FOXBORO - On a day when Danny Woodhead recorded his first multiple-touchdown game, it was fitting the New England Patriots honored his franchise ancestor, third-down back extrarodinaire Kevin Faulk.
The 36-year-old veteran of 13 seasons called it quits about a month into the 2012 season, when the familiar calls from longtime coach Bill Belichick stopped coming. The three-time Super Bowl champion was an integral tertiary piece for the Patriots, a reliable pivot on third-and-short via pass or run.
In a halftime ceremony in the north end zone, Faulk thanked the fans who offered kind words in the difficult early weeks after his career came to an end.
"I didn't really know how I was going to accept not playing football anymore, but you are the ones who got me through it," Faulk told the crowd. "From the Twitter messages, personal messages you sent me and let me know how I played the game of football is how it is really meant to be played, I want to thank you once again for all those kind words that helped me."
Speaking with media members after his address to the crowd, Faulk most wanted to express gratification for the indelible memories he had at Gillette Stadium. The memories were too numerous to count or quantify, but the significance of playing for three championship teams was starting to settle in with his playing days over.
"Now it's an important thing, but that very first one, it was just ugly," he said, recalling the over-the-top celebration after defeating the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. "(I'm) excited, happy to have done it. When it was done, you were ready to prepare to try to get another one. Now, a few years - well, a lot of years later, it's one of the most gratifying things."
After thanking his family, the organization and the Kraft family, Faulk felt the need to clear the air about his relationship with Tom Brady, which some believed had gone sour.
"There's nothing going wrong between Tom Brady and Kevin Faulk," he told the fans. "Tom Brady is the person and probably the reason why this organization is where it is today He is a pillar for this New England Patriots organization, and I want to tell him thank you."
Addressing the media, he called that speculation a "slap in the face. All the guys that I played with, I can possibly say I played with one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game."
Faulk ended his career last season as the team's all-time leader in all-purpose yards (12,349).
Prior to the game, members of the military unfurled a field-long flag of the United States of America. Several players on both sidelines grabbed hold where possible to show their appreciation on Veteran's Day. Two days earlier, the organization unveiled a black seat in the stadium's south end zone, which will go permanently unoccupied in memory of veterans who are Prisoners of War or Missing in Action. Several Patriots players voiced their appreciation of past and present service members after speaking with the media. "I want to give a shout out to all the veterans out there," said . "Without them, we wouldn't be playing right now. They do a great job fighting for our country. We appreciate everything they do." Said head coach : "We all know that really (football) is a part of our way of life and they protect it for us, and we appreciate that."
First things first
Before Sunday afternoon's game, New England had been on the wrong end of halftime deficits in the teams' previous three meetings. Earlier this season, the Patriots found themselves down 21-14 at the break, similar to deficits of 21-14 and 17-14 last year. While things got hairy late, New England grabbed leads of 10-0 through the first quarter and 24-17 at halftime.
The Patriots swept the season series against the Bills for the 22nd time in team history Gronkowski has now victimized his hometown Bills for nine touchdowns, including one in each game. The tight end was born in Amherst, N.Y. and attended high school in Williamsville In terms of yardage, Buffalo has accounted for the two worst Patriots' defensive showings. Sunday, the Bills recorded 481 yards, bested only by their 580 gained against New England in Week 4 Since the start of the 2011 season, has only twice failed to record 100-yard games in three straight contests. His 74-yard output against Buffalo accounts for the latter such streak, failing to reach the plateau in recent games against the St. Louis Rams (48) and New York Jets (66).