The Patriots clinch AFC East title with a 24-12 win over the Bills

Follow along for the latest news from Gillette Stadium Sunday afternoon.

Julian Edelman
Julian Edelman drives towards the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter. Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

The Patriots clinched the AFC East title Sunday for the 10th consecutive season with a 24-12 win over the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium.

New England’s running game and its defense picked up the slack for Tom Brady, who was just 13-of-24 passing with 126 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions, and a 48.3 rating.

Sony Michel rushed for a game-high 116 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. James White also rushed for a touchdown and Brady connected with Julian Edleman on a 32-yard touchdown pass with 5:01 remaining in the third quarter to go up 21-6.

Despite Brady’s two interceptions and a fumble, by Rex Burkhead, the New England defense held the Bills to just two Stephen Hauschka field goal of 35 and 41 yards until Bills quarterback Josh Allen connected with Zay Jones for a 31-yard touchdown pass with 1:08 remaining in the fourth quarter.


New England rushed for 275 yards, just two shy of the team record in the Bill Belichick era. Jason McCourty and J.C. Jackson had interceptions for the Patriots.

Fourth quarter

FINAL — Patriots 24, Bills 12

Patriots 24, Bills 12 (1:08): Josh Allen eluded the Patriots’ pass rush and found Zay Jones downfield for a 31-yard touchdown. A bad snap prevented Buffalo from adding the extra point. The score capped a 9 play, 80-yard drive highlighted by a 13-yard completion to Jones and an 11-yard rush by Keith Ford.

The Patriots ran out the clock and clinched their 10th straight AFC East title.

Patriots 24, Bills 6 (2:59): The Patriots offense gave the ball back to Buffalo after a three-and-out. Rex Burkhead rushed for two short gains before Phillip Dorsett was stuffed for a 4-yard loss on third down. Punter Ryan Allen pinned the Bills on their own 20-yard line.


Patriots 24, Bills 6 (4:01): Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty picked off Ryan Allen for his first interception of the season. The Bills had picked up a first down, via a 12-yard completion to Zay Jones, before Allen looked for Isaiah McKenzie down the right sideline and instead found McCourty.

Patriots 24, Bills 6 (5:07): The Patriots, with Bryan Hoyer in at quarterback, turned the ball over on downs. Hoyer handed it off to Rex Burkhead on the first three downs, before throwing an incomplete pass intended for Julian Edelman on 4th and 6 at the Buffalo 29-yard line.

Patriots 24, Bills 6 (6:39): After the Bills has their sixth three-and-out of the afternoon, Matthew Slater deflected the punt and the Patriots took over at the Buffalo 33-yard line.


A Holding penalty on offensive lineman John Miller had sent the Bills back 10 yards after the first play and an incomplete pass on 3rd and 12 stalled the drive.

Patriots 24, Bills 6 (7:44): Stephen Gostkowski kicked a 24-yard field goal to extend the Patriots’ lead.

On the second play of the short-field drive, Phillip Dorsett sprinted for 17 yards before the Bills pushed him out of bounds at the 4-yard line. Tom Brady gave James White the ball on the next three plays, but the running back could not break the goal line. Micah Hyde stuffed White in the backfield for a loss on 3rd and Goal from the Buffalo 2-yard line.


Patriots 21, Bills 6 (10:19): After a three-and-out by the Bills offense, Julian Edelman returned Matt Darr’s punt 25 yards to the Buffalo 24-yard line. Ryan Allen threw an incomplete pass intended for wide receiver Zay Jones on 3rd and 7 to stall the drive.

Patriots 21, Bills 6 (12:00): The Patriots drive stalled at the Buffalo 40-yard line after Tom Brady’s pass intended for Rob Gronkowski on 3rd and 8 fell incomplete.

The 11 play, 54-yard drive was highlighted by two double-digit gains by Julian Edelman, who displayed some fine footwork to get separation from his defender and a first down.

Third quarter

Patriots 21, Bills 6 (2:48): Jason Croom picked up 24 yards for Buffalo, then fumbled as he fought for a couple more. The Bills had driven downfield with a 25-yard Josh Allen to Robert Foster connection before the turnover handed the ball back to Tom Brady at the New England 6-yard line.


Patriots 21, Bills 6 (5:05): The Bill defense, who thought they had tackled Julian Edelman, watched the Patriots wide receiver pop back up and race for a 32-yard touchdown. Reply review confirmed Edelman had used the tacklers as a cushion to stay off the ground.

The New England drive overcame Rob Gronkowski’s Holding penalty near midfield. Rex Burkhead made up the difference, taking a check down from Tom Brady and racing through a giant gap in the Buffalo secondary for 25 yards.

Patriots 14, Bills 6 (10:06): Steven Hauschka split the uprights with a 41-yard field goal to narrow the gap between the teams.

The Bills advanced 17 yards on the first play of the drive, thanks to a Pass Interference penalty on Jonathan Jones, then went for 19 more yards on the next play as Ryan Allen found Jason Croom. At the New England 23-yard line, Allen fired three straight incomplete passes into the end zone to stall the drive.

Patriots 14, Bills 3 (11:16): The Patriots went three-and-out after a Holding penalty on Julian Edelman pushed them back 10 yards.

Sony Michel looked to have picked up a first down before the penalty. Michel and James White gained a combined 11 yards on the next two plays, but it was not enough to cover the required 13 yards and the drive stalled.

Ryan Allen punted to the Buffalo 41-yard line.

Patriots 14, Bills 3 (13:29): The Bills got on the board with a 35-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka. Buffalo’s drive stalled after two short gains and an incompletion by Josh Allen on 3rd and 3.

Patriots 14, Bills 0 (14:49): Tom Brady’s throw on the first play of the Patriots’ drive went through Rob Gronkowski’s hands into the hands of Bills safety Jordan Poyer. Buffalo took over at the New England 24-yard line after the Patriots’ third turnover of the afternoon.

Second quarter

The Patriots led 14-0 entering the break. A few stats:

Total yards: NE 210, BUF 85

Plays: NE 34, BUF 29

Yards per play: NE 6.2, BUF 2.9

First downs: NE 11, BUF 4

Third down: NE 2-5, BUF 1-7

Penalties: NE 2-14, BUF 1-10

Tom Brady: 7-13, 40 yards, 1 INT, 27.7 rating

Josh Allen: 7-16, 48 yards, 1 INT 25.0 rating

Patriots 14, Bills 0 (0:00): The Patriots did not turn the turnover into points. Cordarrelle Patterson raced around the edge for 27 yards on the first play of the drive, before two short gains by Sony Michel and Patterson brought up third down. Tom Brady’s throw on 3rd and 4 landed at Patterson’s feet incomplete.

Punter Ryan Allen pinned Buffalo at its 9-yard line and the clock ran out on the first half after a 5-yard rush by Bills running back Keith Ford.

Patriots 14, Bills 0 (2:23): Patriots safety Patrick Chung and a few fellow defenders swarmed Josh Allen as he tried to scramble on third down at the edge of the red zone, bringing the Bills quarterback down three yards short of the first down marker. Buffalo went for it on fourth down, but Allen’s toss to Robert Foster near the goal line fell to the turf incomplete.

After the 10 play, 46-yard drive, Tom Brady and the Patriots offense took over on downs at the New England 25-yard line.

Patriots 14, Bills 0 (7:44): Tom Brady matched Allen with an interception of his own after some confusion on Rex Burkhead’s route. Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander picked off the Patriots quarterback on the fourth play of the drive after Sony Michel had picked up a first down. Josh Allen got the ball back at the Buffalo 29-yard line.

Patriots 14, Bills 0 (9:53): Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson picked off a woeful floater by Josh Allen on the first play of the Buffalo drive. Victor Bolden Jr. had returned the kickoff 28 yards, before the interception gave Tom Brady the ball back at the Buffalo 49-yard line.

Patriots 14, Bills 0 (9:59): Facing 3rd and 2 at the Buffalo 27-yard line, New England running back James White broke free from the Bills defense before diving for the pylon and a touchdown. The score capped a 5-play, 56 yard drive for the Patriots that included a 15-yard dash up the left sideline by Cordarrelle Patterson.

Patriots 7, Bills 0 (12:29): After Bills running back Keith Ford carried the ball twice, Josh Allen’s throw on 3rd and 3 intended for Isaiah McKenzie was broken up by Patriots cornerback Jason McCourty. The Patriots took over at their 44-yard line after the Bills were penalized for an illegal block during Julian Edelman’s return.

Patriots 7, Bills 0 (13:50): The Patriots went three-and-out after Bills safety Jordan Poyer sacked Tom Brady for a 9-yard loss on second down. Sony Michel rushed for 5 yards on 3rd and 21 to bring out punter Ryan Allen, who sent Buffalo back to its 22-yard line.

First quarter

Patriots 7, Bills 0 (0:08): Buffalo picked up their first first down of the game but could not convert the short field position into points. Steven Hauschka’s 43-yard field goal attempt was no good after bouncing off the crossbar.

Josh Allen had connected with Robert Foster for 11 yards, before two short gains and an incomplete pass on 3rd and 5 intended for tight end Jason Croom stalled the drive.

Patriots 7, Bills 0 (3:52): The Bills defense popped the ball loose from Patriots running back Rex Burkhead and Bills safety Micah Hyde recovered the fumble. Tom Brady found James White for a 5-yard gain on 3rd and 5 to keep the drive alive before Corey Thompson forced the turnover.

Josh Allen took over at the New England 40-yard line.

Patriots 7, Bills 0 (5:39): Buffalo had their third straight three-and-out. On second down, Josh Allen almost connected with wide receiver Robert Foster deep downfield, but Foster lost the ball in the sun and could not reel it in.

Patriots safety Patrick Chung stopped a scrambling Allen short of the first down marker on the next play. Tom Brady will start on the New England 12-yard line after Matt Darr’s punt and a penalty for an illegal block on returner Julian Edelman.

Patriots 7, Bills 0 (7:32): Rookie running back Sony Michel led the Patriots 55 yards downfield and capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run.

On the first play of the drive, Cordarrelle Patterson picked up the first first down of the game for either team. Patterson sidestepped a would-be Bills tackler for a 12-yard gain, before Sony Michel moved the chains twice more on the next two plays. He raced for gains of 19 and 12 yards, then powered through a collection of Buffalo defenders into the end zone.

Patriots 0, Bills 0 (11:08): The Bills punted for the second time after Josh Allen’s throw on 3rd and 5 slipped through the hands of wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie. Allen had found Robert Foster for no gain on first down, then escaped a potential Patriots sack and scrambled for a 5-yard gain on second down.

Punter Matt Darr sent New England back to their own 45-yard line.

Patriots 0, Bills 0 (12:29): The New England offense couldn’t move the chains on their first drive, either.

Tom Brady looked for Julian Edelman on three straight plays, connecting with the wideout for a 7-yard gain before missing his target on 3rd and 3. Punter Ryan Allen pinned the Bills on their own 15-yard line.

Patriots 0, Bills 0 (13:24): The Patriots defense forced a three-and-out on the Bills opening drive. Buffalo had two short rushes, before Josh Allen threw an incomplete pass intended for wide receiver Zay Jones on 3rd and 6.

Patriots safety Patrick Chung limped off the field after the first play.

Pregame scenes

Coin toss: The Patriots won the toss and elected to defer. Rookie quarterback Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills offense will start with the ball.

Buffalo Bills v New England Patriots

Tom Brady of the New England Patriots warms up before the game against the Buffalo Bills.

LeSean McCoy, Josh Allen

Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy, left, shakes hands with quarterback Josh Allen as they warm up.

Bills Patriots Football

End Zone Militia member Bob Elliot, left, poses with a fan dressed as Santa Claus in the parking lot of Gillette Stadium.

Bills Patriots Football

Fans arrive at Gillette Stadium for the game between the between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills.

Bills Patriots Football

Kay and Bryan Daley, of Lexington, Mass., prepare food while tailgating in the parking lot of Gillette Stadium.


Patriots: Adrian Clayborn was a surprising healthy scratch for the first time this season as the Patriots sat the pass rushing defensive end, who had played in all 14 previous games with one start.

Danny Shelton, a healthy scratch the last three weeks, returned to the lineup as New England looked to shore up a run defense that has been porous of late.

Also inactive for the Patriots: DEs Keionta Davis and Derek Rivers; safeties Duke Dawson and Obi Melifonwu; special teams ace Brandon King (knee); and offensive lineman James Ferentz. Defensive lineman Ufomba Kamalu, who was promoted from the practice squad to take Gordon’s roster spot, made his debut.

Bills: RB Chris Ivory (shoulder) and TE Charles Clay headlined an inactive list that also included WR Ray-Ray McCloud; guard Vladimir Ducasse; quarterback Derek Anderson; cornerback Ryan Lewis (concussion); and safety Dean Marlowe.

Pregame news

■ Josh Gordon suspended for multiple violations, report says.

Keys to victory


1. Pass rushers Lorenzo Alexander and Jerry Hughes have to make Tom Brady uncomfortable and batter him around before he finds his groove and batters the Bills.

2. Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds must sift through the traffic and get his hands on fellow rookie Sony Michel to prevent the Patriots from achieving balance.

3. Josh Allen must pick up the slack for a struggling running back corps by frustrating the Patriots with his scrambling abilities.


1. Feed Sony Michel and force the Bills to respect the ground game. This will open things up for Tom Brady to get all his receivers involved early and often.

2. Josh Allen has looked awfully comfortable buzzing through opponents’ secondaries the last few weeks. Got to let him know there’s a price to be paid for that.

3. The Patriots have struggled in hostile environs the last two weeks. The Foxborough faithful need to be at full throttle to erase the bad memories.

– Jim McBride

Pregame reading

■ Chad Finn’s Unconventional Preview: Patriots capable of setting aside distractions as they take on Bills with shot at clinching AFC East (Read more)

■ What experts are predicting for Sunday’s Patriots-Bills game (Read more)

■ Did the Patriots get old and slow this year? (Read more)

■ NFL, Browns, and Patriots tried to work with Josh Gordon (Read more)

■ Josh Gordon’s story is not a football story. Maybe it never should’ve been (Read more)