Playing with a playoff spot in hand, the Buffalo Bills took one last shot at the New England Patriots and the AFC East on Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. However, the Bills' late comeback attempt fell short, and New England came away with the 24-17 win, locking the Bills into the fifth seed in the AFC playoff picture. With the win, the Patriots claimed the division for the 11th consecutive year.
Bills quarterback Josh Allen was up-and-down throughout the day, going 13-of-26 for 208 yards and two touchdowns. Cole Beasley led all receivers in the loss with 108 yards on seven receptions, while Devin Singletary was limited in the run game with just 46 yards on 15 carries.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was 26-of-33 on the day for 271 yards and a touchdown, while Sony Michel led all players in rushing with 96 yards on 21 carries.
New England got the ball to open the game, but the Bills defense started the contest with a big fumble recovery from safety Micah Hyde after New England running back Rex Burkhead had the football stripped from him by safety Jordan Poyer. The effort helped Buffalo get into scoring range for their first drive, but Allen couldn't hit tight end Dawson Knox for a touchdown. Instead, the Bills settled for a 35-yard field goal from kicker Stephen Hauschka to open the scoring at 3-0.
The Patriots responded with a long drive that went 75 yards over 11 plays, ending with a eight-yard touchdown pass from Brady to tight end Matt LaCosse, which allowed Brady to tie Peyton Manning for second on the all-time passing touchdowns list with his 539th career touchdown toss.
The second quarter saw the Patriots march on Buffalo again with a whopping 17-play drive that lasted nearly nine minutes, but ending with a 36-yard field goal from kicker Nick Folk to improve their lead to 10-3. The drive included a 4th-and-1 conversion that looked to be deemed worthy of a challenge for coming up short of the marker, but head coach Sean McDermott opted to hold onto his challenge flag.
Buffalo got the ball back twice inside the two-minute warning. After punting the football away after a fruitless first drive, they struck pay dirt on the latter of the two.
The Bills got into prime scoring position with Allen finding Knox for a 33-yard strike down the sidelines to the Patriots' one-yard line. Two plays later, Allen found left tackle Dion Dawkins uncovered in the corner of the end zone, as Dawkins was an eligible receiver on the play. It was Dawkins' second career touchdown catch, and it tied the football game up late in the first half, 10-10.
The Patriots stopped Buffalo on the very first drive of the third quarter, and then added a 51-yard field goal from Folk to retake the lead, 13-10. New England did score a touchdown on the drive, but it was called back on an offensive pass interference call for a pick play from wide receiver Julian Edelman.
However, the Bills found an element of the offense that has been missing for the most part all season - the deep ball. That came on the very next Buffalo drive as Allen connected with wide receiver John Brown for his longest completion of the season, a 53-yard strike that gave Buffalo a 17-13 lead.
New England got another field goal in the fourth quarter to pull within one point, as Nick Folk's kick from 20 yards out cut Buffalo's lead to 17-16.
The Patriots were not done as Brady and the New England offense pulled off one more scoring drive to reclaim the lead for good. That came with 5:06 remaining in regulation when Burkhead fought off a couple of Buffalo defenders to score the touchdown from one yard out. Brady then found Edelman for the two-point conversion to extend the New England lead to 24-17.
Buffalo's last gasp at tying the football game wound up just short, getting to within eight yards of the end zone before Allen missed Knox for, what would have been, a touchdown on a 2nd-and-goal passing play. The Patriots blitzed Allen on the next two plays and forced Allen into a desperate throw to Beasley on fourth down that was batted away, ending the game.
Josh Allen - 13-of-26, 208 yards, 2 TD
Tom Brady - 26-of-33, 271 yards, 1 TD
Devin Singletary - 15 carries, 46 yards
Josh Allen - 7 carries, 43 yards
John Brown - 1 carry, 3 yards
Sony Michel - 21 carries, 96 yards
Rex Burkhead - 5 carries, 20 yards, 1 TD
N'Keal Harry - 2 carries, 18 yards
James White - 3 carries, 5 yards
Tom Brady - 4 carries, 4 yards
Cole Beasley - 7 receptions, 108 yards
John Brown - 1 reception, 53 yards, 1 TD
Dawson Knox - 1 reception, 33 yards
Isaiah McKenzie - 2 receptions, 11 yards
Devin Singletary - 1 reception, 2 yards
Dion Dawkins - 1 reception, 1 yard, 1 TD
Rex Burkhead - 4 receptions, 77 yards
Julian Edelman - 5 receptions, 72 yards
Jakobi Meyers - 3 receptions, 25 yards
Mohamed Sanu Sr. - 3 receptions, 24 yards
James White - 4 receptions, 24 yards
N'Keal Harry - 2 receptions, 21 yards
Ben Watson - 3 receptions, 15 yards
Matt LaCosse - 1 reception, 8 yards, 1 TD
Sony Michel - 1 reception, 5 yards
Matt Milano - 12 tackles
Jordan Poyer - 11 tackles, 1 forced fumble
Tremaine Edmunds - 9 tackles
Micah Hyde - 7 tackles, 1 fumble recovery
Lorenzo Alexander - 6 tackles
Lawrence Guy - 6 tackles, 1 sack
Donta Hightower - 5 tackles, 1.5 sacks
John Simon - 3 tackles, 1 sack
Adam Butler - 2 tackles, 0.5 sack
BUF: 268NE: 414
BUF: 176NE: 271
BUF: 92NE: 143
BUF: 14NE: 23
BUF: 7 for 46 yards NE: 3 for 30 yards
BUF: 21:08 NE: 38:52
The Bills are locked into the fifth seed in the AFC playoff picture, and will host the New York Jets for the final game of the regular season at New Era Field on Sunday, Dec. 29 at 1 p.m.