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Patriots kept their emotions in check against Bills

There were heavy hits delivered on Sunday, including this stop of Bills running back Karlos Williams by Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower.
There were heavy hits delivered on Sunday, including this stop of Bills running back Karlos Williams by Patriots linebacker Dont’a Hightower.Timothy Ludwig/USA Today Sports

FOXBOROUGH — Matthew Slater is used to delivering some well-timed shots. He’s used to absorbing them, too.

The special teams ace, known for his big open-field hits, said Monday he knows the Patriots have a target on their backs this season as the reigning Super Bowl champions, and he said it’s important to stay focused on the task at hand when teams try to take liberties.

Exhibit A was Sunday’s victory, when the Bills were called for two personal foul penalties (one was declined) and an unnecessary roughness infraction as part of their 14-penalty day in a 40-32 loss.

“I think, overall, we did a good job of controlling our emotions,’’ said Slater, a team captain for the fifth straight season. “Obviously it was chippy and the referees were letting a lot go, letting us play, so we have to do a good job of keeping our heads. Teams, for whatever reason, come out and try to intimidate us in that way, and that’s something we’re going to have to get used to seeing throughout the course of the year.’’

Bills coach Rex Ryan, who complained about the disparity in the calls after the game — New England was called for 11 — and didn’t back off those statements Monday. He said referees missed several plays the Patriots should have been flagged for.

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“They outplayed us, they outcoached us, they outdid whatever,’’ said Ryan. “But there’s different ways of chatting and all that type of stuff, too. Let’s face it: New England is not exactly the Boy Scouts of America, all right? So you can say what you want, but the tape doesn’t lie, either.’’

Ryan did say that his players “just got to be smart, we got to learn to walk away from things, that’s what we’ll do.’’

The Bills coach was hit with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, too.

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Rough start

Bill Belichick said there was no one, specific adjustment he made after the Bills’ successful opening drive — a 10-play, 80-yard march that ended with Karlos Williams’s 2-yard run. The drive featured seven runs and three passes.

“They hit us on a number of plays on that first drive. It wasn’t just one thing,’’ said Belichick. “It wasn’t like we were just talking about one play there. We had a number of things.

“I think what helped us [on later possessions], we had some negative plays, we were able to create some long-yardage situations, and as I said when [quarterback Tyrod] Taylor was in the pocket, even though he made a couple of plays, obviously, he hurt us a lot less than when he got outside of the pocket. We did a better job controlling him that second quarter than let’s say we did in the fourth quarter, for an example.’’

Of that fourth quarter, when Buffalo made a startling comeback to trim a 37-13 deficit to 37-32, Slater said he didn’t think it was a case of the Patriots relaxing with a big lead, he instead credited the Bills with making plays. He also said his team needs to improve on closing games out.

“We were all watching the game, we saw the way they got back in the game there in the fourth quarter. I think all three phases would have liked to have executed at a higher level in the fourth quarter and that’s something we’re going to have to be able to do as the season goes along.’’

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Scary sight

Slater said it was hard to see Bills safety Aaron Williams being removed from the field via ambulance with a neck injury following his diving attempt at stopping Julian Edelman. “Very difficult to see a guy get carted off like that when you don’t know the nature of his injury. It’s tough. There’s a human element involved in this game and you hate to see those type of injuries, but you know you have to find a way to refocus yourself and I think we did a good job of that.’’ Williams was released from the hospital shortly after the game after a series of tests. He reported to the team’s facility Monday wearing a neck brace. Ryan said it’s ‘‘probably a stretch’’ to expect Williams to play Sunday at Miami . . . According to a NESN report, the Patriots worked out defensive linemen Toby Johnson, Kenrick Ellis, and Ishmaa’ily Kitchen on Monday.

. . . Slater will be a guest at the Birchwood Middle School in North Providence on Tuesday. He will speak to students on the importance of education, teamwork, and responsibility to the community.


Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globejimmcbride.