|Drew Bledsoe reacts to one of his four interceptions in his New England homecoming.(AP)|
This was Bledsoe's first game at New England since the team traded him following their Super Bowl victory.
"Every game I've ever played I've taken personally, this one more than most," Bledsoe said. "With the turnovers, it falls heavily on my shoulders."
At least Bledsoe reached the playoffs last season with the Patriots. He suffered a severe chest injury late in the second game, and Brady took over. Brady kept the job after Bledsoe healed, then became the MVP of the Super Bowl, which Bledsoe watched from the sideline.
Bledsoe's career was revived in Buffalo, and he helped the Bills go from a 3-13 season to challenging for the playoffs. But on Sunday, he threw his most interceptions in 33 games, and the Bills lost for the fourth time in five games.
"It feels weird" facing Bledsoe, Patriots center Damien Woody said. "I think the trade worked out well for both teams. It certainly worked out for us."
New England led 20-0 at halftime on the way to its fifth victory in six games.
"With everybody so bunched together in the standings, we have to be in playoff mode," New England safety Lawyer Milloy said. "We understand that each week, if you lose a game, you could be bumped out of the playoffs."
The Bills certainly do.
"We need to concentrate on the next three games and, hopefully, we get a little help" from other teams, Buffalo tight end Dave Moore said.
Bledsoe received a standing ovation before Sunday's game. One fan held a sign reading, "Hey Drew Thanks For The Memories."
Once the game started, the crowd roared for Brady, who completed 15 of 27 passes for 183 yards and no interceptions. Bledsoe went 32-for-51 for 328 yards and two touchdowns.
"We figured we could put pressure in his face instead of around the edges," Patriots cornerback Otis Smith said.
The Patriots dominated Buffalo for the second time in barely a month. New England won 38-7 at Buffalo on Nov. 3 to start the Patriots' current surge.
They scored on all four of their first-half possessions and could have had more, but two apparent touchdown passes were nullified by penalties in the half.
The Bills cut the lead to 20-10 in the third quarter on a 26-yard field goal by Mike Hollis and a 12-yard pass from Bledsoe to Eric Moulds, who also caught a 4-yard scoring pass with 1:05 left.
"We came out with some spirit and fire in the second half, but we weren't able to make up for our mistakes," Buffalo coach Gregg Williams said.
Buffalo showed none of the big-play spark of a week ago, when Bledsoe threw scoring passes of 73, 57 and 20 yards in a 38-21 home victory over Miami in cold and snow.
Sunday's weather was much better - 44 degrees and a partly cloudy sky at game time - but the Bills were worse.
Brady downplayed his matchup with his friend, Bledsoe.
"Once the game starts, I don't even think about it," Brady said. "I am always enjoying when the (defensive) team is picking the other quarterback over."
The Patriots started with a surprise.
Brady, 4-0 against the Bills, answered critics of his deep-throwing ability by completing a 41-yard pass to Deion Branch on the first offensive play of the game. Brady's only longer pass this season was 49 yards to Branch.
On the next play, Bledsoe's pass was tipped by Anthony Pleasant and intercepted by Richard Seymour. Starting at the Buffalo 9, the Patriots scored on a 9-yard pass to Donald Hayes on the second play, their second touchdown in 21 seconds.
The Patriots seemed to have scored another touchdown late in the second quarter on a trick play, a 23-yard pass from Faulk to Brady. But a penalty nullified that, and Vinatieri kicked a 46-yarder for the 20-0 lead.
- There were two sacks in the game, both against Bledsoe. For the season, the Bills have allowed 44 sacks and have just 24 against opponents.
- Bledsoe set a single-season team record with his seventh 300-yard passing game. Jim Kelly had six.
- Brady has thrown six of his 26 scoring passes against the Bills.
The Associated Press News Service
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