By Danny Cox

The New England Patriots headed into Christmas Eve with a playoff spot and the division already locked up, but there was still a great deal on the line for them against the Buffalo Bills. Buffalo, on the other hand, was playing for their playoff lives and that was completely obvious, but only for one half. As halftime came and went, the Bills faded away and the Pats opened things up for a 37-16 rout to help secure a first-round bye.

Offense: A

Things looked rather rough early on for the Patriots as the Bills were doing quite well in keeping things under control, but that didn’t last for a full 60 minutes. At the end of the day, Tom Brady had another stellar performance with 224 yards on 21-of-28 passing with two touchdowns. He did throw one interception and he was sacked twice, but you may notice that his yardage total wasn’t too great.

Well, it wasn’t overly needed.

In a rather rare occurrence, the running game of the Patriots stepped up and delivered as Dion Lewis had 129 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries against the Bills. This delivered balance to the offense that took some of the pressure off of the shoulders of Brady and the receiving corps.

Defense: A

Sunday’s game was an incredibly impressive showing by the Patriots’ defense as they brought a tremendous pass rush throughout the day and continued the pressure on Tyrod Taylor, who was sacked six times. New England didn’t let up throughout the game and constantly forced the Bills into errant throws and alterations of their game plan.

LeSean McCoy did have 71 yards on the ground and the Bills had three receivers with 70+ receiving yards, but they could do nothing in the second half.

A bit of controversy did fall into the favor of the Patriots as Kelvin Benjamin made a beautiful catch for an apparent four-yard touchdown that would have given the Bills the lead late in the first half. An automatic replay ended up having the touchdown overturned and momentum obviously went over to the Patriots from that moment on.

Special Teams: A

Stephen Gostkowski did his job as he usually does; he was perfect on his four extra points attempts and all three of his field goal tries. Ryan Allen wasn’t too busy with just one punt on the day.

Adding to Dion Lewis’ big game was a bit of life shown in the return game. Lewis had two chances on the day and he had 43 yards with a long of 23 to give the Pats some decent field position.

Coaching: B

Bill Belichick knew that this game was important enough to have his team ready, but the New England Patriots may have underestimated the Buffalo Bills early on in the day. Tied at 13 at the half with one reversed call taking away a halftime deficit must have breathed some new life into them and made them realize that a better path through the playoffs was on the line.

Up Next: To finish out the season, the New England Patriots will take on the New York Jets at home in what could end up as a meaningless game for both teams. With Jacksonville losing, the Pats now have a first-round bye which means head coach Bill Belichick may want to look at resting some of his starters to give them even more rest before the playoffs officially begin.

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