So far, Tom Brady and the defending Super Bowl champions have not been fazed the least bit at Ralph Wilson Stadium as the New England Patriots lead Buffalo, 24-13.
A few halftime thoughts...
Bills offense sharp, then stalls: The Bills were a knife through butter on their first possession, stringing together a 10-play, 80-yard drive capped by a Karlos Williams touchdown. LeSean McCoy's hamstring looked just fine (he has 44 yards on 10 carries) and Tyrod Taylor broke free on a 23-yard run. Then, suddenly, the unit went stale. Buffalo had two 3-and-out's, an interception and another 3-and-out in ugly, ugly fashion. After Bill Belichick decided to go for it on fourth and 1 at midfield and failed, Percy Harvin drew a deep defensive pass interference penalty and Taylor hit Charles Clay for a nine-yard touchdown. That Dan Carpenter missed extra point could come back to Buffalo, too.
"Gronk" Alert: The Patriots out-schemed Ryan with their No. 1 weapon in the first half. Tight end Rob Gronkowski ran a slant on Stephon Gilmore for a touchdown, as some Bills players appeared unhappy with Duke Williams. It appeared the safety was supposed to provide help inside the play. It hasn't been all Gronkowski. Brady has already completed passes to seven different receivers.
Penalties galore: Penalties have doomed Buffalo's special teams play so far. A week ago, Indy had the awful field position. This week, it's Buffalo. And, in total, the Bills already have eight penalties for 74 yards. Several big plays --- a long McCoy reception, a Bills sack, a long Corey Graham return on a fumble --- have been negated by penalties from taunting to holding to unnecessary roughness, you name it. Rex Ryan wanted his team jacked up for this one but they've been playing over the edge too much so far and it's costing them.
Taylor kept in check: Bill Belichick's plan for Taylor is working so far --- the dual-threat quarterback has not been able to escape the pocket much at all. Patriots defensive end Chandler Jones already has a pair of sacks on Taylor. There haven't been any alleys for the mobile QB. And with pressure in his face from the pocket, Taylor has made some poor decisions. One pass sailed over Clay's head and was intercepted by Malcolm Butler. Another sailed over Sammy Watkins' head (and then some) and was picked off. Taylor has also missed some open receivers deep at times in the first half. He's 12 of 16 for 68 yards. He'll need to make plays down the field for Buffalo's offense to kick into gear. So far, offensive coordinator Greg Roman has been dinking and dunking with receiver screens and short passes. We'll see if that changes.
Tom Brady unaffected: Andrew Luck was rattled, Tom Brady is in a rhythm. The Super Bowl MVP is 18 of 27 for 194 yards with two touchdowns. The noise, the atmosphere, the pass rush have not affected Brady whatsoever. He's picking this defense apart.
His name is Dion Lewis: Rex Ryan said he didn't even know the name of the Patriots' running back early in the week and then, on Wednesday, said the Pats would be using LeGarrette Blount. Welp. About that. Lewis did have a fumble (that didn't lead to any points), but he also scored a touchdown and then burnt linebacker Nigel Bradham up the sideline to haul in a 40-yard reception that set up a 46-yard Stephen Gostowski field goal. He'll be a factor in the second half. Lewis has 88 total yards on seven touches.