By Matthew Geagan, CBS Boston
Follow along as the Patriots host the Buffalo Bills in a Christmas Eve matchup at Gillette Stadium!
Final — Patriots 37, Bills 16
The Pats are another step closer to that No. 1 seed in the AFC. They shook off a rough start to dominate the Bills to improve to 12-3 on the season. New England now has eight consecutive 12-win seasons, which is an NFL record, and they pretty much eliminated the Bills from the playoffs in the process.
Brady wasn’t sharp, but finished the day 21-for-28 for 224 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He threw an awful pick-six in the first half, but bounced back for a solid second half.
The day belonged to Dion Lewis, who rushed for a career-high 129 yards and a touchdown to go with five receptions for 24 yards and a receiving touchdown.
4th Quarter, 2:18: Brandon Bolden is now getting carries for the Patriots. Go grab some eggnog, this bad boy is over.
4th Quarter, 3:58 — Patriots 37, Bills 16
What a day for Dion Lewis. He followed a great block by Joe Thuney for a four-yard touchdown and the Pats are up by 21.
Lewis is up to a career-high 129 yards on the ground with another 24 yards through the air to go with a rushing and receiving touchdown.
4th Quarter, 5:41: As MVP chants shower him from above, Tom Brady calls his own number on third-and-1 and picks up another first down.
Gronk is still out there by the way, throwing blocks like a mad man.
4th Quarter, 5:57: After a three-yard pickup by Lewis on a second-and-4, the back has his second 100-yard rushing day of the season.
4th Quarter, 7:16: Dion Lewis is going to be your closer today. He just picked up 16 yards on a first down carry.
Some great run blocking by the New England offensive line today, with Lewis at 99 rushing yards for the day. Gillislee also has 28 rush yards on six carries.
4th Quarter, 8:13: The Patriots are feeling it now. Malcolm Butler applied the pressure on Tyrod Taylor on a corner blitz and stripped the ball as Trey Flowers brought the QB down.
Buffalo recovered, but will punt it away now. Just an awful drive by the Bills.
4th Quarter, 9:27 — Patriots 30, Bills 16
The Patriots capitalize on that Hauschka miss, marching 60 yards down the field and capping off their drive with a 12-yard screen to Lewis for their second touchdown of the day.
That’s 17 unanswered points for the Patriots, as they’re starting to put this one out of reach. They’ve put points on the board in all five of their possessions following Brady’s pick-six.
It’s the 30th touchdown pass of the season for Brady, who now has seven seasons with 30 or more touchdowns. That’s good for fourth all time in the NFL.
4th Quarter, 10:52: After picking up five yards (and a first down) on a pass from Brady, Brandin Cooks is over the 1,000 receiving yard mark for the season.
4th Quarter, 12:37: The Patriots start this drive off with a pair of big gains: a 22-yard connection between Brady and Dwayne Allen followed by a 16-yard run up the middle by Lewis. Just like that they’re at the Buffalo 22.
4th Quarter, 13:08: The Patriots will take over at their own 40 as Hauschka misses his 50-yard bid.
4th Quarter, 13:28: McCoy came up a yard short on a third-and-2 pitch play, and the Bills are bringing out Hauschka for a 50-yard attempt.
Patrick Chung appeared to hurt his knee as he brought down McCoy with a handful of teammates.
End 3rd Quarter — Patriots 23, Bills 16
The Bills end the quarter with Taylor hitting Benjamin for 35 yards down to the New England 41. Benjamin jumped over Gilmore to make the grab and then picked up the bulk of his yards.
Not a great day for the New England secondary, though Taylor put that one in a spot where only Benjamin could make a play.
3rd Quarter, 00:55 — Patriots 23, Bills 16
The drive fittingly ends with former Bills running back Mike Gillislee finding the end zone to give the Patriots a 23-16 lead. It’s Gillislee’s fifth touchdown of the season but first since Week 2.
3rd Quarter, 1:15: The Patriots will get the ball at the 1-yard line now after Trae Elston was called for PI on a bid to Gronk in the end zone. That’s a 29-yard penalty.
Elston could have been called for a number of penalties on the play, as he also grabbed Gronk’s facemask.
3rd Quarter, 1:41: Brady went to Gronk on first-and-10 for 16 yards, and Micah Hyde received a boot from Gronk as he brought the tight end to the ground.
After spending a few moments o the field, Hyde is up and looks OK. Gronk is pretty tough to take down, and it probably doesn’t help when you take one of his heels in the chest.
Pats have the ball at the Buffalo 30.
3rd Quarter, 2:10: Mike Gillislee just burst up the middle for a 12-yard gain on a second-and 3 carry.
3rd Quarter, 2:54: Amendola’s 10-yard punt return puts the Patriots at their own 35.
3rd Quarter, 3:27: Huge series for the Patriots D, who after that sack took down Tolbert for no gain and then only gave up 10 yards on a McCoy catch over the middle.
The Pats should have some great field position after this punt.
3rd Quarter, 4:45: Malcom Brown just got to Taylor for a sack on first down, a 15-yard loss for the Bills. The Pats have four sacks on the day.
3rd Quarter, 5:08 — Patriots 16, Bills 16
Brady felt the pressure on third-and-5 and was taken down by Kyle Williams, so the Patriots settle for another Gostkowski field goal.
His 34-yarder ties this one up yet again. Buffalo now has a pair of red zone stops on the day.
3rd Quarter, 7:59: The internet is going to explode. The call on the field was overturned and the Patriots keep the ball.
Even more impressive is Lewis picked up that first down without one of his shoes.
3rd Quarter, 7:59: The Patriots offense went at a breakneck speed that drive, including a Dion Lewis run up the middle on fourth-and-1. The back was marked short and the Patriots turned it over on downs at the Buffalo 26, but the Pats are challenging the spot of the ball.
It appeared as though Lewis was able to reach the first down marker, but you really never know with these officials. At least they’re not reviewing a catch this time.
Lewis went up the middle on third-and-4 on the play prior, so the Pats went with back-to-back runs to try to keep the drive alive.
3rd Quarter, 9:57: The Patriots are going hurry up now after starting the drive with a 19-yard passing play to Rob Gronkowski.
3rd Quarter, 10:21 — Bills 16, Patriots 13
Hauschka nails a 30-yarder to put Buffalo back on top. Pats are very fortunate that these last two Buffalo drives have ended with field goals.
The Bills have been in the red zone six times against the Patriots this season, and have zero touchdowns to show for it.
3rd Quarter, 10:34: The Patriots blew up a play action play after McCoy’s big pickup, and then took away all of Taylor options on third-and-goal (from the 18) and he couldn’t pick up much on the scramble before running out of bounds. Bills will have to settle for a field goal.
3rd Quarter, 11:52: LeSean McCoy just slipped the entire New England defense to turn a short pass from Taylor into a 39-yard gain to the New England 10.
Here’s your explanation from NFL Senior VP of Officiating Al Riveron on why Benjamin’s touchdown was overturned:
The NFL must have some extremely high definition TVs in those review offices, because from what we saw there was nothing clear and obvious about the play. But they felt there was enough to overturn it, so let the conspiracy theories begin.
Halftime — Patriots 13, Bills 13
Hauschka kicks a 21-yarder to pull the Bills even with the Patriots at halftime. They must feel pretty good to be tied with the Patriots, but have to be wondering why they don’t have four more points on the board after that overturned touchdown.
Brady is 12-for-19 for 119 yards with a touchdown to Gronk and pick-six to Jordan Poyer. Tyrod Taylor has 153 passing yards so far.
The Patriots are going to need to play much better on both sides of the ball if they want to put the Bills away.
2nd Quarter, 00:02: Wow, Patriots catch a huge break as the ruling on the field is overturned. Benjamin apparently didn’t have complete control of the ball before dragging his second foot. Who knows what a catch is these days (besides the NFL offices, apparently). Nothing really makes sense anymore with this league.
So the Bills will have to settle for a field goal to try and tie the game at halftime.
2nd Quarter, 00:02: Taylor hit Benjamin in the back corner of the end zone for what was ruled a touchdown on the field, but we’ll have to see if this survives the video review.
It appears Benjamin got both feet down, but whether or not he had possession is in question. It may not be enough to overturn the call on the field though.
2nd Quarter, 00:06: Charles Clay had a touchdown, but didn’t survive the ground so it was just an incompletion for Buffalo.
2nd Quarter, 00:10: The Bills had a first-and-goal at the New England 4 following an Adam Butler encroachment penalty, but Taylor hit the back of Patrick Chung as he went for Charles Clay.
2nd Quarter, 00:15: Taylor goes up top to Thompson, who had Butler beat downfield, for a 33-yard connection down to the New England 9-yard line.
Not a great finish to the quarter for the New England D.
2nd Quarter, 00:33: Taylor goes back to Benjamin along the sideline, who reaches up and brings down the nine-yard reception.
2nd Quarter, 00:37: Buffalo uses their final timeout as Marquise Flowers sacks Taylor to set up a second-and-11.
2nd Quarter, 00:40: Taylor checked down on third-and-2, and hit McCoy on a screen for three yards to keep the drive going.
2nd Quarter, 1:15: Huge play for Buffalo, as Taylor hits Benjamin for 15 yards to keep the drive alive. Benjamin just out-muscled Gilmore to get open and made the grab.
2nd Quarter, 1:40: Cadet is in an aircast and being taken off the field on the cart.
Players from both the Bills and Patriots were there to give Cadet some love as he made his way off the field.
2nd Quarter, 1:40: The Bills were forced to use a timeout after Cadet was hurt on a second-down take down by Flowers (it did not look good, as Cadet’s leg went the wrong way on the tackle). The Patriots would have called a timeout anyways, so this is a double whammy for the Bills.
Buffalo will face a third-and-10 when play resumes.
2nd Quarter, 1:55 — Patriots 13, Bills 10
After all of that, we get a 40-yard field goal by Gostkowski to give New England their first lead of the game.
It caps off a seven-play drive that covered 66 yards in three minutes, though the Pats benefited greatly from a Hyde pass interference.
2nd Quarter, 2:00: The Patriots lined up, and then called a timeout of their own. You could have finished your Christmas shopping in the time it’s going to take for this play.
2nd Quarter, 2:00: The Pats are going for it. But the Bills just burned a timeout so the wait continues.
2nd Quarter, 2:00: Lewis was stuffed on a third-and-2 run ahead of the two-minute warning. Now we wait to see if the Patriots go for it or try a 40-yard field goal.
2nd Quarter, 3:38: Brady went back to Cooks deep, but this time Hyde gets flagged for Pass Interference. It goes as a 44-yard penalty and gives the Patriots the ball at the Buffalo 31.
It’s a questionable call, as it appeared Cooks was more interested in getting the flag than catching the football.
2nd Quarter, 4:15: New England’s drive continues after Dion Lewis picks up five yards on a direct snap run on a third-and-3.
Brady missed Cooks deep on the play before.
2nd Quarter, 5:08: After picking up a first down on the first play of the drive, Tyrod Taylor overthrew everyone on a deep pass to Charles Clay on a third-and-4 and the Bills punt it back to the Patriots.
Danny Amendola called for a fair catch at the New England 12, so they have a lot of field to cover if they want to take their first lead in this one.
2nd Quarter, 7:06 — Patriots 10, Bills 10
Brady went back to Gronkowski, who rewarded him with an incredible one-handed touchdown grab, getting both feet in bounds after beating Micah Hyde on the play. It’s absurd what that man can do with those giant football-catching mitts of his.
We’ll be seeing replays of this one for quite some time:
In 13 games against the Bills, Gronkowski now has 12 touchdowns. That was his eighth score of the season, and the 75th time he and Tom Brady have connected on a touchdown.
Brady hasn’t been great today, but it certainly helps when you have such a generational talent like Gronkowski to catch passes.
2nd Quarter, 7:52: Brady just missed a wide open Gronk over the middle with a play action pass. He threw behind his target, and knew he missed as soon as he let the ball go.
2nd Quarter, 8:01: After getting nine yards with a second-and-10 pass to Rob Gronkowski, Brady quick snapped and lunged through the line for a first down.
The Bills were flagged for having 12 men on the field (they actually had 15), which was declined.
2nd Quarter, 9:15: After hitting Britt for 16 yards, Brady tossed a screen to Mike Gillislee that went for 15 yards. It’s the running back’s first catch of the season and has the Patriots at the Buffalo 40.
2nd Quarter, 10:28 — Bills 10, Patriots 3
Woof, Brady went looking for Kenny Britt over the middle of the field but instead found Jordan Poyer. The Buffalo safety took it 19 yards to the house for the pick-six. He made a great read on the pick, a bad throw by Brady.
Brady has now thrown a pick in five straight games for just the second time in his career. The first time came back in 2002.
2nd Quarter, 11:21: The Bills went for it on fourth-and-2 from the New England 6, and the Patriots were alllllll over a scrambling Tyrod Taylor to force a turnover on downs.
Marquis Flowers easily chased down Taylor, who harmlessly flipped the ball to no one when it was clear he was going to be taken down. It’s the first sack of Flowers’ career.
Surprised that the Bills threw it on third down (an incomplete to McCoy at the goal line) if they intended on going for it on fourth, but that’s why they’re the Bills. That may be an early Christmas present for the Patriots right there.
2nd Quarter, 14:00: The Bills just picked up 46 yards on a big first-down pass. Malcolm Butler got turned around by Deonte Thompson, and the play now has Buffalo on the New England 29.
Lawrence Guy put a big hit on Tyrod Taylor as he delivered the ball.
2nd Quarter, 14:14 — Patriots 3, Bills 3
Brady went looking for Gronk on third-and-2, but went too high for his big tight end in the back of the end zone and the Patriots had to settle for a field goal.
Carlos Hyde was on Gronkowski on the play, with safety Jordon Poyer rotating back to help. That likely played into Brady airmailing it to Gronk, who had Hyde beat.
Holding the Pats to three points is a big win for Buffalo.
End 1st Quarter — Bills 3, Patriots 0
The first 15 minutes are in the books. The Patriots trail 3-0, but are threatening to put points on the board with the ball at the Buffalo 8-yard line.
1st Quarter, 00:40: Gronk has his first reception of the day, a 6-yard pickup after taking a short pass from Brady on second-and-5.
No funny business after the catch either as it took a handful of Bills to take Gronkowski down.
1st Quarter, 2:14: The offense is clicking now, with Brady hitting Phillip Dorsett for a 24-yard connection on a play action pass. The play moves the Pats to the Buffalo 24.
1st Quarter, 2:45: Shaq Mason just opened a giant hole for Dion Lewis, and the running back made the most of it with a 13-yard pickup to the Buffalo 47.
1st Quarter, 4:08: The Patriots have their first first down of the day. Brady went looking to Gronk, but instead went to Amendola crossing the field to pick up 13 yards on third-and-6.
1st Quarter, 5:25: Dion Lewis was just crushed by Lafayette Pitts on the kickoff return, which only went to the New England 18.
1st Quarter, 5:30 — Bills 3, Patriots 0
Rookies Deatrich Wise Jr. and Adam Butler get to Taylor on third-and-11, finally putting an end to Buffalo’s third down success.
Buffalo marched down the field with a 16-play drive that took up more than eight minutes of game clock, but have to settle for a 41-yard field goal from Steven Hauschka to take a 3-0 lead. The Patriots defense needs to be much better on third down, as Buffalo went 4-for-5 on the drive, but they’ll take just a field goal.
1st Quarter, 7:38: Another third down conversion by Buffalo, this time on a McCoy 5-yard run up the middle on third-and-4 that puts them in the red zone.
The Bills have had the ball for seven minutes so far on their opening drive.
1st Quarter, 9:35: Tyrod Taylor just picked up another first down for Buffalo with a 6-yard scramble on third-and-4. Trey Flowers put some initial pressure on the QB in the pocket, but he spun and easily picked up the first down.
Buffalo is now 3-for-3 on third downs to open the game.
1st Quarter, 10:49: The Bills have moved the chains twice with a pair of third-and-short conversions. First, LeSean McCoy ran for a first with a nine-yard pickup on a third-and-1, and a few plays later Kelvin Benjamin kept the drive going with a three-yard connection with Tyrod Taylor on a third-and-2.
The Pats D needs to step up in those third-and-short situations.
1st Quarter, 13:41: A huge win for the Bills to start, as the Pats offense goes three-and-out on their first possession.
Lewis picked up three yards on a pair of carries, but Brady couldn’t connect with Jacob Hollister on a third down pass downfield.
Pregame — 1:01 p.m.: The Bills call tails, and it did not fail, so they defer to the second half.
The Patriots will get the ball to start this one, and according to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, New England is 5-2 when losing the opening toss.
Pregame — 12:54 p.m.: Fret not, for Solder has taken the field. So has Santa on this festive afternoon at Gillette.
And as part of today’s pregame video, the Patriots just played Ben Roethlisberger’s game-ending interception from last week. That should warm up this crowd.
Pregame — 12:39 p.m.: Nate Solder is not warming up with the rest of the starters out on the field, leaving Waddle at left tackle and Fleming on the right side in warmups.
Solder is active and expected to play, and the fact that Cole Croston is inactive is a sign the Pats thing Solder can make it through this game. Solder was also not on the field during warmups a couple of weeks ago but still played, so he may just be getting some extra treatment (or hydration) given the illness.
But this is something worth monitoring throughout the day.
Pregame — 12:25 p.m.: The biggest subplot leading up to this one is the Bills looking to get a little payback against Rob Gronkowski for his late and dirty hit on corner Tre’Davious White three weeks ago.
To his credit, White said that wouldn’t be the case throughout the week, changing his tune from the immediate aftermath of the incident when he called Gronk a dirty player. His teammates also seemed to be more focused on fighting for a playoff spot than getting to Gronkowski, with one exception: Richie Incognito.
“Obviously, there are going to be opportunities for guys to take shots this next game,” Incognito told reporters in Buffalo this week. “Gronkowski took his shot, now it’s our defense’s chance to take their shots on him.
“When you do dumb stuff like he did, you open the door. The referees are a little more lenient because they know you got it coming. You’ve just got to be prepared to take it,” he added.
It’s no surprise those comments are coming from a guy like Incognito, but he won’t be on the field with the Buffalo defense, so take them for what they are.
The Bills would be smart to just focus on getting the W, and while the cards are stacked against them at Gillette, they should be able to make this one a fairly competitive matchup. But if the Patriots jump out to a big lead, it might be in their best interest to get No. 87 out of there early.
Pregame — 12:03 p.m.: Yeah, the fans are feeling the holiday spirit this afternoon.
And so is Pat Patriot.
The icy rain is gone from yesterday, and it’s a seasonable mid-30s with little wind down at Gillette this afternoon. Perfect football weather.
Pregame — 11:30 a.m.: The Patriots have released their inactive list for today’s game, and Nate Solder will give it a go despite his recent battle with an illness.
The Patriots defense, however, will be without Kyle Van Noy for the third straight week. The linebacker is once again inactive with a calf injury, leaving a big void on the New England defense.
As expected, James White has joined Rex Burkhead on the list of New England running backs who will not play today. That means the rest of the running backs are in for a test, but it opens the door for big games from Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee. And don’t be surprised to see Pro Bowl fullback James Develin get some run in this one as well.
Here’s the full list of inactives for the Patriots:
Here’s who won’t be suiting up for the Bills this afternoon:
Pregame — 11:15 a.m.: Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays as the Patriots and Bills are getting ready to clash in an AFC East showdown this afternoon at Gillette Stadium.
The game is important to both teams, with the Patriots aiming to hang on to the No. 1 seed in the AFC (and avoid possibly falling to the No. 3 seed) while the Bills need a win to stay alive in the AFC playoff race. Buffalo’s hopes took a shot last night with the Ravens beating the Colts, so they need to win out and get some help to make the playoffs for the first time this century. A loss today would end their postseason dreams.
Meanwhile, the Patriots need a win today and a Steelers loss (Monday at Houston) and Jaguars (Sunday at San Francisco) loss or tie to clinch home-field advantage throughout.
Alan Branch and Rex Burkhead were ruled out for New England on Friday, and running back James White has also joined that group in the last 12 hours. White will reportedly miss the game with an ankle injury he suffered early last week against Pittsburgh, and this will mark the first game he’ll miss due to injury. He’s been active every game since Week 9 of 2015 season.
That means it’ll be Dion Lewis and Mike Gillislee getting the bulk of the action out of the backfield. Gillislee is expected to play a big role in his first game since October 29, so we’ll see how much rust he has to knock off. In typical Patriots fashion, he’ll likely come back and have a big performance against his former team.
Receiver Chris Hogan has also been ruled out and will miss his second straight game with a shoulder injury.
We’ll also be keeping our eyes along the offensive line, with Nate Solder a late addition to the injury report last night. The left tackle is battling an illness, and we’ll know for sure if he’s playing when the inactives come out at 11:30am. If Solder can’t play then the Patriots would be without their two starting tackles (with Marcus Cannon on IR), and would leave Cameron Fleming to protect Tom Brady’s blindside with LaAdrian Waddle over at right tackle.
Stick with us throughout the morning and the game for all the updates from Foxboro, and after the game stick with WBZ-TV for all the reaction and analysis (and Bill Belichick and Brady’s press conferences) on Patriots 5th Quarter!