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Replay: Best of Radio Thu Feb 22 - 02:00 PM | Tue Feb 27 - 11:55 AM

Patriots sweep Bills, 28-6

A rainy Buffalo day didn't dampen the Patriots drive to the AFC East title. A 28-6 win over the Bills kept them perfect over their divisional rivals this season.


Recent history has the Patriots giving the Bills a tougher time the second time around and this season held to that trend. New England gradually pulled further and further away in this game, finishing with a 28-6 win and a 4-0 record in the AFC East after only six games played.

Actually, the Bills defense put up a fight despite the margin. The Patriots running tandem of Corey Dillon (47 yards on 14 carries) and Laurence Maroney (29 yards on 8 carries) were stuffed for most of the game. The difference was that Brady hit on a few key plays and when close, Dillon managed to break into the end zone for two scores.

It was the Bills offense that did them in. Two first half turnovers, while not resulting in Patriots points, stopped drives cold. Then, when the Patriots had built up a comfortable margin, Willis McGahee and J.P. Losman were no match for the Patriots defense. Asante Samuel had his third interception in two games and Mike Vrabel got in on the turnover act with a strip sack of Losman. Tom Brady ended with 195 yards passing on 18 completions and two touchdowns.

A Dillon run right up the middle on second and goal at the 8-yard line capped off a 14-play touchdown drive to open the game. Brady looked in tune with Reche Caldwell along the way, connecting with him three times for 19 yards although a sure touchdown went off Caldwell's fingers late in the drive on a slant from 17 yards out. Two big plays highlighted the drive, a 14-yard Chad Jackson end around and a 14-yard screen caught by Ben Watson.

It looked like New England had Buffalo bottled up on its first possession. Two consecutive penalties had Buffalo facing a third and 14 from its own 27. New England blitzed but Losman got off a shovel pass to McGahee who went untouched for 56 yards to the Patriots 17. On the next play Josh Reed lined up at quarterback with Losman lined up wide as a receiver. The play only went for a yard and McGahee added another 3 on the next play. On third and 6 from the 13, Losman lost the handle on the shotgun snap, recovered and was tackled by Rosevelt Colvin for the loss. Buffalo settled for a 40-yard field goal to make the score 7-3.

Maroney quickly shifted the momentum back to New England's side with a scintillating 74-yard kickoff return to the Bills 21. Maroney began by breaking a tackle around the 20-yard line and then headed up the left sideline. The Bills challenged the play in hopes that he stepped out of bounds earlier in the run but the return stood.

New England cashed in on Maroney's run. On third and 10, still from the 21, Brady dropped back to pass and wound up looking like Fran Tarkenton in avoiding the Bills pass rush. Finally, seeing no one open, Brady waved the white flag and dropped to the ground. That wasn't enough for the Bills Chris Kelsay who hit the defenseless Brady and the flags flew. That created a first and 10 for the Patriots at the 12 where Dillon took it in around the left side for a 14-3 Patriots lead.

With 10:07 left in the second quarter, Vrabel broke in from his left side and got a hand on Losman and the ball, causing a fumble that Vince Wilfork recovered. That gave the Patriots offense first and 10 at the their own 48 and a perfect chance to blow the game open but Buffalo's pass rush continued to pose problems for the Patriots as it has over the years. Aaron Schobel already had a sack in the game and this time Kelsay got into the backfield on some type of slow-developing play. We'll never know what it would have been because the play never had a chance and the result was a 9-yard sack of Brady by Kelsay.

The Bills took over after the punt and headed downfield on a drive that had them third and 8 at the Patriots 33 with two minutes left in the half. On the next play, however, Losman looked to his left and Samuel read the pass perfectly, stepping in front of Lee Evans for the interception.

Once again, the Bills defense stepped up and limited the Patriots to three plays and a punt after the turnover. The half ended on the Bills subsequent possession with the score still 14-3.

The second half began similarly to how the first half ended, with the Bills defense harassing the Patriots offense and the Bills offense unable to take advantage of holding New England off the scoreboard. That was until Brady connected with Jackson from 35 yards out on a first and 10 play with just under three minutes remaining in the quarter. The scoring play came right after Brady had found Watson for 20 yards on third and 5. Jackson managed to cut in behind the Bills coverage while Brady's protection afforded him the time to wait for Jackson to come loose.

That play accounted for all the scoring in the third quarter with the Patriots up, 21-3.

The fourth quarter began with the Bills in possession. Losman heated up with passes over the middle; 25 yards to Peerless Price and 10 to tight end Robert Royal down to the Patriots 29. New England held on from there and Rian Lindell was good on his 46-yard field goal attempt to make the score 21-6.

Brady put the game away on his next drive. He started things off by connecting with Watson for 17 yards and then going long to Doug Gabriel on the next play for 31 yards to the Buffalo 18. Troy Brown drew another catch closer to Stanley Morgan's franchise reception record with a 12-yard catch to the 6. After two runs by Dillon that netted a yard, Brady dropped back, moved to his right to the avoid pressure and then fired across his body to Gabriel streaking across the end zone. Gabriel made the catch to make the score 28-6 with 7:36 left to play and that's how it ended.

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