FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Tre’Davious White said the message was simple: Don’t do anything to hurt the team.
With significant hype about what might happen in the first meeting with the New England Patriots since Rob Gronkowski’s cheap shot against the Buffalo Bills’ rookie cornerback, the answer was simple: Not much.
Gronkowski finished with 67 yards on five catches and one touchdown, but any retaliation in the form of late or dirty hits didn’t come. In fact, there was very little extracurricular activity of any sort.
“We wanted to give ourselves the best shot to win,” White said. “We can't be taking any penalties or anything like that. We played a clean game. We played within the whistle, and that's all you can ask.”
White said he’s moved on from the play by Gronkowski which came in New England’s Week 13 win in Buffalo.
“Just like any other game,” he said of how he approached the rematch. “I enjoy playing each and every Sunday. I got a great opportunity to play today. We didn't finish. but it's a blessing to do what we do.”
Gronkowski’s dominance of his hometown team shows no signs of slowing down as long as Tom Brady continues to throw him passes. His touchdown reception in the second quarter was a thing of beauty, a spinning, one-handed grab against tight coverage from Micah Hyde.
"The alert was me on a go and just made a play," said Gronkowski, who also dominated as a run blocker. "He put the ball up there where I can only go get it, and I would say it started off in practice the last couple weeks. I mean, we've just been hitting the same page, we've been practicing hard and we've been just working on things and it just pays off – hard work throughout the week."
The Bills were a misearable 0 for 4 in the red zone, a stat that was not lost on McDermott.
"You got to score points in the red zone," McDermott said.
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor traced the problems to a "lack of execution."
"They're a good team in the red zone," he said. "To get down there and not come away with seven on a couple of those drives was definitely disappointing. We have to be better across the board. It starts with me. ... You've got to get seven, especially against this team."
Starting cornerback E.J. Gaines missed Sunday’s game because of a knee injury. Gaines, who was questionable on the final injury report, went through a lengthy on-field workout with strength and conditioning coach Eric Ciano on Sunday morning, but missed his fifth game of the year. Shareece Wright started in Gaines' place.
Also inactive for the Bills were receivers Andre Holmes (neck) and Brandon Reilly, offensive tackle Conor McDermott, guard John Miller (ankle), cornerback Breon Borders and tight end Logan Thomas.
Former Bills wide receiver Chris Hogan was inactive for the Patriots. He's been dealing with a shoulder injury that has interrupted what had been a strong season. Hogan has 34 catches for 439 yards and five touchdowns in nine games.
Also inactive for New England were defensive lineman Alan Branch (knee), linebacker Kyle Van Noy (calf), running backs James White (ankle) and Rex Burkhead (knee), linebacker Trevor Reilly and offensive lineman Cole Croston.
Backup running back Travaris Cadet suffered a broken ankle, McDermott said, and will miss the Bills’ finale against the Miami Dolphins. Safety Micah Hyde was hurt on a play in which he tackled Gronkowski, but said after the game he just had the wind knocked out of him.
Receiver Deonte Thompson also was looked at by trainers after one play, but returned to the game a short time later.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams passed Mario Williams for sixth on the team's all-time sacks list, increasing his total to 43.5. The Bills sacked Brady twice, with Jerry Hughes getting the other one, which was the 40th of his career. ... With four points Sunday, Bills kicker Stephen Hauschka has now recorded 100 points in seven consecutive seasons – tied for the longest active streak in the NFL with New England's Stephen Gostkowski. ... With three receptions Sunday, Charles Clay became the fifth Bills tight end with 150 receptions for the franchise. He joins Pete Metzelaars, Jay Riemersma, Scott Chandler and Lonnie Johnson.