Division Clinched: Patriots Clinch AFC East Title, Top Seed In Playoffs With 34-3 Win Over Buffalo

The Patriots have won the AFC East, and will hold the top seed in the playoffs thanks to a 34-3 win over the Buffalo Bills. Read more at Pats Pulpit and Buffalo Rumblings.

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Division Clinched: Patriots Pick Up Seven Turnovers To Knock Off Bills, Clinch AFC East And Top Seed In Playoffs

The New England Patriots picked up seven turnovers en route to a 34-3 win over the Buffalo Bills, clinching the AFC East title and the top seed in the AFC playoffs in the process.

With that top seed will come a first round bye, and home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

The game started with a surprising drive from the Bills, picking up a field goal after punishing the Patriots’ run defense. From there, it was all New England. A strong running attack picked up an at-times shaky passing game hurt by Wes Welker’s uncharacteristic drops and the occasional inaccurate pass from Tom Brady, while the opportunistic defense picked up four interceptions and three fumbles.

There were big games from BenJarvus Green-Ellis (19 carries, 104 yards), Danny Woodhead (13 carries, 93 yards), and Rob Gronkowski (4 receptions, 54 yards, 2 touchdowns). Jerod Mayo also came up big, laying some big hits on Bills receivers to break up passes and knock balls loose.

The Patriots have one more game next week against the Miami Dolphins, but their 13 wins are enough to give them every possible advantage going into the postseason.

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Patriots Vs. Bills: Shayne Graham's Field Goal Breaks Scoring Lull

Shayne Graham’s fourth quarter field goal has broken up a streak of unsuccessful drives for both teams. For the Bills, a pair of fumbles stopped them well short of points, with Bill Belichick even challenging for one despite a 28-point lead.

The Patriots, meanwhile, just haven’t been able to pick up as many yards as they’ve needed to—and at one point, that number was 30, after a pair of penalties set them well back. They finally got back on the board after a Buffalo punt set them up around midfield. Looking to knock some time off the clock, the Pats went with the simple strategy of giving the ball to BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who has now picked up over 100 yards on the game.

The drive died when Fred Taylor finally made his way into the game, coming up empty on a pair of plays and leaving the Pats with a 3rd-and-13. Brady’s pass to Welker came up short, and Shayne Graham was left to kick another short field goal to bump the Patriots’ total up to 34 points.

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Patriots Vs. Bills: Rob Gronkowski Reels In Second Touchdown, Patriots Up 28

The Patriots picked up another interception, with Jarrad Page snagging Ryan Fitzpatrick’s pass at the Buffalo 21 and giving the Pats another easy shot at the end zone.

Tom Brady, having just tied Bernie Kosar for the most pass attempts without an interception couldn’t break the record with a touchdown, unfortunately. The ball was a bit low to Rob Gronkowski, who couldn’t come up with it. But the next attempt worked much better, with the rookie tight end picking up his second multi-TD game of the season.

It’s never prudent to crown a team with 23 minutes left to go in the game, but it’s hard to imagine the kind of meltdown that would sink this team right now. While Bill Belichick isn’t a big fan of resting his team in the last week of the season, it’s looking like he’ll have the option with a completely meaningless game against Miami.

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Patriots vs. Bills: Tom Brady Ties Bernie Kosar's Interceptionless Record

Rarely will you seen a player look less happy immediately after tying a positive record than Tom Brady looked after throwing his 308th straight pass without an interception. Though the 3rd-and-5 pass was a completion to Danny Woodhead, it ended up one yard short of the first down, leaving Brady with a sour expression on his face as he walked off the field.

Tom Brady’s four interceptions on the season are the lowest of any qualified quarterback, with Michael Vick’s five coming in second (Vick, for the record, has 100 fewer attempts on the season than Brady). He hasn’t thrown a pick since Week 6 in Baltimore, despite facing some of the league’s best defenses over the intervening weeks. Since then, Brady has racked up 23 touchdowns and nearly 2,500 yards with his 308 attempts.

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Patriots vs. Bills: Pat Chung's Interception Leads To Alge Crumpler's First TD

Another short field for the Patriots, another touchdown.

This time, it was a diving interception from Pat Chung that set the Patriots up with the ball inside the Buffalo 40-yard line. BenJarvus Green-Ellis converted an early 3rd-and-3 before Tom Brady picked up the needed yard on a 3rd-and-1, and then found tight end Alge Crumpler for his fifth reception and first touchdown of the year.

That’s 24 points in the first half for the Patriots—the third time in the last four weeks they’ve put up that many points before halftime. Of course, Buffalo’s defensive unit isn’t quite as intimidating as Chicago’s or New York’s, but it’s still a pretty impressive number.

The Jets are taking care of business in Chicago with a 24-17 lead, but the Patriots are doing their best to make that inconsequential. They’re just 30 minutes away from the top seed in the AFC.

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Patritos vs. Bills: Wes Welker Drops The Ball, Patriots Settle For Three

It’s been an unusual year for Wes Welker, who is amongst the leaders for dropped passes on the season. Add two more to the total, as two of Tom Brady’s passes bounced off the receiver’s suddenly hard hands, forcing the Patriots to settle for just a field goal.

After a 4th-and-12 pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick was broken up by a big hit from Jerod Mayo, the Patriots took over on their own 32-yard line. Long runs from Brandon Tate (on an end-around) and BenJarvus Green-Ellis set the Patriots up at the Buffalo 20 before Welker’s drops cost the Pats a shot at a touchdown.

Shayne Graham’s short field goal salvaged three points. The replacement kicker remains perfect on field goal attempts this year, though he’s missed a pair of extra points.

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Patriots Vs. Bills: Tom Brady Gets Rolling, Finds Rob Gronkowski For 14-3 Lead

Tom Brady has his 32nd touchdown of the season, hitting an open Rob Gronkowski for the rookie tight end’s eighth.

For a while, it looked like it was the Bills who would score, as Buffalo was again driving on the strength of a 41-yard bomb from Ryan Fitzpatrick to C.J. Spiller just barely over the hands of Kyle Arrington. Once again the defense came up big in the red zone, though, with Gary Guyton knocking the ball out of Fitzpatrick’s hands for a fumble recovered by Jerod Mayo.

While the running game was still working just fine for New England (Tom Brady even got in on the action with a pair of scrambles), the passing attack found its feet on the third Patriots drive of the game. Brady found Deion Branch on the first play, and ate up 23 yards with an off-balance but perfect lob to Gronkowski while under pressure to convert a 3rd-and-6 and set up the touchdown pass.

The Patriots might need that lead after all, too. New York has responded in Chicago with a pair of touchdowns, and now lead the Bears 14-10.

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Patriots vs. Bills: New Englands' Running Game Responds, Patriots Lead 7-3

The New England offense does not often waste good field position. So with the Pats starting on the Buffalo 48 after good defensive plays from Jerod Mayo and Darius Butler, it was only a matter of time before they put points on the board.

It wasn’t much time, either. Four runs went all 48 yards, with the bulk coming from Danny Woodhead’s 29-yard touchdown run to the left side. The offensive line opened up a big hole for the diminutive running back, and Woodhead found it, making his way largely unopposed into the end zone.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, the Bears have taken an early 10-0 lead on the New York Jets. If the Patriots can’t handle the Bills today, a Jets loss will secure the division just as well.

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Patriots vs. Bills: Buffalo Running At Will Against New England, Bills Up 3-0

The Buffalo Bills have scored first, opening the game with a series of runs to get within striking distance of the Patriots’ end zone before settling for three.

If the Bills had stayed on the ground, they may have picked up seven, but a pair of shots at the end zone ended up just barely out of bounds and off fingertips respectively.

The Patriots’ defense is sorely missing key run stoppers Brandon Spikes and Jermaine Cunningham. The Bills were gouging the Patriots for five at a time inside when not cutting outside for larger gains.

Still more injuries have the Patriots’ defensive line playing out-of-position. Bill Belichick might have to consider moving Vince Wilfork back to the NT position if the Bills continue to run at will.

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Tom Brady Sick With The Flu, Reschedules Thursday's Press Conference

In addition to sitting out Wednesday's practice because of the flu, Tom Brady rescheduled his weekly press conference, moving it to Thursday. Apparently he's still too sick to talk because shortly before he was supposed to meet with the media on Thursday, Brady pushed his availability back to Friday.  

Brady reportedly opted to stay home and will miss Thursday's practice, set to take place outside at Gillette Stadium. Deion Branch realizes it's more important for Brady to get healthy in time for Sunday's game at Buffalo than practicing. 

"We have to do what we have to do," said Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch. "Whatever it takes to get Tom up to full state. If he needs to rest two or three days, that's what he's got to do."

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Tom Brady Misses Wednesday's Practice With Flu

Tom Brady did not participate in Wednesday's practice, which is nothing new -- the Patriots quarterback has routinely skipped or been limited in participation in the team's first couple of weekly practices since preparing for the Steelers game. But this time, it wasn't the foot or the shoulder keeping him out -- it was the flu. 

Rookie tight end was listed on the injury report last week with the flu, so it's not too hard to connect the dots on how Brady contracted it. As a result, Brady's typical Wednesday press conference was moved to Thursday at 11:15 a.m. EST. 

Brady was one of eight Patriots players who did not practice Wednesday. 

The complete Patriots-Bills Wednesday injury report

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (12-2)

 
Did Not Participate
Player Position Injury
Tully Banta-Cain LB Groin
Tom Brady QB Right Shoulder/Foot/Flu
Deion Branch WR Knee
Dan Connolly G Concussion
Brandon Deaderick DL Shoulder
Aaron Hernandez TE Hip
Myron Pryor NT Back
Mike Wright DL Concussion
 
Limited Participation
Player Position Injury
Ron Brace DL Concussion
Jermaine Cunningham LB Calf
 
Full Participation
Player Position Injury
Kyle Arrington CB Elbow
 


BUFFALO BILLS (4-10)
Did Not Participate
Player Position Injury
Demetrius Bell T Knee
Geoff Hangartner C Knee
Chris Kelsay LB Knee

 

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