Staring down the barrel of a 1-3 season may have woke the Patriots up early in the third quarter of Sunday's 52-28 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Receiver Donald Jones had just caught a pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick over the middle and raced 68 yards for a touchdown, putting the Bills up, 21-7, over their AFC East rivals.
Then something clicked.
"We realized that we had to execute a lot better than we had been," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "We talked about it on the sideline and and we talked about it at half, in order to score points, we had to really stop stubbing our toes."
The Patriots followed with a methodical eight-play, 80-yard drive, capped by a scrambling Brady passing to Danny Woodhead for a 17-yard touchdown. After that, the Patriots didn't look back, reeling off 35 straight points and outscoring the Bills, 45-7, the rest of the way.
"We were down 21-7, or whatever it was, on the road," Brady said. "Backs against the wall. And I thought we showed a lot of heart. And that's what this team is made of, and we're going to battle until the end, I know that."
What hadn't worked against Arizona and what failed in Baltimore, somehow came together in Buffalo. While Brady threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns on 22 of 36 passing, his teammates made plays when given the opportunity.
Devin McCourty, who let two interceptions slip through his fingers against the Ravens in Week 3, picked off Fitzpatrick twice today, as if to make amends. The running game, which had been a non-factor in losses to the Ravens and Cardinals, got a lift from Brandon Bolden, who finished with 137 yards on 16 carries. Stevan Ridley added 106 yards on 22 carries.
"We lost two in a row, we go on the road, our fifth and sixth on the road including the preseason," Brady said. 'We had two really tough losses, games that we expected to win. Then you come and play against a team that we lost to last year up 21 points, and we showed a lot of heart. That's a lot of adversity we faced and I thought we did a really good job of responding to that in the second half."