ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Rex Burkhead scored twice and the New England Patriots won their eighth straight in a 23-3 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday in an AFC East showdown overshadowed by injuries and cheap shots.
Bills starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor had a towel draped over his head while being carted off the sideline with a left knee injury early in the fourth quarter.
Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, meanwhile, was accused of making a dirty hit after pile-driving shoulder-first into the back of the head of Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White, who was laying on the field after making an interception with 4:50 remaining.
“That’s just dirty football,” Bills safety Micah Hyde said. “There’s nowhere in our game for that.”
White was dazed as he got up and was immediately escorted to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion. The hit sparked a shoving match between Hyde and Patriots receiver Danny Amendola. Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes was so upset he was flagged for making contact with an official.
Gronkowski, Hyde and Amendola were penalized for unnecessary roughness.
Gronkowski was apologetic after the game.
“I’m not in the business of that. It was a lot of frustration,” Gronkowski said. “I just want to apologize to Tre’Davious White. I don’t really believe in those type of shots.”
Taylor’s status is uncertain. He would only nod “yes” when asked by The Associated Press if he was all right while limping heavily on his left knee as he boarded a cart and was driven out of the stadium.
Running back LeSean McCoy was among several Bills players who said Taylor continued playing despite being hurt on the first series.
“He was in pain. You could see it on his face, the expressions he was making,” McCoy said. “It shows you a true warrior.”
Tom Brady went 21 of 30 for 258 yards and an interception, while improving to 27-3 over Buffalo and breaking Brett Favre’s NFL record for most wins by a quarterback against any one opponent. Favre had 26 wins over Detroit.
Brady needed to simply stand aside and let the Patriots’ rejuvenated rushing attack wear down the Bills in a game New England never trailed. Dion Lewis had 92 yards rushing and Burkhead had 78.
The Patriots built a 9-3 lead on Stephen Gostkowski’s three field goals in the first half, including a 50-yarder. Burkhead then took over in the second half by capping New England’s first two drives with 1- and 14-yard touchdown runs.
New England (10-2) won its 14th consecutive road game — the second-longest streak in NFL history — and reached double-digits in victories for the 15th consecutive season. New England also improved to 30-5 against Buffalo since Patriots coach Bill Belichick was hired in 2000.
The Bills (6-6) now face the prospect of continuing their late-season playoff push minus Taylor and going back to rookie Nathan Peterman. The fifth-round draft pick proved he wasn’t ready two weeks ago, throwing five interceptions in the first half of a 54-24 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers.
On Sunday, Peterman went 6 of 15 for 50 yards. His opening drive ended on downs at the Patriots 1 when his fade pass intended for Zay Jones was batted away by cornerback Stephon Gilmore, Buffalo’s 2012 first-round draft pick. Gilmore spent his first five seasons in Buffalo before signing with the Patriots in free agency this past offseason.
The Bills’ offensive inconsistencies were once again apparent, which was a reason coach Sean McDermott took what he called a “calculated risk” to bench Taylor in favor of Peterman in the first place.
Taylor finished 9 of 18 for 65 yards and a costly interception on Buffalo’s opening possession with the Bills facing first-and-goal at the Patriots 6. Taylor double-pumped in the pocket before throwing a pass directly to linebacker Eric Lee at the goal line.
The Bills managed four first downs and 102 yards of offense over their next six possessions before Taylor left the game.
Burkhead’s first touchdown capped a methodical 10-play, 70-yard drive.
The Bills introduced some trickery in a bid to spark their offense by using third-string quarterback Joe Webb in several wildcat formations.
Webb had three rushes for 27 yards, including a 22-yarder up the middle to open Buffalo’s fourth possession. Five snaps later, facing second-and-10 from New England’s’ 37, Webb slightly overthrew Travaris Cadet, who was open deep over the middle.
FIELD GOAL FEST
New England’s nine points in the first half were the team’s fewest in an opening half since a 16-0 loss to Buffalo on Oct. 2, 2016. That was a game Jacoby Brissett started for the Patriots in place of Brady, who was serving the fourth and final game of his “Deflategate” suspension.
New England’s 130 yards rushing in the first half were the most by the Patriots through two quarters since they had 141 in a 42-20 win over the Indianapolis Colts on Nov. 16, 2014.
Patriots: Play second of three straight on road at Miami on Dec. 11
Bills: Continue three-game homestand, hosting Indianapolis on Dec. 10.