Stevie Johnson told reporters last week that no one on the New England Patriots could cover him. The Buffalo Bills wide receiver was right about that in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game, when Johnson got open on third-and-one at the Buffalo 49-yard line.
But, Johnson dropped the pass, which was thrown slightly in front of him, but appeared to be catchable. Instead of extending their lead, the Bills gave the ball back to the Patriots and never threatened to score again. Later in the quarter, New England drove downfield for the game-winning field goal in a 23-21 opening-day win.
The receiver made a quick exit from the locker room before reporters could ask him questions. However, Johnson was far from the only Bills player to make a crucial mistake Sunday.
"We've got to make plays offensively," center Eric Wood said. "When we do make the plays we can't get them called back on penalties. I don't know how much yardage they took away from us, but it seemed like every big play we had, we're all turning around, the crowd is finicky and there's another flag."
Officials called 10 penalties on Buffalo for 75 yards, compared to New England's four penalties for 36 yards. The Bills also fumbled the ball away twice, which set up New England's only touchdowns.
The mistakes started early in the first quarter, when Kyle Arrington stripped the ball from running back C.J. Spiller and Tommy Kelly recovered it at Buffalo's 16. It only took New England three plays for Brady to find Julian Edelman for the game's first score.
"If you take that away, we have a chance to win the game," Spiller said. "We faced adversity early, but we still had a chance to win, that's the encouraging part. But at the end of the day, I can't put the ball on the ground."
A false-start penalty by Scott Chandler derailed the Bills' next drive and a face-mask penalty on Arthur Moats helped put the Patriots in position for Stephen Gostkowski's 48-yard field goal.
Marquise Goodwin fumbled after making his first NFL reception, leading to Brady's second touchdown of the day in the second quarter.
Buffalo's first-half points came on Da'Norris Searcy's fumble return for a touchdown and Justin Rogers' interception that led to EJ Manuel's touchdown pass to Robert Woods.
The only Buffalo drive that seemed to go according to plan was the one to start the second half, where Manuel guided the Bills on an 11-play, 80-yard touchdown drive, which he finished with an 18-yard touchdown strike to Johnson.
Penalties on Chandler, Kraig Urbik and Cordy Glenn effectively killed other Buffalo drives.
Special teams made mistakes as well, with Leodis McKelvin making a poor decision not to field a punt and T.J. Graham mishandling a kickoff, both giving the Bills poor field position.
Page 2 of 2 - The defense committed penalties to extend a few New England drives, too, and Buffalo had no answer for Brady on the final drive. The quarterback connected on all seven of his passes to put Gostkowski in position for the winning field goal.
This wasn't the first time Buffalo lost a winnable game against New England. The Bills were in both games last year, but couldn't close the game out. Buffalo is 2-19 in its last 21 games against New England.
"Obviously we're disappointed," Fred Jackson said. "We'll go back and look at the film and a lot of the things that happened this week were self-inflicted. Not to take anything away (from them), they made plays when they had the opportunity and we left a lot out there. If we take a look at the film and realize the mistakes we made, (we'll see) that could've be a different outcome."
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