FOXBORO (CBS) — The Patriots have clinched the AFC East. Finally.
With a win over the Buffalo Bills well in hand on Sunday at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots secured their 10th consecutive division crown without having to finish their own victory. That’s because the Dolphins lost to the Jaguars down in Miami, thus handing the Patriots the division crown — their 10th straight.
As an added bonus, the Patriots reclaimed their spot as the No. 2 team in the AFC, thanks to the Texans’ loss in Philadelphia. That means if the Patriots can win next week, they will earn themselves a first-round bye to start the playoffs.
The celebration in Foxboro came after a lengthy delay, as this game was the Patriots’ third chance to lock up a division title. They had their first chance in Week 14 in Miami, but lost that game in stunning fashion on a last-second miracle play. The Patriots could have won the division last week in Pittsburgh, but lost that game, too, 17-10.
In all of the four major sports in North America, the Patriots are now just the second team to ever win 10 consecutive division titles. The other team was the Atlanta Braves, who won 11 straight division titles from 1995-2005.
For quarterback Tom Brady, this marks his 16th time winning the division. As the starting quarterback of the Patriots, he’s failed to win the division just once (2002).
Prior to Bill Belichick’s hiring in 2000, the Patriots franchise had won a division title just five times — twice in the ’90s, once in the ’80s, once in the ’70s, and once in the ’60s. The Patriots have now won 16 division titles in the past 19 seasons.