes for 247 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
“We felt like we had a chance and we came up short,” he said. “The offense played better today, but it’s all about winning.”
New England (2-1) took a 17-16 lead at intermission on Stephen Gostkowski’s 43-yard field goal on the last play of the half. Buffalo (0-3) had its best offensive day of the season, but settled for three first-half field goals by Rian Lindell instead of touchdowns.
“We get a couple of touchdowns earlier in the game when we were in the red zone and things may be different,” wide receiver Lee Evans said.
The Bills cut the lead to 38-30 following Fitzpatrick’s 37-yard scoring pass to Steve Johnson with 4:08 left, then got the ball back on a punt. But on the next play, Fitzpatrick overthrew tight end David Nelson on the left side and Meriweather came down with the ball.
“(Fitzpatrick’s) always trying to make a play. You’ve got to give him credit for that,” Bills Coach Chan Gailey said. “I don’t want to temper him, but I want him to be smart.”
BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries for the Patriots, helping make up for the loss of Kevin Faulk. Faulk suffered a season-ending knee injury against the Jets.
“I’m not concerned” about a chance to become the featured back, Green-Ellis said. “I care about winning. I take as much pride in playing special teams.”
A week earlier, Brady completed just 20 of 36 passes for two touchdowns and two interceptions against the Jets after throwing three scoring passes in a season-opening win over the Bengals.
The Bills’ offense was much better than in their first two games. In the first half, they piled up 202 yards after gaining 186 in four quarters in a 34-7 loss to the Packers a week earlier.
After Buffalo went ahead 13-7 following Spiller’s touchdown catch, Danny Woodhead scored on a 22-yard run, his first NFL touchdown.
“It doesn’t matter who they put back there, they are all capable,” Bills linebacker Andra Davis said.
Lindell made it 16-14 with a 34-yard field goal after he kicked a pair of 39-yarders.
Against the Jets, the Patriots were outscored 18-0 in the second half, continuing last year’s trend of struggling down the stretch. But on the first series of the third quarter Sunday, Brady hit Moss for a 35-yard touchdown as the Patriots went ahead 24-16. Moss caught the ball in the middle of the end zone behind two defenders and knocked down back judge Perry Paganelli, who quickly got up and gave the touchdown signal.
“Coming in after making your halftime adjustments, it’s just will and determination and wanting to do it,” Moss said. “In the past, we stubbed our toe, but today was just good from all angles.”
Spiller returned the ensuing kickoff for a touchdown, but the Patriots came right back with a 5-yard scoring pass from Brady to Rob Gronkowski and a 7-yard touchdown run by Green-Ellis for a 38-23 lead.
NOTES: Brady moved into 19th place in NFL history, ahead of Steve Young, with 233 touchdown passes. … The Bills scored on four of their five first-half possessions.