Patriots Pull Out Of Funk Bledsoe, Martin Lead Way As New England Trips Bills
The Buffalo Bills were missing coach Marv Levy, Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed.
The New England Patriots, for a change, found an offense.
The Patriots pulled out of their five-game tailspin and surprised the first-place Buffalo Bills 27-14 in the first Monday night game at Foxboro in 14 years.
“That, by far, was our best effort of the year,” Patriots coach Bill Parcells said. “I by no means think that we’ve turned any corners or anything.
“Coincidentally, we beat a team that’s leading the division. This division is a long way from over.”
The Bills (5-2) remained in first place in the AFC East. The Patriots (2-5) were the NFL’s lowest-scoring team, but renewed their playoff hopes against a team that began the weekend with the NFL’s top-rated defense.
“There was a little more emotion, a little more attitude,” quarterback Drew Bledsoe said. “Part of that was because it was Monday night. Part of it was because our fans were fired up.”
A big part of it was the play of the offensive line and the running of rookie Curtis Martin. He rushed 36 times for a career-high 127 yards and one touchdown as the Patriots jumped to a 21-6 lead in the second quarter.
“We got to use our whole offense,” Martin said. “Before, we fell behind and had to go to our passing game. Getting the lead and keeping it allowed us to do more offensively.”
“The difference was controlling the line of scrimmage,” said Bledsoe, who completed 23 of 40 passes for 262 yards and a touchdown. “When you control the line of scrimmage in this league, you’re going to win the ballgame.”
The Patriots finished last season with seven straight wins but have fallen far short of preseason expectations this year. The Bills, who missed the playoffs last season after four straight Super Bowl appearances, have exceeded expectations.
But they began Monday night’s game shorthanded. Levy is recovering from surgery for prostate cancer, and Reed missed his second straight game with a hamstring injury. Then, 6 minutes into Monday night’s game, Thomas was lost with a pulled left hamstring.
“It pretty much screwed up what we wanted to do,” Bills quarterback Jim Kelly said. “Andre went out. That’s two key players right there. It’s definitely not a plus for our offense.”
“Obviously, there was something I didn’t do for the team that the team needed,” said assistant head coach Elijah Pitts, who took over for Levy.
But he minimized the absence of Thomas, saying, “we did exactly the same thing we had planned for Thurman. We didn’t back down with anything we had. It just didn’t work.”
“I’m disappointed for Eli,” Buffalo’s Steve Tasker said. “He handled us as well as he possibly could have. I know the most disappointing thing for all these guys is we didn’t win it for him and for Marv.”
The Patriots, in their first Monday night game in eight seasons, recovered three fumbles and had four sacks against a team that had lost just three fumbles and been sacked seven times all season.
Bledsoe, who didn’t throw a touchdown pass until his fifth game of the season, threw a 5-yard TD to Vincent Brisby.
Martin scored on a 20-yard run. He had rushed for 102 yards in his pro debut but only 186 in his next five games.
© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.