PHOTO: Corey Dillon #28 of the New England Patriots runs for the Patriot's second touchdown against the Buffalo Bills on December 11, 2005 at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
The script was similar to last week’s. Play suffocating defense, sustain some offensive drives, and outscore an inferior opponent. The Patriots did all of that on their way to a 35-7 rout of Buffalo. The only real scare in this game was to quarterback Tom Brady, who injured his left leg but stayed in for most of the game, posting great numbers (29-for-38, 329 yards, 2 touchdowns, and two interceptions).
The Patriots dominated the Bills in every facet of the game. They led in time of possession (42-18), yards (494-183), 1st downs (32-8), and every category across the board. The defense intercepted Buffalo quarterback J.P. Losman (10-for-27, 181 yards, 1 touchdown) 3 times (Asante Samuel, Ellis Hobbs, and James Sanders) and sacked him twice (Roosevelt Colvin and Richard Seymour). They held Buffalo to just 14 yards rushing, with Losman leading the way with just 7 yards.
The game started slowly, as the teams combined for three straight 3-and-outs. Buffalo looked as if they would be the first to score, as Losman hit Lee Evans (4 catches, 83 yards) with a 58-yard pass off a 1st down play fake. Evans made the catch over two Patriot defenders. But the defense -- as they did all game -- rose to the challenge. Bringing pressure on every play, the Patriots forced two false starts, stuffed Willis McGahee for a 2-yard loss, and forced an incompletion. On 3rd-and-goal from the 22, Samuel intercepted Losman in the end zone.
New England responded to Buffalo’s first threat with an 80-yard touchdown march. Brady was brilliant on the drive, completing 5-of-6 passes for 73 yards. Brady hit Ben Watson, Troy Brown, and Deion Branch (5 catches, 83 yards) with passes, and then capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Brady was hit just below the left knee on the score, and limped noticeably for the rest of the game.
Thanks to tremendous New England pressure, the Bills went 3-and-out again on their next possession. The Patriots put together another nice-looking drive, and made no concessions for Brady’s possible injury, throwing on two of their first three plays of the drive. On the second of these pass plays, Brady stood in the pocket and completed a left-handed pass for 2 yards. On the next play, Brady took off and picked up the 1st down on a 9-yard run. Following a 21-yard Corey Dillon (22 carries, 102 yards) run, the Patriots faked a reverse. Two plays later, they actually ran the reverse, with Brady making a block on the play. But Brady was called for a questionable crack-back penalty, and the Patriots were forced to punt.
Following another 3-and-out by the Bills, the Patriots put together another nice scoring drive. Brady picked up a 1st down on another quarterback sneak. On 3rd-and-10, with the pocket collapsing around him, Brady completed a great pass to Branch, who gained 12 yards and the 1st down. One play later, Dillon rumbled 12 yards into the end zone for the score and a 14-0 Patriots lead.
Late in the 2nd quarter, a roughing the passer penalty on Colvin gave the Bills just their second 1st down of the game. Buffalo picked up another 1st down after Losman ran for it on 3rd down. Defensive pressure again put an end to the Bills’ drive, and they were forced to punt.
New England put together another long drive, but this one ended with a turnover. Kevin Faulk gained 49 yards on the drive both on the ground and through the air. Brady was 6-for-7 as he guided the Patriots into field goal range. But on the next play, he underthrew David Givens in the end zone, and the pass was intercepted by Nate Clements. It remained 14-0 New England at the half.
Buffalo went 3-and-out again to open the 2nd half, and another New England drive ended without a score. Brady threw over the middle for Michael Cloud, but he couldn’t handle it and London Fletcher intercepted the pass. One play later the Patriots had the ball back as Ellis Hobbs -- who had great coverage on the play -- intercepted Losman’s long pass.
Brady guided the Patriots on a 7-play, 76-yard drive. Troy Brown found the end zone on a 5-yard pass from Brady for the 21-0 lead.
Seymour came up with his sack on the Bills’ next drive. Losman was able to guide the Bills into field goal range, but Rian Lindell missed a 32-yarder. Once again, Brady and the Patriots’ offense marched the field. A 14-play, 78-yard drive ended with Brady’s 2-yard touchdown pass to Christian Fauria. Leading 28-0, and with Brady hobbled once more after yet another quarterback sneak, Doug Flutie came on to finish the job for the Patriots.
New England would get its final points on defense, though, putting an exclamation point on their tremendous effort. Tedy Bruschi tipped Losman’s pass in the air and James Sanders intercepted it and returned it 39 yards for a touchdown. Buffalo finally got on the board late in the game (a 51-yard touchdown pass to Josh Reed), but this one was all but over by then.
With the win, the Patriots improved to 8-5, and awaited the Miami-San Diego result. A Dolphins loss today means the Patriots clinch the AFC East title for the 3rd straight year. Next Saturday New England hosts 9-4 Tampa Bay, who won 20-10 in Carolina today.
Darren is a regular contributor to Patriots Insider. You can find him in the forums under the name: DestinationSuperBowl. You can also find archives of his columns on the Insiders by searching for "Darren Kelly"