Pats Best Bills in Buffalo, One Win From Twelfth Division Title
It wasn’t flashy, stylish, or even neat, but the New England Patriots did what had to be done as they defeated the Buffalo Bills 17-10 to earn their first road win on American soil this season. The win was made possible by several Buffalo penalties that stymied Buffalo’s offense and sustained Patriots drives.
The best news for New England fans was the performance of Randy Moss. Amidst accusations of laziness and having “mentally checked out” on his team, Moss led all receivers with 5 catches for 70 yards, including New England’s only passing touchdown on a 13-yard strike to the back of the end zone. Again, Tom Brady did not look at all like himself, going 11/23 for just 115 yards with one touchdown and one interception. It was Brady’s first string of two consecutive performances of less than 200 yards since December 2006.
Laurence Maroney stepped up and took advantage of Buffalo’s shaky run defense, ringing up 81 yards on 23 carries and a one-yard touchdown plunge to help the Pats take a 14-3 lead at halftime.
Normally such a lead would be a safe advantage for the Patriots, but this season has been marked by second-half disappointments. The Patriots took a 17-3 lead on a 30 yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal in the third quarter and held on until late in the fourth, when Buffalo QB Ryan Fitzpatrick took advantage of a short field and found WR Lee Evans for an 11 yard touchdown to shrink the lead to 17-10 with 3:07 left and one timeout. The Bills recovered the ensuing onside kick, but LB Aaron Maybin jumped offsides on the kick, forcing the Bills to kick it deep and hope for a defensive stop that never came. Wes Welker delivered the final bullet to the Bills’ comeback hopes with an 8 yard catch on 3rd down and 6, allowing the Pats to kneel to win the game.
The win lifts the Patriots to 9-5, while Buffalo falls to 5-9. The Jets and Dolphins fell to their competition Sunday afternoon, widening the Patriots’ division lead to two games with two remaining. A win against the 7-7 Jacksonville Jaguars next week would wrap up the division, awarding New England with their ninth division title this decade and twelfth in franchise history. The playoff seeding situation also favors New England: Cincinnati fell to San Diego today, launching the Patriots into a tie for the #3 seed. The Pats would win the tie if the season ended today.