Bills beat Patriots to set up AFC East-deciding finale against Dolphins
The ballhawking Douglas delivered Sunday, and now Buffalo is on the doorstep of another playoff berth.
The 29-year-old Douglas returned one of his two interceptions for a score and tipped a pass to cause a third turnover in helping the Bills maintain their clear path to the playoffs with a 27-21 win over the New England Patriots on Sunday.
“I don’t know what we gave up to get him,” safety Micah Hyde said of the deal in which Buffalo also acquired a fifth-round draft pick by sending a third-round selection to Green Bay. “But we won that trade.”
Josh Allen made up for his poor passing by scoring twice on 1-yard runs, and the three-time division champion Bills (10-6) now prepare for a season-ending showdown at Miami (11-5) next weekend that will decide the AFC East title. Buffalo has already defeated the Dolphins this year, and Miami blew a chance at clinching the division with a 56-19 loss to Baltimore on Sunday.
The Bills will have to wait until Week 18 to clinch a playoff berth after Pittsburgh (9-7) defeated Seattle 30-23.
The Buffalo enters the final week seeded sixth in the AFC race. Barring ties, the Bills could still secure their fifth consecutive playoff berth with a loss to Miami if Pittsburgh loses at Baltimore or Jacksonville (9-7) loses at Tennessee.
However things go, a patchwork defense that’s spent much of the season without cornerback Tre’Davious White (torn Achilles tendon) and linebacker Matt Milano (right leg) rose up in forcing four turnovers and limiting the Patriots to 16 first downs and 294 yards. Tackle Ed Oliver had an interception on a pass tipped by Douglas, and cornerback Christian Benford forced a fumble by stripping the ball from receiver Pharaoh Brown.
“Resilience. Relentless. We always fight,” Douglas said. “I think that we got our identity now and know what we are capable of doing.”
Buffalo won its fourth straight and fifth in six games by overcoming an inconsistent offense which settled for a touchdown and two field goals off three defensive takeaways inside the Patriots 30 in the first half. The Bills also responded after the Patriots opened the game with Jalen Reagor’s 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.
Buffalo went up 10-7 and never relinquished the lead after Allen’s first 1-yard run with 6:37 left in the first quarter, which was set up by Douglas’ first interception at New England’s 14. Douglas made it 20-7 by scoring on his 40-yard interception return 2 1/2 minutes into the second quarter.
New England (4-12) proved both stout in a game it had little to play for and sloppy in a season the Patriots will finish with their most losses since going 2-14 in 1992. It could be the fewest wins in coach Bill Belichick’s tenure, which he opened with a 5-11 record in 2000.
"Obviously a terrible first 20 minutes. From there, we battled away, but obviously gave them too big of a lead and couldn’t quite get it back,” Belichick said. “Just stop turning it over. Once we did that, we were competitive.”
Bailey Zappe finished 16 of 26 for 209 yards and also scored on an 18-yard run.
“I don’t think it was difficult to keep fighting because it was more about us than it was about them,” Patriots center David Andrews said. “The first half, you can’t do that. You can’t turn the ball over four times. But no one lost belief. Not one lost faith. Obviously, no one quit."
Zappe had more interceptions (three) than the Patriots had first downs (two) during New England’s first six possessions. The Patriots, however, pulled within 27-21 on Ezekiel Elliott’s 6-yard run with 11:01 left.
Following a three-and-out on New England’s next possession, the Patriots never got the ball back.
Allen converted three third-down opportunities on Buffalo’s final drive to run out the final 5:02. He capped the time-consuming drive by lowering his head on a 4-yard run on third-and-3 from the Patriots 16.
Allen finished 15 of 30 for 169 yards and an interception. He lamented not putting the game out of reach earlier.
“Three possessions down there in the first quarter, and we only scored one touchdown, so that’s not good enough,” he said. “We lucked out and our defense played a heck of a game. Just trying to find a way to win.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Allen scored his team-leading 15th TD rushing, one short of matching the team’s season record set in a 14-game season by O.J. Simpson 1975. ... Allen had his streak of games throwing a touchdown end at 23. ... WR Stefon Diggs had four catches to reach 100 this season. He became the NFL’s third player to have four or more consecutive seasons with 100 catches, joining Antonio Brown (2013-18) and Marvin Harrison (1999-2002).
Patriots: Close season hosting New York Jets.
Bills: Close season at Miami Dolphins.
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