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(Sunday, January 1st)
Final Score: New England 49, Buffalo 21
Foxboro, MA (Sports Network) - Tom Brady and the New England Patriots scored 49 unanswered points to beat the Buffalo Bills, 49-21, and claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
Brady completed 23-of-35 passes for 338 yards, three touchdowns and an interception for the Patriots (13-3), who will have home-field advantage throughout the postseason for the second year in a row. New England finished the regular season with a 7-1 mark at Gillette Stadium.
Brady became the third player in NFL history with 5,000 passing yards in a season. He also set a franchise record for completions in a season with 401, topping Drew Bledsoe's 400 in 1994. A first-round bye will allow the two-time league MVP to rest his sore left shoulder.
"Our passing game has been obviously a big strongpoint of this team," Brady said. "The pass catchers and the blockers have been great and we've run the ball great, too, at times. That's what it takes - a complementary offense. You run it and we throw it when we need to throw it and we can be effective. You have to stay balanced and those guys have done a great job all year doing stuff with it."
Aaron Hernandez caught seven passes for 138 yards and a touchdown for New England, which heads into the playoffs on an eight-game winning streak. Rob Gronkowski capped his record-setting season with eight catches for 108 yards and two scores.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried the ball seven times for 22 yards and two touchdowns for the Patriots, who avenged a Week 3 loss to the Bills. The first playoff test for the AFC East champions will come Saturday, January 14 at 8 p.m. (et).
Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 29-of-46 passes for 307 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions for the Bills (6-10), who fell apart after starting the season with a 4-1 mark.
Steve Johnson caught four passes for 40 yards and a touchdown for Buffalo, which lost eight of nine to end the season. C.J. Spiller carried the ball 13 times for 60 yards.
New England woke up after letting Buffalo jump out to a quick 21-0 lead. The home team got things going with a nine-play, 77-yard scoring drive. Hernandez caught a 27-yard pass on the second play of the second quarter. Stevan Ridley kept the march alive with a 21-yard run on 3rd-and-1. Green-Ellis leaped over the pile from the one to cut the gap to 21-7 with 11:58 to go.
On the seventh play of the Patriots' next possession, Brady found a wide-open Hernandez down the right sideline for an easy 39-yard score.
The Bills had a chance to put three more points on the board, but Brandon Coutu's 45-yarder was wide left as time expired. It was his first NFL field goal attempt.
The Patriots got a pair of field goals from Stephen Gostkowski early in the third quarter to cut the gap to 21-20.
Fitzpatrick was then picked off by Sterling Moore, who returned the ball five yards to the Buffalo 25. The Patriots failed to convert on 3rd-and-15, but Bills linebacker Kirk Morrison was called for illegal contact. A fresh set of downs led to Gronkowski's 17-yard TD catch. A successful two-point conversion gave the home team a 28-21 lead with 1:32 remaining in the third.
New England's defense came up with another big play early in the fourth. Devin McCourty picked off Fitzpatrick and returned the ball 38 yards to the 47 of the Bills. After Hernandez caught a 44-yard pass, Green-Ellis rumbled into the end zone from three yards out.
The Patriots added another touchdown with 3:02 to play. Brady's 300th career TD pass went to Gronkowski, who recorded his 18th touchdown of the season. Gronkowski set the NFL record for receiving yards in a season by a tight end with 1,327.
Moore capped the come-from-behind victory with a 21-yard interception return for a touchdown.
"It was kind of like our season. It started off so well with the 21 points, and we had things rolling offensively," Fitzpatrick said. "We were doing some good things on defense, stopping them. We wanted to do some up-tempo stuff today, which worked early. It kept working, but when you get a sack, a penalty, a bad snap or don't complete a pass or whatever it is, it puts you behind the sticks and makes it harder."
The Bills came out of the gates on fire, scoring 21 points in the first quarter. Buffalo's first drive was kept alive by a fake punt. George Wilson took the snap on 4th-and-1 and gained six yards on the ground. A 47-yard defensive pass interference penalty put the ball at the four-yard line. Tashard Choice rumbled into the end zone for an early 7-0 lead.
Buffalo marched down the field again after New England went three-and-out. Derek Hagan caught a 22-yard pass on the second play to put the ball near midfield. On 4th-and-4 from the 31, Johnson caught a nine-yard pass. Two plays later, Fitzpatrick lofted a perfect pass to Johnson for an 18-yard score.
Following another three-and-out by the Patriots, the Bills put together a six- play, 82-yard scoring drive. Fitzpatrick completed three straight passes of at least 14 yards to set up the visitors at the 27. Spiller ran for 12 yards before recording a 15-yard TD catch. The score gave Buffalo a 21-0 lead with 48 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Patriots own a 61-41-1 advantage over the Bills...The 49 points by the Patriots are the most since their 59-0 victory over the Titans in 2009... Brady's 300th TD pass moved him into a tie with John Elway for fifth place in NFL history...The Patriots scored 30 points or more 12 times this season, tying the 2007 Patriots and 1999 Rams for most in NFL history...New England safety Patrick Chung and linebacker Brandon Spikes were both active for the first time in eight games.
01/01 22:24:10 ET