ORCHARD, PARK, N.Y. -- Bill Belichick often says he has to review the tape before commenting on the performance of players or how a unit executed. He made an exception of sorts after the New England Patriots' 40-32 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Asked about the offensive line, he said, "I thought they did a pretty good job. If I remember correctly, I don't think either sack had anything to do with the offensive line."
That Belichick instantly spared the line's accountability highlighted how pleased he was with its performance. After all, that was supposed to be the area the Bills, with a potent, high-priced defensive line, had the decisive advantage.
"We were going to put it on our front four," acknowledged Buffalo head coach Rex Ryan. "Going in, we thought we had decent matchups but obviously it never panned out that way."
The reason it didn't was two-fold.
First, the Patriots' trio of rookie interior linemen -- undrafted center David Andrews and fourth-round guards Shaq Mason (left guard) and Tre' Jackson (right guard) -- mostly held their ground in a hostile environment. Andrews went wire to wire, while Mason (57 snaps) and Jackson (27) rotated opposite third-year man Josh Kline.
Second, Belichick and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels drew up a brilliant game plan that had the ball out of quarterback Tom Brady's hands so quickly, it had the Bills frustrated.
"He wasn't holding on to the ball long enough to allow our pass rush to get there," lamented Buffalo safety Bacarri Rambo. "We have four guys that can get home each and every play if they want, but it wasn't even on them by getting home; it's Brady just knew where the ball was [going] as soon as he got it -- one, two, the ball was gone. So it had nothing to do with the pass rush."
When Ryan talks about being outcoached by Belichick and the Patriots, this is one example of what he was referencing.
The strength of the Bills' defense is ends Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes, and tackles Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams. They can take over a game, and that's why the Bills have them accounting for 34 percent of the team's salary cap space.
While Patriots starting tackles Nate Solder and Sebastian Vollmer have fared well against the ends in the past, the bigger question was on the interior, especially with the Patriots totaling 59 pass attempts.
"They played great, and they've been coming together since the spring," Brady said. "It was a big challenge, certainly the crowd noise and the quality of the players we faced -- I thought they were pretty great. They stepped up to the challenge."