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Final: Patriots 49, Bills 21

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff  January 1, 2012 02:29 PM

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FOXBOROUGH -- The Patriots scored 49 unanswered points, picked off Buffalo quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick four times, beating the Bills, 49-21, to clinch the No. 1 seed in the AFC.

Tom Brady, who finished 23 of 35 for 338 yards and three touchdowns, passed the 5,000-yard mark, becoming the third quarterback in NFL history to have done so. He finished with 5,235. He beat Dan Marino's 1984 record of 5,084 yards but now sits behind the Saints' Drew Brees, who finished the season 5,476.

Rob Gronkowski, who had eight catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns, broke the NFL record for yards in a season by a tight end with 1,327. Gronkowski finished with 18 touchdowns as well, good for second all-time in Patriots history.

1:30 4th quarter: Patriots 49, Bills 21 -- Antwaun Molden intercepted a floating Ryan Fitzpatrick pass, the Patriots' fourth pick of the Buffalo QB. Fitzpatrick equaled the number of interceptions Tom Brady threw in the teams' first meeting in Buffalo.

2:55 4th quarter: Patriots 49, Bills 21 -- Once is fine, but twice is nice. Sterling Moore recorded his second interception of the game and his career, returning it 21 yards for a touchdown.

The Patriots have now scored 49 unanswered points against the Bills and Ryan Fitzpatrick has thrown three interceptions.

3:02 4th quarter: Patriots 42, Bills 21 -- Rob Gronkowski caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady for his second TD of the game.

It was Brady's 300th touchdown pass of his career and it gave Gronkowski 18 touchdowns on the year, second in franchise history behind Randy Moss's 23 in 2007.

Gronkowski also passed the NFL record mark set in 1980 by San Diego's Kellen Winslow for yards in a season by a tight end. He needed 72 yards to surpass it. He currently has 86 yards on seven catches.

11:16 4th quarter: Patriots 35, Bills 21 -- Aaron Hernandez's 44-yard catch-and-run set up a 3-yard touchdown run by BenJarvus Green-Ellis. The Patriots capitalized on Devin McCourty's interception. They've now scored 35 unanswered points.

12:04 4th quarter: Patriots 28, Bills 21 -- Devin McCourty picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Patriots' second pick of the game. It is McCourty's second of the year. McCourty was playing free safety on the play after playing the last 15 games at left cornerback.

End of the 3d quarter: Patriots 28, Bills 21 -- We've come to the end of the third quarter and the Patriots have scored 28 unanswered points since getting drubbed in the first quarter.

Gronkowski's third-quarter touchdown gave him 17 this season, tying Curtis Martin for second on the franchise list.

1:32 3d quarter: Patriots 28, Bills 21 -- The Patriots capitalized on Sterling Moore's interception, with Tom Brady connecting with TE Rob Gronkowski for a 17-yard touchdown pass. The Patriots went for 2, putting them up 7 points with Danny Woodhead punching in the extra deuce.

It was a five-play, 25-yard drive that spanned 2:22.

3:54 3d quarter: Bills 21, Patriots 20 -- Sterling Moore picked off Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick and the Patriots get the ball back at the Bills 25-yard line.

5:13 3d quarter: Bills 21, Patriots 20 -- Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 20-yard field goal after BenJarvus Green-Ellis set the Patriots up in the red zone, catching a screen pass and racing 53 yards to the 20-yard line.

Wes Welker caught a 15-yard pass on the drive, giving him 120 catches on the year. It's the second time he's had 120 catches in one season. The only other player to have 120 catches more than once in the NFL was Cris Carter, who did it for the Minnesota Vikings in 1994 and 1995.

8:45 3d quarter: Bills 21, Patriots 17 -- Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick appears to have lost his touch, misfiring twice on the last drive to receivers en route to another Bills punt. Credit the Patriots' secondary and LB corps for throwing different coverage at him. The Bills continue to use a spread offense. Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung are alternating at the safety positions, with Antwaun Molden and Sterling Moore at the outside corners. WR Julian Edelman is manning the slot, or star, corner.

12:19 3d quarter: Bills 21, Patriots 17 -- Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 47-yard field goal as the Patriots went 50 yards on nine plays to open the third quarter.

On a 13-yard run by Stevan Ridley, the Patriots surpassed a franchise record for total yards in a season.

15:00 3d quarter: Bills 21, Patriots 14 -- The third quarter is underway and the Patriots have the ball at the 22.

End of 2d quarter: Bills 21, Patriots 14 -- Brandon Coutu missed a 45-yard field goal and the Patriots escaped the first half without giving up another score after Tom Brady's interception.

Brady is 11 of 15 for 134 yards and a touchdown. Today's favorite target is Aaron Hernandez, who has four catches for 81 yards and a score.

Stevan Ridley has been the featured running back today. He has nine rushes for 48 yards. However, BenJarvus Green-Ellis punched in a 1-yard TD for the Patriots, diving over a goal-line pile for the Patriots' first score of the day.

The Bills have ridden the arm of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. He's completed 20 of 28 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns, including a 17-yard strike to Stevie Johnson and 15-yard score to C.J. Spiller.

0:51 2d quarter: Bills 21, Patriots 14 -- Tom Brady was intercepted on third and 14, his pass intended to Wes Welker getting tipped. Bills LB Nick Barnett snagged the ball and returned it 33 yards.

Bills CB Drayton Florence was flagged for hitting Brady during the return.

2:25 2d quarter: Bills 21, Patriots 14 -- On fourth and 12 at the Patriots 36, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was forced into a bad throw by safety Patrick Chung. It was the second stop by the Patriots' defense in a row.

5:42 2d quarter: Bills 21, Patriots 14 -- Aaron Hernandez high-stepped his way into the end zone, completing a 39-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to pull the Patriots within a touchdown.

On the TD, Tom Brady surpassed 5,000 yards passing. He's the third quarterback in NFL history to do so. Brady is 8 of 10 for 107 yards and touchdown now. He needed 103 yardsto pass 5,000.

8:59 2d quarter: Bills 21, Patriots 7 -- Mark Anderson recorded his 10th sack of the year. It's the first time since 1985 that the Patriots have had two pass rushers with at least 10 sacks. Andre Carter, who is now on injured reserve, has 10 sacks. Anderson's sack on first down helped the Patriots to hold the Bills to a punt for the first time this game.

Devin McCourty continues to play at safety for the Patriots as the Bills utilize a spread offense. Patrick Chung, who returned after missing the past seven games, is playing corner in the slot in these situations.

11:58 2d quarter: Bills 21, Patriots 7 -- BenJarvus Green-Ellis jumped over a goal-line pile for a 1-yard touchdown run and the Patriots are on the board.

Stevan Ridley's 21-yard rush to the Bills' 2-yard line helped set up the score, as well as Tom Brady's 27-yard pass to Aaron Hernandez. The Patriots went 77 yards in nine plays in 3:50, utilizing their hurry-up offense.

It was Green-Ellis's 10th touchdown of the year.

End of 1st quarter: Bills 21, Patriots 0 -- Tom Brady completed two quick passes before the end of the first quarter. In this situation, you can typically expect the Patriots to go to their hurry-up offense. But then again, this is not a typical situation for the Patriots, being down, 21-0.

0:48 1st quarter: Bills 21, Patriots 0 -- Ryan Fitzpatrick completed all five of his passes, including a 15-yard touchdown strike to RB CJ Spiller out of the slot as the Bills have now gone up by three scores in the first quarter.

The Bills went 82 yards in six plays in 3:07.

Fitzpatrick is 13 of 16 for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

After the touchdown, Patriots fans at Gillette booed the players on the field.

3:55 1st quarter: Bills 14, Patriots 0 -- Tom Brady was sacked hard for a 10-yard loss on third down and the Patriots punted for the second drive in a row. Brady got up gingerly, not moving his left shoulder much. Keep an eye on that shoulder.

5:19 1st quarter: Bills 14, Patriots 0 -- Ryan Fitzpatrick threw a 17-yard touchdown to Stevie Johnson, topping off an 10-play drive that went 70 yards. The touchdown catch, which was a diving grab, was reviewed and upheld.

Johnson made up for a dropped pass on third down, coming right back and catching a pass on fourth and 4 to keep the Bills' drive alive. Two plays later he was in the end zone, showing off a T-shirt under his jersey that read "Happy New Year's'' that got him flagged for excessive celebration.

Patriots DT Kyle Love recorded a 3-yard sack on Fitzpatrick on the drive.

The Bills have opted to go with a five-receiver offense for most of the game, spreading the Patriots defenders out. We'll see if this trend continues.

10:00 1st quarter: Bills 7, Patriots 0 -- Tom Brady was hit on a throw to Wes Welker, an incomplete pass, and Stevan Ridley ran twice for two yards as the Patriots went three and out. Ridley got the start over BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Ryan Wendell got the start at left guard over Donald Thomas.

11:18 1st quarter: Bills 7, Patriots 0 -- Antwaun Molden was flagged for pass interference, giving 47 yards to the Bills. They capitalized with a 4-yard touchdown run by Tashard Choice. The Bills converted a fourth down with a direct snap to George Wilson to help set up the scoring drive. The Bills went 80 yards in eight plays and 3:42.

12:30 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Bills 0 -- Patrick Chung has already made his presence felt in his first game since Week 9. He pummeled Bills receiver Stevie Johnson on a third and 6, keeping him from getting a first down. Also of note in the first series, Devin McCourty has lined up at safety a couple of times. Keep your eyes on him.

15:00 1st quarter: Patriots 0, Bills 0 -- The Patriots have deferred and the Bills will receive the opening kickoff. Game on.

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The Patriots are looking for revenge after a 34-31 loss in Week 3 to the Buffalo Bills in which Tom Brady threw four interceptions. They're now on a seven-game winning streak and the Bills are in their way for the top seed in the AFC. Stay right here for all of the game's updates. We'll also have playoff matchups on the blog later today when all the games have concluded.

It's 51 degrees out with sunny skies and warm (enough) conditions. Enjoy the game!

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News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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