FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -This win belongs to Scott Pioli. OK, and to Bill Belichick because he has a lot to do with who New England signs and who it doesn't.
In any case, look at the stars of the Patriots' 20-10 win over Buffalo on Sunday and you see guys who nobody would have expected a couple of months ago to be leading a team that still resides atop the AFC East. They are tied with the Jets despite a plethora of injuries, including one to Tom Brady that ended his season before it began.
Matt Cassel, Brady's replacement, was one of Sunday's stars. Plus BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Gary Guyton and even the well-traveled Deltha O'Neal, a kind of desperation throw-in at cornerback for a decimated secondary.
That's because while every team knows it will have injuries, Pioli and Belichick plan for them.
g the NFL's elite. They've done that since 2001, when they won the first of their three Super Bowls.
He was an undrafted free agent last April as was Guyton, who spends a lot of time at linebacker spelling the aging Tedy Bruschi - yet another example of the overlooked college player that New England and other good organizations keep finding and the lesser teams do not. Pioli and his staff find them, Belichick vets them, and this year, at least, they have helped carry the Pats to the top of their division.
Green-Ellis was waived at the beginning of the season and then signed to the Patriots' practice squad because they already had Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, LaMont Jordan, Kevin Faulk and Heath Evans.
Maroney is now on injured reserve; Jordan has been out five games with an injury, and Morris has missed 3 1/2. Faulk, suspended by the league for the first game, is really a third-down utility back, and Evans is a fullback.
So Green-Ellis is now New England's primary running back
``It's not like we didn't like Benny,'' Belichick was explaining after Green-Ellis had his first career 100-yard game. ``It's just that we were keeping five running backs and he was No. 6.''
p his knee in the first quarter of the opening game. Obviously not a favorable turn for the Patriots, but one they were prepared for.
More than any other coach, Belichick remains stoic through adversity and plugs in the next guy simply because he has confidence the next guy will do the job.
Cassel has.
And while he's been described by what has become a pejorative for quarterbacks - ``game manager'' - he's really done more than that. Cassel did plenty Sunday, completing 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards and scrambling 13 yards for a first-quarter touchdown.
``In my first game, my heart rate was through the roof,'' Cassel conceded. ``As the weeks have gone on, I've sort of gotten into a routine. It's the reason I can do my job now.''
Cassel's TD gave the Patriots seemingly an insurmountable 7-0 lead the way this game played out. The Bills were inside New England's 20 only twice, once in the second quarter when they were stopped at the 7 and kicked a field goal that cut it to 10-3, and again in the final 2 minutes after Leodis McKelvin's 85-yard kickoff return. That set up a quick TD pass from Trent Edwards to James Hardy.
ith the 10th overall pick in the first round and might be on his way to becoming defensive rookie of the year.
What was New England, which lost its own first-rounder for the ``Spygate'' shenanigans, doing with No. 10? It had obtained it from San Francisco, which wanted to move up to late in the first round in the 2007 draft.
Again, credit Pioli, who knows how to take advantage of lesser adversaries, which is certainly the case when dealing with the 49ers' front office.
Still, let's make this clear: Green-Ellis is not a franchise running back, just a nice sub to be able to plug in.
Cassel is probably not a franchise quarterback, although some franchise without New England's smarts might pay him like one when he becomes a free agent after the season.
They are simply nice guys to have around to help a winner continue winning.

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