The New England Patriots are one step closer to the number one playoff seed in the AFC thanks to a 37-16 victory over the Buffalo Bills. The defending world champions improved their regular season record to 12-3 and depending on the outcomes of the games involving the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars might either secure a first round bye or homefield advantage throughout the playoffs.
New England started the game slowly on both offense and defense: First, the Patriots went three-and-out before the defense surrendered a 16-play drive that took more than eight minutes off the clock and ended in a Buffalo field goal. New England was able to respond with a long drive of its own as the team drove 79 yards in 13 plays to set up a 21-yard Stephen Gostkowski field goal.
The Bills drove into field goal range again on their next possession but were stopped on fourth down inside New England's 10-yard line. However, the Patriots were unable to capitalize on the takeaway - quite the opposite actually: Three plays into the subsequent drive, Tom Brady threw an interception to Buffalo's Jordan Poyer who returned it 19 yards to the end zone.
Down 10-3, the Patriots embarked on another scoring drive and went 75 yards in nine plays to tie the game: Brady and Rob Gronkowski connected on a 17-yard touchdown pass that saw the tight end catch the back-shoulder throw with one hand while keeping both feed in bounds. Buffalo was unable to answer New England's first touchdown and went on to punt on its next series.
The Patriots' next possession went only marginally better: The team drove into Buffalo territory but had to settle for another field goal to take a 13-10 lead inside the two-minute warning. However, the lead was short-lived as the Bills were able to march right down the field on the subsequent drive - one that saw a touchdown pass overturned on replay and ended in a field goal to make it a 13-13 game.
Quarter number three began with a field goal drive as well as Buffalo re-gained the lead on another long drive; this one a 10-play, 63-yard series. However, it was all New England from that point on. The home team answered with another field goal drive - one that lasted 13 plays and saw the Patriots' win a challenge to overturn a fourth-down stop.
Following a three-and-out by the defense, New England's offense was back on the field, driving 65 yards in only four plays. Ex-Bill Mike Gillislee ended the series with a one-yard touchdown run to give the Patriots a 23-16 lead. Buffalo came close to cut its deficit to four points on the next drive but missed a 50-yard field goal, which in turn gave New England very good field position to start its next series.
The Patriots took advantage and drove 60 yards in seven plays. The final play of the series was a 12 yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to arguably the best player on the field, Dion Lewis. It was also Lewis who, after the defense forced a punt on its next series, capped the Patriots' next drive with a touchdown: New England went 54 yards in eight plays to put the dagger into the Bills' comeback hopes.
Due to the win, New England secured its eighth straight season of 12+ wins.