ORCHARD PARK, NY (WKBW) - A new head coach, new look defense and a rookie quarterback couldn't change a familiar outcome at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday as the Bills drop the season opener to the New England Patriots by a final 23-21.
The Buffalo offense struggled early gaining less than 40 yards in the first quarter, while turning the ball over twice in the first half, both resulting in New England touchdowns.
The Patriots struck first off a CJ Spiller fumble at his own 12 yard line. Tom Brady hit Julian Edelman in the back of the end-zone from 9-yards out for the score.
After just one first down the Bills were forced to punt and an Arthur Moats penalty gave New England the ball back at the 50, setting up another short drive resulting in a 48-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.
The Patriots led 10-0 after the first quarter.
The Bills get on the board in the 2nd quarter after a fluke fumble by Patriots running back Stevan Ridley.
Ridley slipped and fell to the ground causing the ball to jar loose, but the third-year back was never touched by a defending player. Safety Da'Norris picked-up the loose ball and returned it 74-yards for the touchdown.
The momentum began to shift towards the Bills late in the 2nd quarter when Justin Rogers picked-off a Tom Brady pass with just over a minute to go.
Just two plays later EJ Manuel connects with fellow rookie Robert Woods for an 18-yard touchdown, the first career touchdown for both players, making it 17-14 Patriots at halftime.
The very first drive of the 2nd half went 11 plays and 80-yards, capped off by an 18-yard strike from Manuel to Stevie Johnson in the back of the end-zone giving the Bills their first lead of the game, 21-17.
It was a lead they would carry until the final seconds of the game.
The Bills managed just two first downs the entire fourth quarter, one of which came off a penalty. Stevie Johnson also dropped a would-be first down pass with just over five-minutes to go in the game.
Tom Brady connected four times with wide-out Danny Amendola in the final drive, including a spectacular catch on third down with just over a minute to play.
From there the Patriots would line-up a chip-shot for Gostkowski who hit the game-winner from 35-yards out.
In his NFL debut, rookie EJ Manuel impressed, going 18-for-27 for 150 yards and 2 TD's for 105.5 QB rating. He also managed 23 yards on the ground which included a nice 19-yard scramble to avoid pressure on the opening drive of the 3rd quarter.
Fred Jackson became the back of choice after CJ Spiller struggled to move the ball. Spiller picked-up just 41 yards on 17 carries, while Jackson netted 67 yards on 13 carries.
Penalties and miscues hurt the Bills throughout the game. Buffalo was penalized 10 times for 75 yards, compared to just 4 penalties for 36 yards against the Patriots.
The Bills defense, which held the team in it early, gave up 431 total net yards to the Patriots offense and managed to sack Tom Brady twice.
Rookie wide receive Marquise Goodwin left the game in the first half with a hand injury and did not return.
The Bills host the Carolina Panthers next Sunday at home for a 1:00 p.m. kickoff.