By John Wawrow, AP Sports Writer
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Devin McCourty returned an interception 84 yards for a touchdown, and the New England Patriots’ defense smothered the Buffalo Bills’ anemic offense in a 25-6 win on Monday night.
James White scored on a 1-yard run, and the Patriots relied more on Stephen Gostkowski’s leg than on Tom Brady’s arm for their fifth straight win, which improved their AFC East-leading record to 6-2. Brady finished 29 of 45 for 324 yards, but was held without a touchdown pass for the first time this season.
Gostkowski hit four of five field-goal attempts, including two from 25 yards after New England drives stalled inside Buffalo’s 10.
“They made it tough on us,” Brady said. “We couldn’t get anything going in the red zone, not enough positive plays down there.”
McCourty sealed the win with 5:54 remaining by intercepting Derek Anderson’s pass over the middle intended for Charles Clay and taking it to the end zone.
Two plays before the pick, Bills tight end Jason Croom’s diving one-handed touchdown catch was negated following a video review. Replays clearly showed Croom never had possession in attempting to make the 25-yard catch, which would have made it a one-score game.
McCourty’s interception also came after White scored to cap a 10-play, 85-yard drive to put New England ahead 18-6 with 9:58 remaining.
“I felt like once our offense got one in the end zone, it was big for us to go out there and try to get a stop,” McCourty said. “And it ended up being a turnover for a touchdown.”
Buffalo lost its third straight and dropped to 2-6 for its worst start since opening the 2010 season with eight losses.
Credit the Bills’ defense for not playing the role of the expected pushover against a Brady-led offense that had scored 38 or more points in each of its past four games.
“You come out and you hold those guys to one touchdown and still can’t get a win. It’s tough, man,” Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White said.
Buffalo’s problem continued to be an offense that has managed just 87 points this season, and was held to under seven points for the fourth time. Stephen Hauschka accounted for the scoring by hitting field goals from 51 and 47 yards.
“It’s clearly not good enough,” coach Sean McDermott said of his sputtering offense. “I thought the defense came out and played well at times. Offensively, we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit there, and just couldn’t get it going enough.”
Anderson was escorted off the field with 1:25 left when he was sacked by Kyle Van Noy. Anderson was making his second start in place of rookie Josh Allen, who’s listed as week to week with a sprained elbow on his throwing arm.
Anderson finished 22 of 39 for 290 yards and two interceptions.
Brady continued his string of career-long dominance over the Bills by improving to 29-3, extending the NFL record for most wins by a quarterback against one opponent.
The Patriots beat Buffalo for the seventh straight time and improved to 32-5 in their last 37 meetings under coach Bill Belichick.
The highlight for Bills fans was a halftime ceremony in which the team retired Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas’ No. 34.
He became the third player in Bills history to receive the honor. Jim Kelly had his No. 12 retired in 2001, and Bruce Smith’s No. 78 was retired in 2016.
With the lights turned out at the sold-out stadium, highlights from Thomas’ Hall of Fame career were shown on the video scoreboard while two spotlights projected 34s onto the field. “When I look up and see the No. 34 retired under my name, I’ll be reminded that number doesn’t just belong to me,” Thomas said. “It belongs to the Bills fans everywhere.”
The receiver- and quarterback-needy Bills had free agent Terrelle Pryor in for a visit earlier in the day. Pryor is a seventh-year player who was released by the New York Jets on Oct. 20 with an injury settlement after hurting his groin.
Patriots: Rookie RB Sony Michel (left knee) and starting LB Dont’a Hightower (knee) were inactive.
Bills: Rookie starting middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds did not return in the second half after being diagnosed with a concussion.
Patriots: Prepare for a Brady-vs.-Aaron Rodgers showdown, hosting the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night.
Bills: Host the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
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