ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel and the new-look Buffalo Bills opened the season with a familiar lament.
No matter how many times the Bills retool their roster, they almost always find a way to lose to Tom Brady and the New England Patriots.
"Obviously, Tom Brady is a great quarterback and is going to go into the Hall of Fame," Manuel said. "But at the end of the day, you want to win. That's how I see it."
What Manuel and rookie head coach Doug Marrone instead saw was Brady marching the Patriots 49 yards on 12 plays to set up Stephen Gostkowski's 35-yard field goal with 5 seconds left to secure a 23-21 victory Sunday. With that, Brady shrugged off a sloppy start to improve his career record to 21-2 against the Patriots' AFC East rival.
It's a string that dates to 2001, making Manuel the eighth Bills starter Brady has out-dueled. It's a list that includes Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe and Ryan Fitzpatrick, Manuel's immediate predecessor.
Brady acknowledged he was far from perfect and still getting accustomed to the Patriots' new group of receivers.
"I think we have a long way to go," said Brady, who finished 29 of 52 for 288 yards passing, with two touchdowns to Julian Edelman, an interception and a fumbled snap at the goal line. "But I am glad we started with a win. It feels a lot better than losing."
It marked the 36th time in Brady's career — and fifth against Buffalo — that he's led the Patriots to victory when tied or trailing in the fourth quarter.
Here's five reasons the Patriots beat the Bills:
1. AMENDOLA CATCHING ON: With Wes Welker's offseason departure, the Patriots turned their attention to sign free-agent Danny Amendola in hopes he can develop into Brady's favorite receiver.
So far, so good. Amendola shook off a nagging groin injury he aggravated late in the first half to finish with a game-best 10 catches for 104 yards. Three of his catches came on the final drive, all for first downs, including a 10-yard reception in traffic to convert a third-and-8.
"We all know Tom has been in this situation before: He's really one of the best," Amendola said. "We really rallied behind him."
Brady credited Amendola for persevering through his injury.
"He really toughed it out," Brady said.
Edelman had seven catches for 79 yards.
The biggest disappointment was rookie Kenbrell Thompkins, who had several drops, including one in the end zone. Thompkins had four catches for 42 yards, but was targeted 14 times. With Rob Gronkowski sidelined (back/forearm), the Patriots' tight ends combined for one catch — Michael Hoomanawanui for 5 yards.