Patriots 34, Bills 20

Mike Shalin, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots, finishing a perfect home season, got a career game from running back LeGarrette Blount and clinched the No. 2 AFC seed and a first-week bye with a rain-soaked 34-20 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
The Patriots (12-4 with five wins in their last six games) will now rest before hosting a divisional playoff game. That will be New England's only home playoff game, unless top-seeded Denver loses its divisional playoff game.
Blount ran for a career-high 189 yards, including touchdown runs of 36 and 35 yards, and also recorded kickoff returns of 83 and 62 yards (both besting the previous team high for the season) in the second half.
The 189 yards by Blount is the fifth-highest total in franchise history. He left the game to a huge ovation and a hug from coach Bill Belichick as the Patriots were running out the clock.
The Patriots ran for a season-high 267 yards in beating Buffalo for the 13th straight time in Foxboro, the last 12 at Gillette Stadium.
Stephen Gostkowski kicked four field goals and added two extra points, breaking the Patriots' 49-year-old season scoring record. He had 158 points for the season, breaking Gino Cappelletti's 1964 record.
Wide receiver Julian Edelman caught nine passes for 65 yards, clearing both the 100-catch and 1,000-yard plateaus in the first half. He is the third Patriot with 100 catches in a season (Wes Welker did it five times) and Edelman is the 10th New England receiver with 1,000 yards.
Quarterback Tom Brady was 14-for-24 for 122 yards and a touchdown. On a third-and-32 from the New England 46 in the third quarter, Brady launched a 32-yard punt, the third punt of his career.
Brady's punt came after a strange series that saw Buffalo hit with two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on the same play, before the Patriots were guilty on offense of two straight holding penalties.
Speaking of penalties, Buffalo defensive tackle Marcell Dareus was guilty of encroachment as the Patriots were ready to kick a field goal that would have made it 19-10. Instead, New England got the Vereen touchdown and then a two-point conversion pass to Edelman.
The Bills finished the franchise's 14th straight non-playoff season 6-10. The 14 in a row is the longest current NFL streak.
Quarterback Thad Lewis, starting for the Bills with EJ Manuel out with a knee injury, was 16-for-29 for 247 yards and a touchdown pass to wide receiver T.J. Graham.
Running back C.J. Spiller ran for 105 yards and caught five passes for 28 yards for the Bills.
Dan Carpenter kicked two field goals, including a 51-yarder to tie the game 3-3 in the first quarter for Buffalo. He finished the season 4-for-6 from outside 50 yards.
NOTES: The Patriots fumbled four times in the steady downpour, but recovered all four. ... New England amassed 173 yards rushing in the first half, a team-high for the team in a half since at least 1991. ... New England OT Nate Solder returned after missing a game with a concussion. That allowed Pro Bowl pick Logan Mankins to go back to guard. Mankins was helped off the field with an ankle injury in the second quarter but was back for the last drive of the half. ... Patriots rookie WR Aaron Dobson left with a foot injury after an attempted bomb and didn't return. ... Buffalo S Jairus Byrd was lost with an ankle injury. The Bills were already missing WR Stevie Johnson because of the death of his mother. ... Patriots CB Alfonzo Dennard was out with shoulder and knee woes. ... Buffalo QB Thad Lewis finished the season 2-3 as a starter. ... Patriots LB Brandon Spikes, playing on a bad knee, left the game late.

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