McCourty's end zone interception helps Pats hold off Buffalo
Foxboro, MA (Sports Network) - Devin McCourty's interception of Ryan Fitzpatrick in the end zone prevented a late New England collapse, as the Patriots held on for a 37-31 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Following a 27-yard field goal by New England's Stephen Gostkowski, the Bills took over with 2:06 remaining in the game. Fitzpatrick led a drive to the Patriots' 15 before throwing the ball directly to McCourty.
Tom Brady threw for 237 yards and two touchdowns on 23-of-38 efficiency for the Patriots (6-3), who won their third consecutive game and 11th straight against the Bills at Gillette Stadium.
"It was tight today," said Brady. "I'm glad we came away with the win. We fought hard, we certainly had more opportunities out there to score more points, but we didn't and the defense made a couple great plays there at the end."
Stevan Ridley ran for a game-high 98 yards and a score on 22 carries, while Danny Woodhead ran for one touchdown and caught a pass for another score for New England.
Fitzpatrick completed 27-of-40 throws for 337 yards and two touchdowns on the day for the Bills (3-6), who dropped their third game in a row and remain winless in division play.
"After all the talk that I gave about finishing, we couldn't finish," said Bills coach Chan Gailey. "Had the opportunity and could not finish. There were a lot of ups and downs, good and bad in that ballgame, but that's the bottom line. We had the chance to finish and we didn't."
Fred Jackson ran for 80 yards and two touchdowns on 16 carries, but lost a crucial fumble with 9:35 to play in the game.
Trailing 34-24, Fitzpatrick threw a screen pass to C.J. Spiller, who avoided several tackles in the backfield to pick up 25 yards, moving the Bills inside the Patriots' 15.
But on the following play, Jackson took a handoff and fumbled the ball a yard short of the goal line. The Patriots recovered and the Bills came away with nothing after driving 93 yards down the field.
The Patriots didn't move a yard and punted back to the Bills, who started at the New England 45. Fitzpatrick needed just five plays to make it a 34-31 game with 7:47 remaining, as he connected with Donald Jones for a 2-yard touchdown.
Gostkowski connected on a 27-yard field goal to put the Patriots up six with 2:06 to play and it proved to be enough as Fitzpatrick could not punch Buffalo into the end zone on its final drive.
New England never trailed in the game and held 24-17 advantage at halftime.
Following an exchange of punts to begin the third, the Patriots, who forced the Bills three-and-out deep in their own territory, started with even better field position after Buffalo's Ron Brooks was flagged for unnecessary roughness on the return.
Brady needed just four plays to get the Patriots into the end zone, as he connected with Woodhead for an 18-yard score. Woodhead made the catch over the middle, sprinted toward the end zone and extended the ball over the goal for his first multi-touchdown game of his career.
But the Bills kept pace, as Jackson capped an 84-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run for his second score of the day. Five plays earlier, Fitzpatrick converted on a huge 4th-and-4 play by finding Stevie Johnson for a 13-yard gain to the Patriots' 14-yard line.
Gostkowski extended the Patriots' advantage to 34-24 after kicking a 48-yard field goal less than a minute into the fourth quarter. Stevan Ridley's 24-yard run on the drive helped set up the attempt.
Earlier in the game, New England was forced to settle for three on its opening possession following drops by Wes Welker and Deion Branch. Gostkowski drilled a 43-yarder to give the Patriots the early lead at 3-0.
Penalties derailed the Bills on both sides of the ball, committing 14 on the day. After two pass interference penalties on the Bills, Ridley crossed the goal line on a 1-yard plunge to give the Patriots a 10-point cushion.
In the second quarter, the Bills were finally able to sustain a drive, but it eventually stalled. On the 10th play of the series, they were flagged for holding on a first down run by Spiller on 3rd-and-2 inside the redzone. After redoing the down, Fitzpatrick was sacked by Rob Ninkovich. Rian Lindell booted a 41-yard field goal to salvage the drive for Buffalo.
The Patriots did not settle for three on their next touch and answered quickly on a 15-yard touchdown run by Woodhead, extending their lead to 17-3. Brady completed 5-of-6 throws, finding Welker for 19 yards and Rob Gronkowski for 24 yards on the eight-play march.
Fitpatrick began to heat up for the Bills and completed his seventh straight pass, finding Scott Chandler for a gain of 17 to reach the New England 26. After a 12-yard run by Spiller, Jackson found a hole, broke several tackles and scored on a 14-yard rush to pull the Bills within a score at 17-10.
But New England needed just over two minutes to answer right back. On play- action, Brady lobbed a ball to the corner of the end zone for Gronkowski, who made a diving catch for a 2-yard score with 3:54 to play in the half. The touchdown was set up following penalties on Stephon Gilmore, who was called for a face mask and a 37-yard pass interference on back-to-back plays.
The Bills offense stayed resilient on the ensuing series. After Johnson couldn't get both feet down in the back of the endzone on Fitzpatrick's 2nd- and-goal pass, Scott Chandler hauled in a 3-yard score on the following play just before halftime with 31 seconds remaining, cutting the Bills' deficit back to seven at 24-17.
Brady threw a touchdown pass for the 41st consecutive game ... The Patriots honored former running back Kevin Faulk at halftime. He spent his entire 13-year career with the team ... Bill Belichick needs just two more victories to reach 200 for his career ... Fitzpatrick became the fifth quarterback in team history to throw for 10,000 yards in a career.
11/11 18:46:07 ET