Patriots Vs. Bills Live: Pats Win 24-17, Clinch 11th Straight AFC East Title

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Final, Patriots 24-17: The most-hyped late-season AFC East matchup in years lived up to expectations.

The New England Patriots defeated the playoff-bound Buffalo Bills 24-17 on Saturday at Gillette Stadium to improve to 12-3 on the season and clinch their 11th consecutive division title.

Josh Allen drove the Bills to the Patriots? 10-yard line in the final minutes, but an overthrow on second down, a sack on third down and a J.C. Jackson pass breakup on fourth down sealed the win for the Patriots.

A Kansas City Chiefs loss or tie Sunday night against the Chicago Bears would secure New England a first-round bye.

Running back Rex Burkhead scored the game-winning touchdown with just over five minutes remaining and led all Patriots pass-catchers with 77 yards on four catches, plus another 20 rushing yards on five carries. Wide receiver Julian Edelman contributed five catches for 72 yards despite briefly leaving the game to be evaluated for a head injury.

Tom Brady had his best game in Weeks for the Patriots, completing 26 of 33 passes for 271 yards and one touchdown with no interception. Tight end Matt LaCosse caught the touchdown pass — his first as a Patriot.

The Patriots will close out the regular season next Sunday against the Miami Dolphins at Gillette.

Fourth quarter, 5:06, Patriots 24-17: Julian Edelman: back.

Rex Burkhead: beast.

Edelman, who passed a concussion test before the drive, added the two-point conversion to put the Patriots up seven.

Fourth quarter, 9:01, Bills 17-16: In two drives since John Brown’s long touchdown, the Bills have gained a total of 4 yards. A John Simon sack helped force a second consecutive three-and-out.

Julian Edelman is back in the game as the Patriots’ offense returns to the field.

Fourth quarter, 10:45, Bills 17-16: We’ve got a one-point game after Nick Folk banged through another field goal, this one from an easy 20 yards out.

New England got to Buffalo’s doorstep with a 25-yard run by Sony Michel and a series of key receptions by Rex Burkhead and Jakobi Meyers, who’s in the game in place of the injured Julian Edelman. Tom Brady attempted to scramble for the goal line on third-and-goal from the 5 but was pounded down at the 2.

Burkhead leads all receivers with four catches on four targets for a career-high 77 yards.

Third quarter, 2:25, Bills 17-13: Big response by the Patriots’ defense. Multiple players teamed up to spin Josh Allen down short of the marker on third-and-4, forcing a three-and-out.

Third quarter, 4:46, Bills 17-13: For all his faults as an NFL quarterback, no one ever has disputed Josh Allen’s arm strength. He just showcased that on a 53-yard bomb to John Brown.

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Brown capitalized on what appeared to be a miscommunication between Stephon Gilmore and Devin McCourty for a big-play touchdown.

More bad news for New England: Julian Edelman just headed toward the locker room after being examined in the sideline medical tent. He’s being evaluated for a head injury.

The Patriots went three-and-out after Brown’s score, an offensive pass interference call on Ben Watson negating what would have been a first down to James White.

Third quarter, 9:54, Patriots 13-10: A 31-yard catch-and-run by Rex Burkhead — off a phenomenal play fake by Tom Brady — set up a 51-yard field goal by Nick Folk that put the Patriots back in the lead.

A 33-yard touchdown pass to Ben Watson later in the drive was nullified by an offensive pass interference penalty on Julian Edelman.

Speaking of Folk, he’s been exactly what the Patriots needed at the kicker position. He’s now 12-for-15 on field-goal attempts and 9-for-9 on extra points, with two of his misses coming in a driving rainstorm. The other was blocked.

Third quarter, 13:10, 10-10: Cole Beasley beat J.C. Jackson for a 28-yard gain on the opening play of the second half, but a Lawrence Guy sack quickly erased any Buffalo momentum.

It’s now Patriots ball at their own 23-yard line. Marshall Newhouse remains in the game at right tackle in place of the injured Marcus Cannon.

Halftime, 10-10: After the Patriots forced a three-and-out and came within inches of blocking Corey Bojorquez’s punt, their ensuing drive sputtered.

Mohamed Sanu was tackled short of the line to gain on third down, and N’Keal Harry couldn’t pick up the necessary yardage after taking a jet-sweep handoff on fourth-and-inches. Sanu missed the block that could have sprung Harry.

That gave the ball back to the Bills at their own 41 with 33 seconds remaining. A 16-yard scramble by Josh Allen, a 9-yard pass to Cole Beasley and a 33-yard strike to Dawson Knox — who was ruled down just shy of the goal line — set up a 1-yard touchdown catch by left tackle (yes, left tackle) Dion Dawkins that tied the game just before halftime.

The Bills, who gained just 50 total yards before that final scoring drive, will receive the second-half kickoff.

New England’s decision to go for it on fourth down will be scrutinized. They’d almost certainly be up 10-3 if they’d opted to punt. The call made sense in the moment, though. The Bills’ offense had been anemic all night, so the risk of attempting to tack on a few more points before halftime seemed reasonably low..

Second quarter, 1:33, Patriots 10-3: N’Keal Harry drew a defensive pass interference penalty on Tre’Davious White to move the chains on third down, but the Patriots punted shortly thereafter, giving Josh Allen one more chance to generate some momentum before halftime.

The Patriots have outgained the Bills 206-46 thus far.

Second quarter, 3:21, Patriots 10-3: First three-and-out of the game for the Bills. J.C. Jackson punctuated it with a pass breakup on third down.

Josh Allen has yet to complete a pass against Jackson or Stephon Gilmore.

Second quarter, 5:04, Patriots 10-3: We’re nearly at halftime already following this latest Patriots drive, which drained eight minutes and 58 seconds off the clock. It spanned 17 plays and 81 yards, making it the third-longest drive in franchise history by number of plays.

The key play was this, an 18-yard reverse to N’Keal Harry made possible by a textbook downfield cut block by Tom Brady (!!!) on Tre’Davious White:

Sony Michel also converted a fourth-and-1 to extend the drive. He and Rex Burkhead have run well in this first half.

On a less positive note, cornerback Jason McCourty’s groin injury has flared back up, and Marcus Cannon limped off the field after what appeared to be a leg injury of some sort. McCourty is questionable to return. We’ve yet to hear an update on Cannon, who’s currently being evaluated in the sideline medical tent.

Second quarter, 14:20, Patriots 7-3: Josh Allen couldn’t connect with a wide-open Cole Beasley on third down while facing heavy pressure from Dont’a Hightower, forcing the Bills to punt. Former Patriot Corey Bojorquez delivered a beauty, pinning New England at its own 1-yard line.

First quarter, 1:50, Patriots 7-3: We’ve talked a ton this season about the Patriots’ need for production out of their secondary weapons (aka not Julian Edelman and James White). Well, they just staged a 75-yard touchdown drive, and Edelman and White accounted for just 6 of those.

Powerful running behind linebacker/fullback Elandon Roberts and clutch completions to N’Keal Harry (9 yards on third-and-2) and Ben Watson (6 yards on third-and-2) set up tight Matt LaCosse’s first touchdown as a Patriot.

The score tied Tom Brady with Peyton Manning for second on the NFL’s all-time passing touchdowns list. LaCosse is the 76th player to catch a touchdown pass from Brady.

First quarter, 9:41, Bills 3-0: In what figures to be a defensive struggle, Buffalo’s D landed the first punch.

Jordan Poyer jarred the ball from Rex Burkhead’s arms following an 18-yard run, and fellow safety Micah Hyde recovered for an early takeaway.

New England’s defense held on the ensuing possession, forcing the Bills to settle for a 35-yard Stephen Hauschka field goal.

Before Burkhead’s fumble, the Patriots picked up a first down on a 7-yard dart to Julian Edelman on third-and-3. Edelman has been playing hurt for weeks now, so his effectiveness is something we’ll be closely monitoring this evening.

3:03 p.m.: Here are today’s Patriots inactives:

CB Jonathan Jones
QB Cody Kessler
RB Damien Harris
TE Ryan Izzo
OT Korey Cunningham
OL Jermaine Eluemunor
DL Byron Cowart

Jason McCourty officially is active after missing three of the last four games with a groin injury. Assuming he’s healthy enough to handle a full workload, he should take over Jones’ usual slot coverage duties.

Wide receiver Julian Edelman and linebackers Jamie Collins and Ja’Whaun Bentley also are active. They were listed as questionable.

2:45 p.m. ET: Greetings from Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots and Buffalo Bills are preparing to square off in the most highly anticipated late-season AFC East clash in recent memory.

The Patriots are 11-3 and on track to win their 11th consecutive division title, barring a full-blown collapse in these final two weeks. The Bills are 10-4. Both teams clinched playoff spots last week.

Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m. ET on NFL Network and WBZ-TV. Keep it locked here for full pregame coverage.

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