Tom Brady passed for 271 yards and a touchdown, sneaked for a third-down conversion to set up another score and threw a downfield block on another scoring drive to help the New England Patriots clinch their 11th AFC East title in a row by beating the Buffalo Bills 24-17 on Saturday in Foxborough, Mass.
With the Bills visiting for a rare late-season matchup while the division was still at stake, Sony Michel ran for 96 yards and Rex Burkhead rebounded from an opening-drive fumble to catch four passes for 77 yards and run for 20 more. Both teams had already clinched playoff berths; the Patriots (12-3) remain in contention for a first-round bye and the No. 1 seed in the AFC.
Josh Allen completed 13 of 26 passes for 208 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 43 more, including a first down on fourth and one from the Patriots’ 30-yard line with about three minutes left. After driving to the New England eight, Allen overthrew Dawson Knox in the end zone and then was sacked by Adam Butler. Facing fourth and goal from the 15 with just more than one minute left, he was forced out of the pocket and had to throw the ball up for grabs in the end zone, where it was knocked down by J.C. Jackson.
Cole Beasley caught seven passes for 108 yards and John Brown had a 53-yard touchdown reception for the Bills (10-5), who have qualified for the playoffs for the second time since 1999. They have not won a playoff game since 1995, following their last division title, when Marv Levy’s team beat Don Shula’s Miami Dolphins in the wild-card round.
“I’m pretty poor at just about everything other than throwing the ball,” said Brady, who is 42 and nursing a right elbow injury. He still absorbed a crunching tackle after a three-yard scramble that was followed one play later by Rex Burkhead’s go-ahead touchdown run with 5:11 left.
“He’s the heartbeat of this football team,” Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater said of Brady. “We’ve been one of the most fortunate organizations the last 20 years to have that guy at the helm. He proved it again tonight.”
Brady improved to 32-3 against the Bills, and Buffalo hasn’t beaten the Patriots in six games under coach Sean McDermott. This one was clinched when Burkhead ran it in from one yard; Brady found Julian Edelman for the two-point conversion to make it a seven-point game.
Allen has thrown for a touchdown in 21 straight games, breaking Doug Flutie’s franchise record from 1998 to 1999.
“You couldn’t ask for a better situation, playing for an AFC division title in December with two games left to give yourself a chance,“ Allen said. “I’m super thankful for this experience and what we were able to do here. At the same time, we came here to win a football game, and we didn’t get that done.”
Texans 23, at Buccaneers 20: Bradley Roby returned one of Jameis Winston’s four interceptions for a touchdown and Ka’imi Fairburn snapped a fourth-quarter tie with his third field goal, lifting Houston to a victory over Tampa Bay and its fourth AFC South title in five years.
Roby raced 27 yards up the right sideline after picking off Winston’s first pass of the game, the sixth pick-six the Bucs quarterback has thrown this season. Jahleel Addae’s interception with 1:27 remaining ended any realistic chance the Buccaneers had of fully overcoming Winston’s mistakes.
The Texans (10-5) won despite not getting an especially sharp performance from Deshaun Watson, who completed 19 of 32 passes for 184 yards and one interception. Tampa Bay (7-8) sacked him five times and held Houston to one offensive touchdown — Carlos Hyde’s one-yard run in the second quarter.
The Texans ended the Buccaneers’ four-game winning streak and are AFC South champions for the second straight year. They join the Patriots and Chiefs as the only teams with four division titles since 2015.