ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Patriots owner Robert Kraft waited in the Ralph Wilson Stadium tunnel to welcome back the regular NFL officials, who returned from a lockout after reaching a new eight-year agreement with the NFL.
After shaking hands with most of the members of referee John Parry's crew, Kraft stuck around for Tom Brady to congratulate the quarterback as the two laughed and chatted on their way to the locker room.
Just like that, all seems well in New England (2-2) once again.
Brady shook off a sloppy first half to direct six consecutive touchdown drives in 52-28 rout of the Buffalo Bills (2-2) on Sunday. And whatever concerns the Patriots had after two consecutive losses — and coach Bill Belichick getting fined $50,000 for losing his cool with the replacement officials following a 31-30 loss at Baltimore — suddenly seem like distant memories.
"It was pretty personal," Brady said, when asked what he and Kraft discussed.
So might have been this game.
At a time when the Patriots' supremacy was being questioned, and the team was in jeopardy of losing three straight for the first time in 10 years, Brady and Co. rallied from a 14-point deficit with a remarkably efficient and dominating second half.
"We were down whatever it was, 21-7, on the road, our backs against the wall, and I thought we showed a lot of heart," Brady said. "That's what this team is made of. We're going to battle until the end."
Brady finished 22 of 36 for 340 yards and three touchdowns, Stevan Ridley scored two TDs rushing, and the Patriots defense did the rest by forcing six turnovers and getting three sacks.
Just don't try to convince the Patriots that they made it look easy in beating a familiar AFC East patsy.
"It's not as easy as it looks," tight end Rob Gronkowski said. "Overall, everyone just came together, chemistry, and worked hard, and things went rolling from the third quarter on."
Gronkowski's 28-yard touchdown catch on the first play of the fourth quarter made it 28-21 to put the Patriots up for good. And it came during a span of 12:41 in which New England scored 35 unanswered points.
The Patriots had two receivers break 100 yards, Gronkowski (104) and Wes Welker (129), and two running backs do the same Ridley (106) and Brandon Bolden (137).
"We just played and executed better," Belichick said. "It's no magic."
Magic no. Familiar, yes.
Fans of the ever-bumbling Bills — a team that's gone 12 straight seasons without a playoff berth and dropped to 4-22 against division foes since 2008 — have seen this outcome many times before in dropping to 1-17 in their past 18 meetings against New England, and 2-22 since the 2000 season