Patriots win AFC East with late touchdown, defensive stand against Bills

Patriots win AFC East with late touchdown, defensive stand against Bills
FOXBOROUGH, MASSACHUSETTS - DECEMBER 21: Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots throws a pass during the first half against the Buffalo Bills in the game at Gillette Stadium on December 21, 2019 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images) (Billie Weiss/Getty Images)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Trailing by a point with 9:01 remaining in the fourth quarter, the New England Patriots marched on a seven-play, 59-yard touchdown drive to take the lead and deliver them the victory - as well as the AFC East title - over the Buffalo Bills.

The drive was punctuated by a 1-yard touchdown run by Rex Burkhead, who broke a tackle before rushing into the end zone. A successful two-point conversion from Tom Brady to Julian Edelman capped off the drive and the game as the Patriots won, 24-17.

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New England (12-3) trailed, 17-13, midway through the third quarter after a 53-yard touchdown pass from Josh Allen to WR John Brown. New England responded three drives later with a field goal before forcing a three-and-out and putting together the game-winning drive.

The Bills (10-5) had an opportunity to tie the game with a late fourth quarter drive of their own, but a fourth-down stop at the New England 15-yard-line sealed the win for the AFC East champs. 2019 is the 11th consecutive year that the Patriots have won the division.

New England maintained possession of the football for 21:27 of the first half, compared to just 8:43 for the Bills. A pair of long drives resulted in all of the Patriots points in the first half.

In the second quarter, a 17-play, 81-yard drive took just under nine minutes on the clock and resulted in a field goal for the Patriots. That drive followed an 11-play 75-yard series from New England that culminated in an 8-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady to Matt LaCosse.

Despite holding a heavy lead in time of possession in the first half, the Patriots allowed the Bills to tie the score with a 59-yard touchdown drive in the half’s final minute.

On 2nd-and-1 from the New England 34-yard-line, Allen connected with TE Dawson Knox on a 33-yard strike to move the ball to the Patriots 1-yard-line with 10 seconds to go in the half. Two plays later, a pass to a tackle-eligible Dion Dawkins evened the score at 10-10 going into halftime.

The Bills late touchdown drive began after the Patriots were stuffed on 4th-and-1 from the Buffalo 41-yard line. N’Keal Harry caught Brady’s pass just before the first down marker, but an unblocked Kevin Johnson was able to make the vital stop for the Bills.

Buffalo recorded their first three points of the contest early in the first quarter after Burkhead fumbled at the Patriots 31-yard-line on the game’s opening drive.

RT Marcus Cannon was removed from the game following a second-quarter ankle injury. He did not return after being ruled questionable. WR Julian Edelman was also pulled from the game to be evaluated for a head injury; he returned to the contest with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Despite Cannon’s removal from the contest, the New England offensive line turned in one of its best games of the season, giving Brady more time in the pocket and helping the Patriots running game. Second-year RB Sony Michel rushed for 96 yards on the day, his highest total for the season.

Burkhead recovered from his opening drive fumble, hauling in four catches for a career-high 77 yards while also punching in the deciding touchdown. His previous career-high in receiving yards had been 68, per ESPN. The running back eclipsed that number by the end of the third quarter.

Brady finished the day 26-of-33 with 271 yards and a touchdown. He and the rest of the Patriots will play host to the Miami Dolphins (3-11) next Sunday in the final game of the 2019 regular season. A win would give the Patriots a first-round bye in the upcoming NFL Playoffs while today’s win assures New England will host at least one postseason game.