ORCHARD PARK -- It didn't come easily, but Tom Brady's dominance of AFC East rival Buffalo continued Sunday afternoon, as the New England Patriots came back to defeat the Bills 23-21 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Brady guided the Patriots on a clutch drive in the final three minutes that was capped by Stephen Gostkowski's 35-yard field goal with five seconds to go. It marked the 21st time in 23 games that the Pro Bowl quarterback has beaten the Bills. Playing without his top five pass catchers from last season, including injured tight end Rob Gronkowski, Brady struggled mightily. He finished 29-for-52 for 288 yards and two scores. He also was sacked twice, fumbled a snap at the Bills' 1-yard line and was intercepted once.
The win spoiled the NFL debuts of rookie Bills rookie quarterback EJ Manuel and first-year head coach Doug Marrone. Manuel played a solid game, completing 18-of-27 for 150 yards and two touchdowns. In the Bills' 54-year history, their head coaches are 0-16 in their first games with the team.
Danny Amendola had 10 catches for 104 yards in his first game as a Patriot and Julian Edelman caught two touchdown passes. New England running back Shane Vereen rushed for 101 yards on 14 carries and caught seven passes for 79 yards.
Bills star running back C.J. Spiller managed just 41 yards on 17 carries and 14 yards on five receptions.
The Patriots took a 7-0 lead on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Julian Edelman with 4:14 into the game. The score came three plays after Tommy Kelly recovered a fumble by Spiller at the Bills' 15.
New England went up 10-0 on a 48-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski.
The Bills closed the gap to 10-7 midway through the second quarter when free safety Da' Norris Searcy picked up a fumble by running back Stevan Ridley and rumbled 74 yards for a touchdown. Ridley wasn't hit on the play, but stumbled and lost his footing and the ball.
The Patriots capitalized on another Bills turnover to go up 17-7 with 3:45 left in the half on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Edelman. The score was set up when Kyle Arrington stripped Bills receiver Marquise Goodwin and Rob Ninkovich recovered at the Buffalo 32.
The Bills cut it to 17-14 just before intermission on a 19-yard touchdown pass from Manuel to rookie wide receiver Robert Wood. The score came two snaps after Justin Rogers intercepted a pass that went off tight end Zach Sudfield's hands.
The Bills took the lead with a textbook, 11-play, 80-yard drive that was capped by an 11-yard touchdown pass from Manuel to Stevie Johnson. Manuel kept the march alive with a 19-yard scramble.
The Patriots drove 79 yards on their ensuing drive, but were stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 1 when Brady pulled away from center too rapidly and fumbled. The ball was recovered by linebacker Kiko Alonso who ran it to 14-yard line.
New England closed the gap to one point on its next possession as Gostkowski made a 33-yard field goal. The drive stalled when Kyle Williams sacked Brady on a third-and-goal from the 5.
NOTES: Pats linebacker Brandon Spikes left the game in the first quarter because of dehydration. ... As expected, Gronkowski, who is still recuperating from offseason back and forearm surgery, was inactive. ... Manuel became just the fourth QB in Bills history to start a season opener. Dan Darragh (1968), James Harris (1969) and Joe Ferguson (1973) were the others. ... Searcy started at free safety in place of injured Jairus Byrd at free safety, while Justin Rogers replaced injured Stephon Gilmore at right cornerback for the Bills.