FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – Tom Brady’s season got off to a terrible start – a touchdown by his opponents on his very first play.

On Sunday he gets to face them again.

Buffalo’s Takeo Spikes, unblocked on a blitz, smacked Brady as the Patriots quarterback drew his arm back to pass on Sept. 10. Brady and the ball tumbled to the ground. London Fletcher scooped the ball up and rambled 11 yards for a touchdown.

Twelve seconds into the game and the score was Buffalo 7, New England 0.

Brady headed for the sideline. The home crowd sat stunned.

“I remember right after it happened I ran off the field and I said, “that’s a hell of a way to start the season,’ ” Brady said Wednesday. “We were watching it today so I’m sick of seeing that play. I’ve seen it probably 30 times in the last six weeks. I’m trying to put that one out of my mind.”

When the Patriots got the ball back, they marched 80 yards to Brady’s 9-year touchdown pass to Troy Brown. But it took a fourth quarter safety for them to win 19-17.

They’ve turned the ball over just five times since Brady’s opening fumble and lead the AFC East with a 4-1 record. The Bills are third in the division at 2-4 with two straight losses and have recovered just one fumble since Brady’s.

But they do have 17 sacks – the Patriots have only 12 – and are at home for Sunday’s rematch.

“You never know what’s going to happen in the first game and we especially didn’t know but we just had to move on from that, put that out of our minds,” center Dan Koppen said. “But, going up there, we can’t do that. We have to execute better from the start.”

They couldn’t do much worse.

On that first play, Brady had two blockers for three defenders and Spikes, a linebacker, blitzed from Brady’s left side.

Tight end Benjamin Watson, who lined up on that side, and the only running back, Corey Dillon, ran pass patterns. Patriots left guard Logan Mankins blocked Larry Triplett to Brady’s right and left tackle Matt Light blocked Aaron Schobel to the left.

That left a huge gap for Spikes to hit at full speed.

“I knew what went wrong the second I felt the guy hit me,” Brady said. “He hit me in the back. It was just a poor decision by me in terms of our protection. I wasn’t as aware on the first play of the season as I would have liked to have been.”

He’s been sacked just four times since then, but coach Bill Belichick said the Bills present a variety of defensive looks.

“They have all of the different blitz zone combinations pretty much that you could possibly run,” he said, “a lot of stunting up front with their defensive line. They’re very quick.”

Brady has had a lot more time to study a lot more video than before the first game. He said the blitz that fooled him on the first play hadn’t been used by the Bills during their exhibition games.

But New England had a bye last week and now can watch video of all six Buffalo games.

“We’ve got a little bit more to watch now,” Light said. “I’m sure that they’ll dial up something special for us in this game. It’s just a matter of how well we react to it.”

Quarterbacks performances often are judged on their statistics. Brady is just 16th in passer rating and 30th in completion percentage in the NFL. But they’re also responsible for setting up their protection when they get to the line of scrimmage and see the defensive alignment.

“One of my biggest responsibilities here is always getting us in the right protection,” Brady said. “I hate it when it doesn’t go the right way. It doesn’t happen very often that we don’t pick up exactly who we want to pick up so it is challenging.

“But I’ve been around a long time so I can feel like I can get us in the right protection probably 99 percent of the time.”

After Spikes’ sack, Brady was wrong 100 percent of the time this season.

“Being down seven like five seconds into the year was not really what I was dreaming of the night before the game,” he said. “We actually put together a nice touchdown drive after that strip sack.”

But it’s no fun seeing it again and again and again even though viewing the video is designed to avoid a repeat.

“They had done something they hadn’t done the entire preseason, so they kind of got me on it,” Brady said. “I learned a lesson.”

AP-ES-10-18-06 1848EDT


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