The Patriots on Sunday defeated the Buffalo Bills, 23-3, notching their eighth consecutive win and their 14th straight road victory, dating back to last season.
Tom Brady finished 21-of-30 passing for 258 yards and an interception. Dion Lewis and Rex Burkhead each ripped off career-long runs — 44 yards for Lewis and 31 yards for Burkhead — as the Patriots rolled up 191 yards on the ground, their second-highest total of the season.
Lewis nearly turned in his second straight 100-yard performance, rushing 15 times for 92 yards. Burkhead put up his second straight multi-touchdown game, recording both of the Patriots’ touchdowns to go along with 15 touches for 103 total yards.
“Those guys have been really running great all season,” Brady said. “It’s been a huge thing for our offense. I don’t think you can just count on us dropping back 50, 60 times and throw the ball. I think you really have to defend the running game and our play-actions come off that and we had a bunch of big plays on play-action today. You’ve got to be able to do both. We were able to do both today.”
The Patriots’ offense struggled in the first half, putting up nine points on three Stephen Gostkowski field goals. Brady was sacked three times, all in Buffalo territory, including twice in the red zone.
But the unit opened the second half with 10-play, 70-yard touchdown drive, as Brady turned to tight end Rob Gronkowski, finding him three times for 50 yards on the possession. Although Gronkowski had only a pair of catches for 28 yards in the first half, he finished with a season-high 147 yards on nine catches.
Brady said there wasn’t anything in particular that led to Gronkowski getting more touches in the second half, he just took what he could.
“Just more of an awareness of where the open guys were, and I think Gronk came down with a bunch of great plays,” he said.
Late in the fourth quarter, Gronkowski was flagged for unnecessary roughness after basically bellyflopping onto Tre’Davious White, who had intercepted Brady and was down on the sideline.
Gronkowski apologized after the game, saying he was frustrated.
“I definitely want to apologize to No. 27. I’m not in the business of that. It was a lot of frustration,” he said. “I was just really frustrated and at that moment it just happened naturally through emotions and frustration. I just want to apologize to Tre’Davious White. I don’t really believe in the type of shots like that.”
For the Patriots' defense, it was the eighth consecutive game giving up 17 or fewer points.
“Any time you hold a team to three points, you feel good about that,” Belichick said.
Defensive lineman Eric Lee, who recorded his first career sack last week, came up with his first career interception at a key moment Sunday. The Bills opened the game with a 13-play, 66-yard drive, but Lee wiped it out by picking off Tyrod Taylor at the goal line.
“Lee’s interception on that first drive was a big play for us,” Belichick said.
Lee added a sack, two quarterback hits, and two pass deflections.
“He’s a sharp kid. He works hard. He’s got good skills,” Belichick said. “He’s long, he’s got good power, and he can run.”
David Harris had a sack and a half, his first as a Patriot. No Bills receiver finished with more than 30 yards and Buffalo averaged just 4.2 yards per play.
“It was one of those games where you just have to grind it out,” Belichick said. “Thought our guys did that, all 46 of them.”
The Patriots improve to 10-2 and face the Dolphins in Miami on Monday Night Football in Week 14.
Below are updates posted during the game:
Tre’Davious White intercepted Tom Brady at the Buffalo 41-yard line.
There were several flags on the play: Rob Gronkowski and Danny Amendola were flagged for unnecessary roughness; Bills safety Micah Hyde was whistled for a dead ball personal foul, offsetting the Gronkowski and Amendola penalties; and Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct toward an official, resulting in a 15-yard penalty that created a first-and-25 for the Bills.
It was Brady’s fourth interception of the season.
Taylor carted off
Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor was taken off the sideline and into the locker room on a cart. He was declared out with a knee injury.
Nathan Peterman took over for Taylor.
3rd quarter: Patriots 23, Bills 3
Rex Burkhead got loose for a 14-yard touchdown to extend the Patriots’ lead.
It capped off a nine-play, 78-yard drive for New England that included a 30-yard completion from Tom Brady to Rob Gronkowski.
Burkhead’s score came two plays after running back James White looked inches short of a first down, although the officials gave him a favorable spot. The Patriots snapped it quickly to avoid a review and Burkhead rattled off a 10-yard run, setting up his second touchdown of the contest.
This is Burkhead’s second straight multi-touchdown performance.
Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson is questionable to return with a right ankle injury. Cornerback Leonard Johnson jogged to the locker room to be evaluated for a left knee injury. He is also questionable to return.
Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy is questionable to return with a leg injury.
3rd quarter: Patriots 16, Bills 3
New England opened the second half with a 10-play, 70-yard touchdown drive. Rex Burkhead got into the end zone on a 1-yard run.
It was Burkhead’s second rushing touchdown of the season. He has five total.
The Patriots turned to Rob Gronkowski often on the drive, as Tom Brady targeted him three times, connecting on all three for 50 yards. In the first half, Gronkowski had a pair of catches for 28 yards.
Gronkowski also drew two penalties on the possesion: offensive pass interference and false start.
Here are a few halftime stats:
Total yards: NE 212, BUF 153
Total plays: NE 34, NUF 31
Yards per play: NE 6.2, BUF 4.9
Rush yards: NE 130, BUF 110
Third-down efficiency: NE 2 of 6, BUF 3 of 6
Penalties-yards: NE 2-15, BUF 1-10
Time of possession: NE 15:11, BUF 14:49
Sacks-yards lost: NE 3-14, BUF 2-5
Tom Brady: 8 of 14, 96 yards, 78.3 rating
Tyrod Taylor: 7 of 13, 48 yards, 30.3 rating, 1 carry for 18 yards
NE backs and receivers: Dion Lewis 8 carries, 64 yards; Rex Burkhead 4 carries, 45 yards, 2 catches, 17 yards; James White 4 carries, 16 yards, 2 catches, 17 yards; Danny Amendola 2 catches, 34 yards; Rob Gronkowski 2 catches, 28 yards.
BUF backs and receivers: LeSean McCoy 10 carries, 60 yards, 1 catch, 3 yards; Joe Webb 3 carries, 27 yards; Charles Clay 2 catches, 17 yards; Travaris Cadet 2 catches, 10 yards; Deonte Thompson 1 catch, 9 yards; Zay Jones 1 catch, 9 yards.
The Patriots failed to score a first-half TD for the first time since Week 4 of last season, also against the Bills.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) December 3, 2017
It snaps New England's streak of 23 straight games with a first-half TD, the longest active streak in the league.
2nd quarter: Patriots 9, Bills 3
Stephen Gostkowski made his third field goal of the game to extend the Patriots’ lead, this one a 39-yarder just before halftime.
The Patriots have run 12 plays in Bills’ territory, but Tom Brady has been sacked on three of those plays, including twice in the red zone.
The Bills’ third sack, by Adolphus Washington, came on second and 7 at the Buffalo 14. The 6-yard loss set up a third and 13 for the Patriots before a false start penalty created a third and 18, forcing New England to settle for the 39-yard field goal one play later.
2nd quarter: Patriots 6, Bills 3
Stephen Hauschka made a 49-yard field goal to trim the Patriots’ lead.
On the drive, the Bills interchanged Tyrod Taylor and Joe Webb at quarterback, with Webb ripping off a 22-yard run on the first play. However, on Webb’s first pass attempt, he overthrew a wide open Travaris Cadet that would have put the Bills inside the 10-yard line.
Instead, two plays later, the Bills had to settle for a field goal.
2nd quarter: Patriots 6, Bills 0
New England leaned on Stephen Gostkowski for its second score of the game, as the veteran placekicker nailed a 31-yarder to add to the Patriots’ lead.
Gostkowski was called on after Tom Brady was sacked for an 8-yard loss on third and goal from the Buffalo 5-yard line. It capped a seven-play, 56-yard drive.
The field goal was set up in part by a career-long run by Dion Lewis, who scampered 44 yards to get New England to the Buffalo 7-yard line.
Lewis’s previous career long run was 31 yards.
1st quarter: Patriots 3, Bills 0
New England turned a Buffalo turnover into three points.
Stephen Gostkowski hit a 50-yard field goal for the first score of the game. On the season, he is now 4 of 4 on field goals of 50-plus yards.
The field goal capped a 14-play, 59-yard drive.
Tom Brady is 4 of 6 for for 46 yards.
An interception to end a long Bills drive
The Bills put together a 13-play, 66-yard drive on the game’s opening possession that ended at the goal line when defensive lineman Eric Lee picked off Tyrod Taylor.
The Patriots have now recorded an interception in five consecutive games.
Lee, in his second year, started the season with the Bills, bouncing between the practice squad and the active roster before New England signed him off the practice squad late last month. Lee recorded a sack, the first of his career, and four tackles in his Patriots debut last week.
The Patriots called heads, won the coin toss, and deferred to the second half. The Bills will receive the opening kickoff.
For the Patriots, defensive lineman Trey Flowers, linebacker Trevor Reilly, tackle Marcus Cannon, wide receiver Chris Hogan, special teamer Matthew Slater, tackle LaAdrian Waddle, running back Mike Gillislee.
That means cornerback Eric Rowe is in line to play for the first time since Week 4, center David Andrews is active after missing two games, and linebacker Kyle Van Noy is active. Although Andrews is returning for the Patriots, they are down to their third string at right tackle, Cam Fleming. Cole Croston and Ted Karras will be the backup tackles.
Gillislee is a healthy scratch for the fourth straight week.
For the Bills, guard John Miller, tackle Conor McDermott, cornerback Shareece Wright, fullback Mike Tolbert, tackle Cordy Glenn, tight end Nick O’Leary, wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.
Welcome to Gameday
It’s Week 13 and the Patriots are back on the road, starting a three-game stretch that takes them to Buffalo, Miami, and Pittsburgh.
In just their second division road game of the season, the Patriots will face the Bills, who moved above .500 with a victory over the Chiefs a week ago.
The Patriots could win their eighth consecutive game of the season and their 14th consecutive road game, dating back to last season. The Bills are going for back-to-back wins for the first time since Weeks 3 and 4.
After the game, look for Tara Sullivan’s first column for the Globe. Sullivan most recently was a sports columnist at The Record in New Jersey.
Follow along here as we update this post throughout the game.
Here is Jim McBride’s thorough scouting report, which includes keys to victory and players to watch. Also for your pregame reading, several Patriots’ players shared the personal back stories of their customized cleats with Nora Princiotti. Read that feature story and check out all the cleat designs here.
Kickoff: 1 p.m.
TV/Radio: CBS / WBZ 98.5.
A few notes on the Patriots and Bills
■ Trey Flowers (ribs) and Trevor Reilly (head) were downgraded to out for Sunday’s game.
■ The Patriots promoted wide receiver/returner Bernard Reedy and defensive lineman Geneo Grissom from the practice squad to the active roster, according to ESPN. To make room, defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois and offensive lineman Jason King were waived. Reedy, 25, was the Buccaneers’ kickoff and punt returner for the first nine weeks of the season before being released. He averaged 20.7 yards per kickoff return and 10.2 yards on punt returns. He could take some of the workload off Dion Lewis, the Patriots’ top rusher, who is also tied for the league lead with a 30.8-yard average and Danny Amendola, who is fourth in the NFL with a 11.2-yard average on punt returns.
■ The Patriots lead the all-time series with the Bills, 70-43-1, their most wins vs. any opponent.
■ “Hostile environment” was the buzz phrase around the locker room last week as players described what it was like to face the Bills at New Era Field (nee Ralph Wilson Stadium).
“It’s just the fans are crazy out there,’’ said Alan Branch, a former Bill. “They’re loud, they support their team really well, and it’s easy for them to turn the tide where they can get going and it’s like a snowball effect where it’s going to get bigger and bigger so it’s hard to stop them.’’
The Buffalo soldiers can get quite creative as they try to get in opponents’ heads and have even resorted to throwing some rather unusual items on the field to make their presence known.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,’’ Amendola said with a coy smile when asked if there is ever any fear of flying objects in Western New York. “I remember what you’re talking about [but] I don’t know what you’re talking about.’’
■ New England’s offensive line has been tested of late and has shown great resiliency during the Patriots’ seven-game winning streak, with several starters missing time, including right tackle Marcus Cannon and center David Andrews. In their stead, LaAdrian Waddle and Ted Karras have filled in without barely missing a beat.
The line will be tested again Sunday, playing in a loud and hostile environment and against a Buffalo Bills bunch that can get after the QB, especially active ends Jerry Hughes and Shaq Lawson.
— Jim McBride, Globe Staff
More on #MyCleatsMyCause
■ The Patriots-Bills game is going to be especially gratifying for Joe Ventura, an airbrush artist from Ludlow. Ventura, owner of Joe V Designs, will see his work on display on both sidelines.
Ventura designed several pairs of footwear — Bill Belichick’s shoes supporting his foundation, Alan Branch’s cleats to support Food Allergy Research Education, Rex Burkhead’s cleats to support Team Jack, and Lawrence Guy’s cleats supporting his hometown of Las Vegas on one side and the Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep foundation on the other. Ventura, 48, also designed LeSean McCoy’s cleats for his Shades of Greatness organization, and is working on special Christmas shoes for Tyrod Taylor.
“To be working with the team or players from the team that you have followed since you were young is pretty gratifying. And then also to look on the other side and see that my work is on the other guys, too, it’s just a dream come true,” Ventura said.
— Ben Volin, Globe Staff
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