The Patriots used a strong running game to churn out yardage and first downs in a game heavily influenced by high wind gusts. The winds were so bad, both teams missed short field goals directly due to the wind. The Patriots outlasted the Bills on the ground outgaining them 168-161. Matt Cassel threw the ball just 8 times connecting on 6 for 78 yards and a 105.2 passer rating.
Weather conditions in Orchard Park were abysmal. The wind was so fierce punts and kickoffs were just plays which could turn into turnover opportunities for the opposition because of ball movement. On the Patriots first punt, the Bills muffed the catch but were saved by Matt Slater's inability to recover the ball in the Bills end zone. Buffalo recovered for the touchback, narrowly escaping a dubious start to the game.
Both teams opted to avoid passing the ball as much as possible in the first half. The first 13 plays of the game were running plays. Neither side seemed willing to try to put the ball into the air until Matt Cassel threw a dump off to fullback Heath Evans who rumbled for 19 yards on New England's second possession.
The scoring began with a Stephen Gostkowski field goal with the wind. The Patriots used good field position to move into Gostkowski's range for the 33-yarder. The drive, aided by a pair of Evans' catches, relied on some tough running by Sammy Morris. After stalling on the Bills 15, New England opted to kick rather than go for is on a fourth and four.
The Bills managed just two promising drives in the first half. The first came at the end of the first quarter when Trent Edwards took over on his own 40 yard line after a 21-yard return by defensive tackle Spencer Johnson. Nine plays later the Bills lined up for a 47-yard Rian Lindell field goal attempt. The ball drifted left after liftoff, then made an abrupt right turn missing the swaying field goal posts by a wide margin. At that point, both teams realized that kicking anything more than a chip shot would be en exercise in futility.
The Patriots took over on their own 37, to march down the field into a chip shot situation of their own. After their drive stalled on the Buffalo 8, Stephen Gostkowski went in for a near extra point type of kick from 26 yards out. Again the wind took the ball and moved a sure kick far off to the side holding the ball up then moving it off to the right before it was able to cross the plane of the posts.
Buffalo's second promising drive went from the failed Patriots field goal at the Buffalo 20 into scoring position at the New England 12. But a miscue on the playcalling, after a Fred Jackson run, caused time to expire before the Bills could get the referees to reset the clock. The gaffe was just one more in the cap for coach Dick Jauron's critics who blame last week's last minute loss to the Jets on him
New England scored the only touchdown of the game on a 2-yard LaMont Jordan run off the right side. The drive began on the Buffalo 43 after a strip sack of Trent Edwards by Jarvis Green and the fumble recovery by Mike Vrabel. 11 plays including 9 straight runs and a 12-yard pass to Wes Welker on fourth and 5 put the ball at the Buffalo 2 wher Jordan ran it in from.
After another Buffalo three-and-out, New England went on a 15-play, 80 yard drive ending in a 23-yard chip shot by Gostkowski which made it throw with ease.
Buffalo two more promising drives, but turned the ball over on downs after failing to convert on fourth down in New England territory both times.
With the win the Patriots moved into a possible playoff spot. In order for the Patriots to get in, the Jets would need to knock off the Dolphins or the Jaguars had to manage an upset against the Ravens. When both events did not come to pass, the Patriots found themselves the first team since the 1985 Broncos to go 11-5 and not in the postseason.
For now the Patriots can only look toward next season. Head coach Bill Belichick issued the following statement:
"As disappointed as we are that the season is over, I remain very proud of this team."
As well he should be. 11-5 is an impressive feat for a team that lost its MVP quarterback, all pro safety, top running back, and host of other starters for the year. For now, the next thing on New England's agenda is seeing if VP of player personnel Scott Pioli stays.
Inactives for both teams: