New England cooled the hooves of the Buffalo Bills with a solid defensive effort that held Willis McGahee to 37 yards on 14 carries and Drew Bledsoe to 76 yards passing on 8 of 19 with three interceptions -- one of them to Troy Brown.
On offense, the Patriots dominated although came up short in the red zone enough to force five Adam Vinatieri field goals. Tom Brady was 19 of 35 passing for 233 yards, two touchdowns and an interception while Corey Dillon powered his way to 151 yards on 26 carries.
"I thought it was nice to win a division game," head coach Bill Belichick said. "It was a really good win for our football team. I thought it was overall a pretty solid effort. There are certainly too many guys to single anyone out. We got a pretty solid effort all the way around. Any time you shut a team out on defense, you have to feel good about that."
Although Asante Samuel was active for the game, the team elected to keep him on the sideline to nurse his injury sustained last week in St. Louis. Despite the inexperience at corner, the secondary still managed to hold Drew Bledsoe and the Bills scoreless after two quarters.
After New England stopped Buffalo at its 35 yard line, Brady and company went to work at the New England 10 in its first drive of the game. A 30-yard gain by Dillon behind two Patrick Pass blocks brought the ball to midfield. Tight end Jed Weaver caught his first pass as a Patriot along the way, good for 10 yards. But a third and two from the Buffalo 10 came up short with a Dillon run and Vinatieri came on for a 27-yard field goal for the early 3-0 lead.
The game's first turnover came later in the first quarter after the Bills defense had stopped the Patriots in three plays and forced a punt. Buffalo took over at the New England 42 where McGahee immediately knocked off an 11-yard run. On the next play Bledsoe looked long to Moulds but Eugene Wilson came over from his safety spot and picked off the slightly overthrown ball.
New England converted the pick into points although the three it got on Vinatieri's 24-yarder was a disappointment considering they were first and goal from the 4-yard line. From there Dillon ran twice for gains of 1. On third down, Brady tripped as he took the snap for a loss of 4.
On the scoring drive, Bethel Johnson had a 47-yard catch with Izell Reese in coverage.
Later in the second quarter, New England put together an 11-play, 75-yard drive that elapsed 5:29 and ended with a 13-yard touchdown pass to David Patten. Patten's defender had fallen in pursuit and the pass from Brady was to a wide open target. Two passes, 19 and 20 yards, to David Givens were key components to the scoring drive.
Dillon left the game after an 8-yard run during the drive and did not return until the third quarter. Up to that point he had rushed for 89 yards on 12 carries.
Vinatieri's point after gave him 1000 points for his career. The only other Patriot to accomplish that feat was Gino Cappelletti.
Now up 13-0, the Patriots were in place to really make it a long night for the Bills when Tedy Bruschi intercepted Bledsoe on the Bills next series. Bruschi returned the pick 29 yards to the Buffalo 27. Brady then hit Patten for 15 yards. Three plays later Brady found Christian Fauria from 5 yards out for the score and a 20-0 lead with 35 seconds left in the first half.
The Patriots opened the second half on its own 28 and drove to the Bills 2 where Vinatieri was good on a 20-yard field goal. Dillon returned to the game mid-drive and had a 6-yard run but down close his runs of 3 and for no gain kept the Patriots out of the end zone. Brady was good on passes to Graham, Patten and Brown for 9, 15 and 17 yards respectively.
The field goal looked like it might be the only points of the third quarter until the Bills Jonathan Smith took a Josh Miller punt 70 yards all the way for a touchdown. Miller was punting from his own 28 and angled the ball to the left sideline. It looked like Smith was hemmed in but a hole appeared in the middle of the field and he was gone.
The Bills went for the two-point conversion but were unsuccessful.
As the third quarter ended, the Patriots found themselves on the Buffalo 26, fourth down with 10 to go for a first. They got a huge break on the third play of the drive when Rashad Baker was flagged for pass interference on Patten deep downfield. The 47-yard penalty placed the ball on the Buffalo 26 but a holding call on Stephen Neal quickly lost 10 yards for New England. Brady eventually made up the yards with a pass to Kevin Faulk but it wasn't enough to extend the drive and Vinatieri came on once again, this time for a 45-yard attempt that he made.
Next came the Brown interception on a ball intended for Moulds. Bledsoe threw just behind his receiver and Brown was there for the pick. He returned it 17 yards to the Bills 23 but Brady returned the favor just three plays later when he hit Buffalo's Nate Clements in the numbers. Clements took it 35 yards the other way and Buffalo was first and 10 at the New England 48.
Bledsoe went to work, hitting Lee Evans for 15 and then Moulds for 8. On second and two from the 35, Tully Banta-Cain and Rosevelt Colvin teamed up for a 5-yard sack to bring on a third and six situation. Bledsoe threw incomplete over the middle and on fourth down his pass to Moulds was ruled out of bounds.
That was essentially Buffalo's last chance as New England went to work eating clock with around 11 minutes left to play. They did so with steady doses of Dillon and Faulk runs down to the Bills 20-yard line. That's as far as they could get, however, and Vinatieri came on for his fifth field goal of the night, a 37-yarder which he hit.
That drive consumed 6:54 and left under five minutes to play.
"It was a pretty solid team effort," Belichick said. "We felt like we left some points out there on the field, offensively. But anytime you can score in the high 20s, that's good, and anytime you shut a team out on defense, that's good. Other than the punt return for the touchdown, I thought we were OK in the kicking game."
That was it for Bledsoe as the Bills brought in rookie J.P. Losman who was promptly stripped of the ball by Willie McGinest on a third down run. The ball was recovered by Roman Phifer. McGinest was credited with a sack on the play. Losman also threw an interception to Banta-Cain -- the first of Banta-Cain's career -- in his only other series.
Rohan Davey came in to mop up and that's the way it ended, a decisive victory for the Patriots who are headed to Kansas City next week for a Monday night tilt.