Tom Brady, Patriots Clinch AFC East with Victory Against Josh Allen, Bills

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistDecember 22, 2019

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, left, celebrates his touchdown pass to tight end Matt LaCosse, right, in the first half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019, in Foxborough, Mass. Brady[s touchdown pass was the 539th of his career, tying Peyton Manning for second all-time most touchdown passes by an NFL quarterback. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
Elise Amendola/Associated Press

The New England Patriots clinched the AFC East with a 24-17 win over the Buffalo Bills at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.

Tom Brady led the way for the Patriots with 271 yards and one touchdown, and Sony Michel added 96 yards on the ground. Rex Burkhead had 97 total yards and scored the game-winning touchdown from one yard out with just over five minutes to play.

Josh Allen had 208 passing yards, 43 rushing yards and two touchdown passes for the Bills.

The win sealed the 11th consecutive division title for New England and 17th in the last 19 seasons.


Notable Performances


QB Josh Allen: 13-of-26, 208 yards, two touchdowns; seven carries, 43 yards

RB Devin Singletary: 15 carries, 46 yards

WR John Brown: one catch, 53 yards, one touchdown; one carry, three yards

WR Cole Beasley: seven catches, 108 yards



QB Tom Brady: 26-of-33, 271 yards, one touchdown

RB Sony Michel: 21 carries, 96 yards

RB Rex Burkhead: five carries, 20 yards, one touchdown; four catches, 77 yards

WR Julian Edelman: five catches, 72 yards; caught two-point conversion with 5:06 to play


Brady Comes Through In Clutch for Patriots

Even though he led his team to wins in 11 of its first 14 games, the 42-year-old Brady (career-low 60.1 completion percentage entering Week 16) has been under the microscope this season.

He came ready to play Saturday.

After completing just 51.5 percent of his passes over his previous five games, the three-time NFL MVP opened the game with 10 consecutive completions. In the process, Brady led the offense 75-plus yards on two of New England's first three drives, resulting in an early 10-3 lead:

New England Patriots @Patriots

.@Mattylac11 is 🔥'd up after that TD. @TomBrady | #GoPats https://t.co/a7Sj5KMEHP

New England Patriots @Patriots

Tom to Rex to N'Keal with a block from TB12. @TomBrady | @NkealHarry15 https://t.co/WPeoJrcu0g

In a 16-10 victory at Buffalo in Week 4, Brady went 18-of-39 for just 150 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. In the first half Saturday, he was 16-of-22 for 134 yards, one touchdown and zero interceptions.

Ultimately, though, New England needed a vintage Brady comeback to wrap up the division. All he did was deliver a seven-play, 59-yard drive in the fourth quarter:

New England Patriots @Patriots

.@RBRex34 would not be denied. #BUFvsNE | #GoPats https://t.co/1DYbA2yBzW

The Patriots offense will continue to face scrutiny after its latest performance, but it managed just enough points to win. The reward? A home playoff game, with the possibility of a first-round bye still in play.


Big Plays Not Enough for Bills to Overcome Inconsistent Offense

Facing the NFL's top-ranked defense, Allen and the Buffalo offense used an early New England turnover to seize a 3-0 lead.

From that point on, though, it had a tough time generating momentum.

Buffalo ran 12 offensive plays on its final three first-half drives, leading to a pair of three-and-outs. Allen and Co. had a particularly rough second quarter, when it ran eight plays in the first 14-plus minutes and managed 10 yards. 

The Bills were fortunate that their defense made just enough plays to hold the Patriots to three points in the quarter, keeping the team within striking distance. It wasn't until after the defense forced a turnover on downs near midfield in the final minute that the offense showed any signs of life:


.@JoshAllenQB and @Dawson_Knox connect DEEP. After review, Knox is down at the one. #GoBills 📺: #BUFvsNE on @NFLNetwork Watch now on your 📱: https://t.co/tbGyM1cXB3 How to watch on any device: https://t.co/9oFWSFEujX https://t.co/d7hDI2R9Kt

Buffalo Bills @BuffaloBills

🚨DION. DAWKINS.🚨 #BUFvsNE | #GoBills https://t.co/dLGw0PQx9q

That touchdown by the 6'5", 320-pound offensive tackle Dion Dawkins made history, per NFL Research:

NFL Research @NFLResearch

At 320 pounds, @BuffaloBills offensive tackle Dion Dawkins became the 5th player weighing 300+ pounds to catch a receiving touchdown this season. That is the most in a single-season since at least 1995. #BUFvsNE

Buffalo had 50 yards of offense through the first 29 minutes-plus of the first half and proceeded to go 59 yards in 32 seconds just before halftime to even the score. 

Allen later connected with John Brown on a 53-yard touchdown midway through the third quarter:

Buffalo Bills @BuffaloBills

And that's why they call him SMOKE! #BUFvsNE | #GoBills https://t.co/NpN4sik0Uh

Buffalo's offense is at its best when it establishes the run, as it entered the game ranked fifth in the league in rushing. On this night, however, neither Allen nor Singletary found a rhythm on the ground against the No. 7 rush defense. 

The big pass plays helped give the Bills a chance, but the inability to consistently move the football proved costly. As a result, they will open the postseason on the road.


What's Next 

New England (12-3) will have eyes on Sunday Night Football, as a Kansas City Chiefs (10-4) loss to the Chicago Bears will give the Patriots a first-round bye. Brady and Co. will wrap up the regular season at home against the Miami Dolphins on Dec. 29.

Buffalo (10-5) is entrenched as the fifth seed, leaving little drama for next week's regular-season finale against the New York Jets.