With eye on playoffs, Brady, Lewis lead Pats by Bills 37-16
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Rob Gronkowski has always been proud of his roots growing up outside of Buffalo.
He also has never forgotten how his hometown team didn’t want him.
Tom Brady passed for a pair of touchdowns, including Gronkowski’s one-handed grab , and the New England Patriots stayed on track for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a 37-16 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
For Gronkowski it was his 12th touchdown catch in 13 career games against the Bills — more than he’s had against any other opponent.
“It’s cool when your hometown team passed on you twice in that (2010) draft. And you kind of remember it still,” Gronkowski said. “No lie, I remember it every single time I play them.”
New England (12-3) locked up a first-round bye with Jacksonville’s loss 44-33 loss at San Francisco. If Pittsburgh loses to Houston on Monday, the Patriots will secure home-field advantage throughout the postseason.
Dion Lewis caught a touchdown pass and rushed for a 4-yard score. He carried 24 times for career-high 129 yards. It was just his second-career 100-yard game. Mike Gillislee, active for the first time in six games, added a 1-yard rushing touchdown
Even with the loss, the Bills (8-7) remain in contention to break their 17-year playoff drought. It is the longest active streak in North America’s four major professional sports and the longest in the NFL since the 1970 merger.
New England has won at least 12 games in eight straight seasons — an NFL record.
Buffalo went into halftime tied at 13, but the Bills managed just three points in the final 30 minutes.
Trailing 13-10, Buffalo was in position to take the lead, but an apparent 4-yard touchdown pass from Tyrod Taylor to Kelvin Benjamin in the corner of the end zone was overturned after an official review.
Benjamin said he thought it was a catch.
“I mean definitely, but ref made the call and you’ve got to live with that,” he said.
NFL vice president of officiating Al Riveron said in a Twitter post Benjamin was juggling the ball and was only able to get one of his feet down before completing the catch.
“When Kelvin Benjamin gains control, his left foot is off the ground. The receiver only has one foot down in bounds with control. Therefore, it is an incomplete pass,” Riveron wrote.
That was echoed postgame by referee Craig Wrolstad.
“It was clear and obvious that he did not have control of the ball until he brought it all the way down into his chest,” Wrolstad said in a pool report.
The Bills were forced to settle for a 23-yard field goal as the half expired.
The play elicited immediate reaction on social media.
“Regarding the Buffalo no touchdown, nothing more irritating to an official than to make a great call and then someone in a suit in an office in New York incorrectly reverses it,” former NFL officiating VP Mike Pereira wrote on Twitter .
The game was tied at 3 on Buffalo’s second possession when Taylor was sacked on a fourth-and-2 run by Marquis Flowers. On the next New England drive, Brady’s third down pass intended for Kenny Britt was intercepted by Jordan Poyer and returned 19 yards for a touchdown.
It was Brady’s eighth interception of the season. He threw two picks in the first 10 weeks, but now has six in his last five games.
The mistake only momentarily slowed down New England’s offense. Brady capped a nine-play, 75-yard drive with a 17-yard pass that Gronkowski pulled in with one hand to tie the game at 10.
Bills: RB Travaris Cadet was carted off the field late in the second quarter with a right ankle injury. ... S Micah Hyde left the game after being shaken up in the third quarter. ... CB Shareece Wright was shaken up in the fourth quarter, but walked off on his own power.
The pick six thrown by Brady was his first since he was intercepted by Robert Alford in last season’s Super Bowl win. Brady’s last regular season pick six came in Week 13 of 2015 against Philadelphia (Malcolm Jenkins).
Brady’s touchdown 17-yard TD pass to Gronkowski marked the 75th time they have connected for a score. It is the fifth-most all-time between a quarterback and a receiver.
Bills: At Miami in regular-season finale
Patriots: Host Jets in their finale.