FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (WROC) — The Buffalo Bills and the New England Patriots squared off Saturday at Gillette Stadium with postseason positioning on the line.
The first time in a generation, the Bills have a chance to win the AFC East, but they’ll need a win against New England Saturday, and some additional help in Week 17, but even being in it this late in the season is seen as a victory by many Bills fans.
New England got the ball first, the Buffalo defense made a big play on a fumble. Safety Micah Hyde recovered it and returned it deep into Patriots territory.
A relatively stunted Bills possession ended when kicker Stephen Hauschka connected on a 35-yard field goal to give the Bills an early 3-0 lead.
That lead didn’t hold long; on the subsequent drive the Patriots scored on a touchdown when Tom Brady found tight end Matt LaCosse for an 8-yard score. That touchdown ended a 11-play. 75-yard drive and successful extra point but the Patriots up 7-3 midway through the opening quarter.
The Bills didn’t do much when they got the ball back, but did pin New England on their own 1-yard line after a quality punt plus coverage. The first quarter came to an end with the Patriots clinging to a 7-3 lead.
Despite the tough field position of starting on their own 1-yard line, New England orchestrated an impressive drive, converting on multiple third downs along the way.
New England’s 81-yard drive came to an end when kicker Nick Folk made a 36-yard field goal to extend the Patriots’ lead, 10-3, with 5:04 left in the half.
The big play on that drive came on a 4th and 1 from the Buffalo 26-yard line. It was a close spot by the refs, something that Sean McDermott could have challenged, but he ultimately left the red flag in his pocket and the ruling on the field gave New England a first down.
The Bills then found themselves down by seven and did nothing on the subsequent drive. Another three and out and another punt for the Bills.
The Bills defense held tough and forced New England into a punt of their own and Buffalo got the ball back with 1:38 left in the half, but then had another stunted offensive effort and punted back to the Patriots, who in turn, were stopped by the Bills and punted themselves.
With just over 30 second in the half, and two time outs at their disposal, the Bills finally showed some signs of life on offense.
A six-play, 59-yard drive ended when Josh Allen found lineman-eligible Dion Dawkins in the endzone for a 1-yard touchdown. What set that TD up was a 34-yard pass from Allen to tight end Dawson Knox to get the Bills down to the 1-yard line.
That Bills touchdown was followed up a successful extra point, and when the half ended with the game tied 10-10.
To be tied at the half is almost a victory in and of itself for the Bills who trailed New England in nearly every major statistical category. The Patriot had more first downs (13-6), more yards (215-109), and time of possession (21:17-8:43).
Bills got the ball first to start the second half, but weren’t able to do much with it, a consistent theme thus far. They punted to the Patriots who mustered enough yards to get into field goal range and kicker Nick Folk made a 51-yard field goal to put New England back on top, 13-10 early in the third quarter.
That lead wouldn’t hold for long though. Off his back foot, with pressure coming, Allen connected on a deep ball to wide receiver John Brown for a 53-yard touchdown. Hauschka’s extra point put Buffalo on top 17-13.
A Patriots drive of 11 plays and an 77 yards came resulted in a 20-yard field goal from Nick Folk that closed the gap. It was a solid effort once again by the Bills defense who held New England to a field goal to hold onto the lead, 17-16, with 10:45 left in the game.
With a chance to take control of the game, the Bills offense floundered with another three and out, punting back to the patriots with nine minutes remaining in the contest.
As Tom Brady has for most of the past two decades, he conducted scoring drive to put the Patriots back on top. Patriots running back Rex Burkhead scored on 1-yard touchdown run that capped off a 7-play, 59 yard drive.
New England elected to go for the two-point conversion, which they converted, to take a 24-17 lead with 5:06 left in the fourth quarter.
Josh Allen had a chance to play the hero. He drove the team all the way down to the New England 9-yard line when the Two Minute Warning came.
However, a short run, an overthrown incomplete pass, a bad sack, and a desperation heave later, the Bills turned it over on down and New England would hold on for the win.