The Buffalo Bills drove down the field in the final minute, but New England Patriots safety Devin McCourty intercepted a Ryan Fitzpatrick pass in the endzone with 23 seconds left to secure a 37-31 win for New England.
The Bills outscored the Patriots in the second quarter and the second half, but the Patriots held on to improve to 6-3 this season. The Bills dropped to 3-6.
The interception was Fitzpatrick's only mistake of the game. The Harvard graduate ripped apart New England's secondary, completing 27 of 40 passes for 337 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Tom Brady completed 60 percent of his passes (23 for 38) for 237 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
The Bills had success on the ground, too. Against one of the best rush defenses in the NFL, Fred Jackson rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries. C.J. Spiller chipped in another 70 yards on nine carries.
Stevan Ridley led the Patriots with 98 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. Danny Woodhead only had one carry, but it was a 15-yard touchdown run. Woodhead also finished with four catches for 46 yards and a score.
Buffalo never held a lead, but was within three points with less than eight minutes remaining in the game.
The teams combined for 31 second-quarter points. The Patriots owned a 24-17 halftime lead.
The Patriots were favored by 13 1/2 points, so they did not cover.
The big winner: Devin McCourty
McCourty has been criticized for his play at cornerback most of the season. After a successful season as a rookie in 2010, which included a Pro Bowl appearance, McCourty hasn't lived up to expectations. The Patriots moved McCourty to safety to start Sunday's game and he came up with the game-clinching interception in the endzone with 23 seconds left in the game.
Buffalo loves little yellow flags, Wes Welker loves drops
The Bills could not avoid penalty flags on Sunday. They finished with 14 penalties for 148 yards. Despite the potential of a flag at any time, the Patriots' 10-point lead at different points in the game was safe:
The good news for the Patriots is there are no 10-point plays in football. Not even by Yellow Flag, who is having a day.— Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) November 11, 2012
Wes Welker led the Patriots in receiving, but he also had a pair of drops, including one early in the game that would have resulted in a touchdown. The drops didn't make fans happy.
I haven't seen Wes Welker drop a pass like that since the Super BowlWaka waka waka#Patriots— Wyld Bill (@wyldbill77) November 11, 2012
One more drop by Wes Welker and we will have to start giving him a curfew like Dez Bryant.— Tom Bradys' Ego (@TomBradysEgo) November 11, 2012
I have violent flashback whenever I see welker drop a pass 😡😢— John Cavanaugh(@JSlepchuk) November 11, 2012
I hope Bill Belichick does not tell Tom Brady how to throw
Bill Belichick wasn't happy with a non-fumble call. So he got a nice running start and chucked the review flag:
Questionable form. Questionable arm strength. Read the coverage well, though. Probably would be drafted around 199 overall. Sixth round or so.
Fantasy studs and duds
Brady wasn't dominant, but he was efficient. He had 237 yards, two scores and no interceptions. Woodhead was a factor for the offense, scoring two touchdowns.
Fitzpatrick finished the game with a pick, but 337 yards and two touchdowns will please his fantasy owners. Jackson also chipped in two touchdowns, but he did have a fumble.
Brandon Lloyd was a dud, catching five passes for just 45 yards.
The Patriots lost left guard Logan Mankins in the second quarter. He did not return to the game.
The Bills lost Jackson late in the game. After a near fumble with less than a minute left in the game, Jackson was hit by Brandon Spikes and was attended to by trainers.
What's up next?
The Patriots will be back at home next Sunday against rookie quarterback Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis Colts. Buffalo, meanwhile, is back in action this Thursday when it hosts the Miami Dolphins in an AFC East showdown.