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Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski misses another extra point

Stephen Gostkowski could not convert after the Patriots took a 6-0 lead in the first quarterbarry chin/Globe Staff

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Stephen Gostkowski missed his fourth extra point of the season, sailing his kick after Brandon Bolden’s 4-yard touchdown run had given the Patriots a 6-0 lead in the first quarter.

The 14-year veteran, who signed a two-year extension in the offseason, missed just one PAT last season and only two in 2017.

Coach Bill Belichick spoke in more general terms when asked if he thought it was time to bring in another kicker to provide some competition for Gostkowski.

“Well, I think we’re all going to look back on this game and say, ‘There are some things we can improve on.’ Certainly, I know I feel that way. We have a hard-working team, I have a lot of confidence in our team. We’ll just keep working hard to do things better and do them better next week.’’


More Patriots-Bills

- Resilient Tom Brady managed the game, and came out on top — as usual

- J.C. Jackson has day to remember with blocked punt, two picks

- Patriots sure could have used a playmaker — like Antonio Brown

Slater savors first TD

Matthew Slater felt his eyes get “huge” and felt his heart get pumped. The football was loose, thanks to J.C. Jackson blocking a punt, and Slater, the Patriots’ longtime special teams captain, knew it could be his. He scooped it up, and 11 yards later, sailed into the end zone. He dropped to his knees, slid forward about 1 more yard, and raised his arms wide to the skies. Then he felt one thought come into his head.

“Thank you, Jesus,” he acknowledged later.

While he celebrated on the field, his touchdown giving the Patriots a 13-0 first-quarter lead in what would become a 16-10 win over the AFC East rival Bills, teammates around him went nuts. There was quarterback Tom Brady on the sideline, his own arms raised in triumph, his face split all but in half thanks to the size of his grin. To watch Slater, the 12th-year pro with three Super Bowl rings and seven Pro Bowl selections to his name, score his first career touchdown was almost too much for them to take.


“I was hoping to throw him one at some point,” Brady said afterward. “He might have had a shot in ’11 on a post, but he kind of fell down as he caught it. It was great to see him get in the end zone. He’s going to keep that ball.”

Even better, he’s going to keep the memory.

“You play this game a long time and I think everyone dreams of scoring a touchdown at some point,” Slater said. “After 12 years, I was dreaming about scoring touchdowns less and less than I was early on. I’m just thankful to be in the right place at the right time, and I thank God for that opportunity. It was an awesome experience.

“My eyes were huge. You dream as a kid of being able to score and even though I’m 34 years old I’m still a kid so I can dream. Man, God is good.”

The Patriots, now 4-0, escaped with the win in large part thanks to that play, which started when Jackson exploded off his line and got his hand on the ball, and ended when Slater carried it in.


“It’s always good when you score a touchdown and I don’t care who scores,” coach Bill Belichick said. “Nobody works harder than Matt at his craft, and some great, great play by our special teams unit, they take so much pride in what they do . . . The execution – got a good jump on the ball, and J.C. made a great play. Slater turned it into points. I was ecstatic that we scored.”

He was not alone.

Matthew Slater celebrates his first NFL touchdown while surrounded by teammates.Barry Chin/The Boston Globe/Globe Staff

Hightower out

Dont’a Hightower led the list of Patriots inactives. The standout linebacker injured his shoulder late in the Jets game and was limited all week in practice. He tested the shoulder during a pregame workout but looked uncomfortable.

With Hightower out, Jamie Collins wore the green dot as the play-caller and main communicator on defense.

Also inactive were corner Joejuan Williams, running back Damien Harris, defensive tackle Byron Cowart, offensive linemen Korey Cunningham and Caleb Benenoch, and quarterback Cody Kessler.

Staying retired

Rob Gronkowski always looked forward to the Patriots annual trip to Western New York as it served as a sort of family reunion for the tight end, who grew up in nearby Williamsville.

Though Gronkowski planned on watching Sunday’s game from Florida, according to the Buffalo News, he was still making headlines.

In a story in the News, Gronkowski again talked about feeling better physically, but also gave perhaps his strongest indication he won’t be returning to the Patriots any time soon.

Gronkowski was asked if feels as if he’s “missing out” with his old team off to a fast start this season.


“No,’’ he said. “I had to make that decision and I’m very satisfied and very happy with where I am with that decision. I even thought about stuff like that before I made that decision, how I would feel and all that during the season. I can’t look back . . . I knew I had a mission to take care of myself and to get myself healthy so I can enjoy life.’’

Poor execution

Bills quarterback Josh Allen struggled with his decision-making, accuracy and turnovers, finishing 13 for 28 for 153 yards and three costly interceptions — something he absolutely had to avoid if he hoped to put his team in position to pull off the upset.

Coach Sean McDermott acknowledged the growing pains associated with his second-year starter. “He didn’t take what the defense was giving him,’’ McDermott said. “He got away from that. We’re going to continue to drill that home. He has to learn from that.’’

Asked if it was hard not to feel as if his team let the uncharacteristically out-of-synch Patriots off the hook, McDermott said, “We had opportunities. I thought our defense played outstanding. They blocked a punt. They turned the ball over, we had a chance to win the game multiple times there, we’ve got to learn from this and continue to grow as a football team.

Particularly troubling was his team’s ball security, which had been a point of emphasis in practice.


“It’s something we have to continue to harp on, and he has to continue to learn,’’ McDermott said. “He’s a young quarterback, and sometimes they have to learn those hard lessons. We have to continue to coach it up.

“Our defense gave us a chance to win the game today. I appreciate that effort. I thought it was a good plan. That’s a good [Patriots] offense.”

As for this being a measuring stick type of game, McDermott would only allow that he knows where the Bills are headed as an organization.

“We’ve got to continue to grow, and continue to learn from these type of opportunities and these type of challenges. Give them credit, they won the game.”

Related: Bills take issue with no ejection after Josh Allen gets hit

Four in a row

Devin McCourty intercepted Allen in the first quarter and now has a pick in all four games. That ties the franchise mark originally set by Hall of Famer Mike Haynes in 1976. By beating the Bills, the Patriots ensured they will avoid being swept by an AFC East foe for the 19th straight season, extending their NFL record. It is the longest such streak since the 1970 merger . . . The Patriots registered at least five sacks for the third straight game and have 18 on the season . . . The Patriots moved to 4-0 for the ninth time in franchise history and the fifth time under Belichick . . . Bills fans Mackenzie Park and Jordan Binggeli were married at halftime in front of the gameday crowd at New Era Field.

Nora Princiotti and Scott Thurston of the Globe staff contributed to this report.