Ridley followed with a 1-yard touchdown, and the Patriots were up, 10-0, with 11 minutes gone.
Even though they kept racking up penalties, the Bills did not fall apart, and began moving the ball. By halftime, they’d put 17 points on the board to the Patriots’ 24, and it was a game.
McCourty had two touchdown-saving plays: the interception and a forced fumble on Jackson at the 1 that was recovered by Kyle Arrington. Had the Bills scored they would have been down by just a field goal with about 9½ minutes to go.
Buffalo began that drive at its 6 after yet another penalty, and two defensive penalties on the Patriots helped its cause.
Earlier in the game — penalty, anyone? — the Bills were pushed back to their 10.
Both times they were able to get out of danger.
“Those two situations are bad defense. We want a team backed up in that situation,” McCourty said. “We just have to play better and take advantage of those situations . . . If we just played more consistent and get those things to happen, we’ll be in good shape.”
Taking advantage of situations. Consistency. Avoiding self-inflicted problems like dropped balls (Branch and Wes Welker had key drops), poor tackling, and unnecessary penalties.
Those are things the Patriots have been saying need to happen. Against the Jets, just getting by did not elicit concern in the postgame locker room.
But on Sunday, it was a different story. As Branch said, it was a win, but there’s work to be done.
Shalise Manza Young can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.