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Week 16 NFL Patriots vs Bills game report: Running backs carry New England to 24-12 victory

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Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The (9-5) New England Patriots host the (5-9) Buffalo Bills in a hat-and-t-shirt game for New England. A Patriots victory would secure the AFC East title for the 10th-consecutive season, an incredible mark in the salary cap era.

Below is all the information you’ll need for this Patriots game.

Game Details

Date: Sunday, December 23, 2018

Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. ET

Location: Gillette Stadium, Foxboro MA

SB Nation affiliate: Buffalo Rumblings

TV: CBS, with Greg Gumbel (play-by-play), Trent Green (color commentary), Bruce Arians (color commentary) and Melanie Collins (sideline):

Pregame Show

Patriots Rooting Guide

Jaguars at Dolphins: The Patriots want the Jaguars to win because that would secure the AFC East for New England regardless of the Patriots-Bills game.

Texans at Eagles: The Patriots are rooting for the Eagles to defeat the Texans to give New England a second chance at the #2 seed.

Vikings at Lions: The Patriots want the Vikings to win for the sake of strength of victory and because the Patriots own the Lions 2019 third round pick.

Packers at Jets: I’m rooting for the Jets to negatively impact their draft picks.

Giants at Colts: I’m rooting for the Giants because I would rather the Colts not make the postseason.

Bengals at Browns: This game doesn’t matter to the Patriots, but I’m absolutely rooting for the Browns.

Buccaneers at Cowboys: This game doesn’t matter to the Patriots.

Falcons at Panthers: This game doesn’t matter to the Patriots.

Live Updates


Patriots vs Bills inactives: Adrian Clayborn a healthy scratch, Danny Shelton returns

Patriots vs Bills advanced stats: A bounce-back opportunity for New England’s red zone offense

Bill Belichick highlights three rookies when breaking down the Bills

Asking Buffalo Rumblings: Patriots defense needs to force Josh Allen into mistakes

The Patriots won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half.


The Bills returned the opening kick-off to the 26-yard line, but the New England run defense showed up to play. LeSean McCoy gained a mere 4 total yards on his first two carries and Josh Allen was inaccurate on third down as the Patriots forced a three-and-out.

Tom Brady and the offense did not far any better, with Julian Edelman dropping a first down pass. Edelman gained seven yards on second down, but rookie linebacker Tremaine Edmunds knocked down the ball at the line of scrimmage on third down and the Patriots had to punt back. Ryan Allen did a great job pinning the Bills are their own 15-yard line.

The Bills went three-and-out again, thanks to a dropped pass on third down, and a weak punt set Brady and company up at their own 45-yard line.

New England dialed up six straight rushing plays, with Cordarrelle Patterson getting one for 12 yards and Sony Michel getting the other five for 43 yards and a touchdown. The Bills couldn’t stop the run as Michel gashed them on consecutive runs. The Patriots have a 7-0 lead.

Recently promoted defensive lineman Ufomba Kamalu tackled McCoy for a 4-yard loss on first down, Robert Foster lost a deep shot in the sun (he had beaten Stephon Gilmore), and then Allen scrambled for six yards on third down as the Patriots forced their third-straight three-and-out.

The Patriots were driving with strong play from all their running backs, but a false start by Marcus Cannon set up a second-and-15 and then Rex Burkhead fumbled the ball around midfield and Micah Hyde recovered it and returned it to the Patriots 40-yard line.

Allen found Foster for 11 yards to get into field goal range, but that was as far as the Bills made it. Stephen Hauschka was somehow short on the 43-yard attempt, doinking it off the crossbar, and the Patriots took over from their own 33-yard line.

The Patriots finished the first quarter with a 2-yard loss by Michel.


Brady was sacked on second down and the Patriots conceded the drive with a draw run up the middle. Allen punted back to the Bills, setting Buffalo up on their 26-yard line.

Th Patriots are keeping Burkhead involved, but this has been a running back production with Burkhead (14 yards) and Patterson (15 yards) moving the chains and White running 27-yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

Patriots running backs have 134 rushing yards on 16 carries (8.4 YPC), while Burkhead leads the team with 3 catches for 15 yards. Edelman is the only other Patriots player to touch the ball, with 2 catches for 13 yards.

J.C. Jackson intercepted Allen and returned the ball to midfield.

Th Patriots backs again carried the offense to the 25-yard line, but Rex Burkhead and Brady miscommunicated and Brady threw an interception to Lorenzo Alexander. Brady wanted Burkhead to run inside, while Burkhed turned outside. Burkhead has honestly had a negative impact on the Patriots offense since he’s returned, relative to the contributions of the other running backs. It seems like he’s often been involved when a running back stalls a drive.

The Bills led their first good drive of the day and made it to the Patriots’ 25-yard line, but the defense stood up and forced an incomplete pass on fourth down to get the ball back for the offense.

Patterson ran 27 yards towards midfield, setting up the two-minute warning. New England has all three timeouts.

That was uneventful. Brady found Patterson to set up third-and-short, but threw off his back foot and was incomplete on third down as Allen punted back to Buffalo. Brady’s been feeling the Bills’ pressure all day.

Buffalo ran out the clock to get to the half. New England gets the ball after the break.


Well that’s a terrible start to the half. Patterson was tackled at the 15-yard line and then Brady was intercepted by Hyde on the very first play of the drive. Brady was trying to find Rob Gronkowski and it went through his hands. Brady has struggled this game, completing just 7 of 14 attempts (50%) for 40 yards and 2 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 16.7, which would be the lowest of his career.

The Patriots defense did a great job forcing a three-and-out and held the Bills to a field goal and have a 14-3 lead.

Patterson had another bad return, this time to only the 12-yard line. Sony Michel was doing a great job running the ball, but Edelman was flagged for holding and the Patriots were unable to convert the long distance to continue the drive. The Bills get the ball on their own 41-yard line.

Jonathan Jones was flagged for defensive pass interference and then tight end Jason Croom caught the next pass to get to the 29-yard line of the Patriots. J.C. Jackson and Patrick Chung had great coverage and forced the Bills to kick another field goal and bring the score to 14-6. If the Bills had hit all their field goal opportunities and didn’t go for it on fourth down, they’d only be trailing 14-12. This is a close game. The Patriots need a score.

This Patriots team is so sloppy. Michel muffed the kickoff and had to return it, getting to only the 12-yard line. Brady found Edelman for 3 yards before Michel cracked off a 17-yard gain and then a 9-yard gain. Burkhead gained 3 yards for a new set of downs and got past midfield, but a holding penalty against Rob Gronkowski negated the field position. Burkhead caught the ball and gained back all the yards- and then some- to get inside Bills territory. Brady was pressured on third down and threw an incomplete pass off his back foot (again). The Patriots went for it on fourth down and Brady found Edelman for the needed yards- but Edelman landed on top of the Bills defenders and was never down by contact. He rolled over the defender and scored a 32-yard touchdown, giving New England a 21-6 lead.

The Bills were driving against the New England zone defense, but Jason McCourty forced a fumble on the team’s 10-yard line, which was recovered by Malcom Brown on the 6-yard line, ending Buffalo’s drive.

Michel and Burkhead gained yards to start the drive. New England will have second-and-9 from their own 35-yard line to start the fourth quarter.


The Patriots led a long drive grind up a good portion of the game clock, but Brady misfired at an open James White on second-and-8 and then was impacted by the Bills pressure on third down and threw the ball in the dirt at Gronkowski’s feet. Ryan Allen had a heck of a punt to set the Bills up at their own 8-yard line.

New England forced yet another three-and-out and Edelman returned a weak punt from midfield to the Bills’ 24-yard line. Phillip Dorsett got his first touch of the day on an end-around and brought the ball to the 4-yard line. New England ran the ball three time to drain the clock, but were unable to punch it in. Stephen Gostkowski hit the 24-yarder for a 24-6 lead.

The Bills went three-and-out again and Matthew Slater blocked the punt to give the ball to New England on the 33-yard line. Brian Hoyer is in at quarterback as the human victory cigar, so this game is over in the eyes of the Patriots. They went for it on fourth down instead of taking the field goal because it’s a three-score game anyways, so why not go for it?

Brady’s day is done with a lousy 13 of 24 (54.2%), 126 yards, 1 lucky touchdown, and 2 unlucky interceptions. His passer rating of 48.3 marks the sixth-worst start of his career, and his first victory with a passer rating below 50.

The Bills have the ball on their own 29-yard line with 5:07 left in the game and two time outs.

Welp, Jason McCourty intercepted Allen on second-and-10, giving the ball back to New England. This one is really over.

The Jaguars defeated the Dolphins 17-7, so this Patriots are officially AFC East champions for the 10th-straight season and 15 of the past 16 seasons.

Josh Allen hit Zay Jones for a garbage time touchdown from 31-yards out to bring the score to 24-12 with 68 seconds left. Buffalo failed to convert the two-point attempt and has no more timeouts.

New England wins 24-12, clinch the AFC East title, and will watch the final 2 minutes of the Texans-Eagles game, where Houston has a 30-29 lead. New England needs Houston to lose in order to reclaim the #2 seed in the playoffs.

The Eagles hit the 35-yard field goal as time expired to win 32-30! The Patriots are back as the #2 seed and they will get a first round bye if they can defeat the New York Jets in week 17.

Pats Pulpit Postgame Show

Welcome to the Pats Pulpit Live Postgame Show! The Patriots clinched their 10th straight AFC East title today with a win over the Bills. Send us your questions and comments!

Posted by Pats Pulpit: For New England Patriots News on Sunday, December 23, 2018