Apparently, the third time was the charm.
While their two previous attempts had been thwarted (by the Dolphins and Steelers, respectively) the New England Patriots finally earned their 10th straight AFC East title with a 24-12 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
As a result, hats and t-shirts (commemorating New England’s division crown) we’re being sported throughout the Patriots’ locker room.
The Pats improved to 7-0 at home this season and became the first franchise in NFL history to earn playoff berths in 10 straight seasons. It also marked the Patriots’ fifth straight win over the Bills. In winning both divisional tilts against Buffalo, the New England has now swept their divisional rival in 26 historical series.
On offense, the Patriots rode the run to victory on Sunday. Running back Sony Michel collected his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season, running for 116 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Tom Brady went 13 of 24 passing for 126 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. The two interceptions marked his third game with multiple picks this season. Brady now has 11 interceptions in 2018, his most since 2013.
In what was an ‘up-and-down’ game for the New England quarterback, his touchdown pass was perhaps the play of the game, with a big assist from receiver Julian Edelman. Leading 14-6 in the third quarter, and facing fourth-and-4 on the Bills 32, Brady found Edelman over the middle on a quick slant. Edelman was tackled and rolled up by safety Rafael Bush. However, Edelman never touched the ground. He got up and sprinted into the end zone for the heads-up score.
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Behind a solid defensive effort by the Patriots, Buffalo was only able to turn the three New England turnovers into three points. Bills’ rookie quarterback Josh Allen was well-contained for most of the day. Allen was held to 20 of 41 for 217 yards with two interceptions. He ran five times for 30 yards. Buffalo finished with 72 rushing yards. It was the first time in five games it failed to rush for 100 or more. Buffalo running back LeSean McCoy rushed six times for only 9 yards.
Back in familiar territory, the Patriots improved to 10-5 on the season
BACK IN THE BYE?
With the Philadelphia Eagles win over the Houston Texans, the Patriots are back in the No. 2 spot in the AFC. With a win over the New York Jets next week, New England would clinch a much needed first-round bye in the playoffs.
ANOTHER BRADY MILESTONE
With Brady’s touchdown pass, he joined Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers with at least 10 seasons of 4,000-plus passing yards. Manning has 14 such seasons, Brees entered the day with 12 and Rivers has 10. (cred: Associated Press)
Patriots wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson left the game with a knee injury in the third quarter.
Initial reports indicate that Patterson was ok, following the game.
The Pats welcome the New York Jets to Foxboro for their regular season finale on Sunday, December 30, 2018 at Gillette Stadium.
-Mike D’Abate is a Managing Editor and National Columnist for Full Press Coverage Sports Media. He covers the New England Patriots and the NFL. Follow him on Twitter @mdabateFPC