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Tom Brady passed for a pair of touchdowns and the New England Patriots stayed on track to claim home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs with a 37-16 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
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. Teammate Devin McCourty had high praise for Lewis in the post-game press conference:
Mike Gillislee, active for the first time in six games, added a 1-yard rushing touchdown.
New England (12-3) can lock up first-round bye with either a Pittsburgh or Jacksonville loss. If both of those teams lose, the Patriots will secure home-field advantage throughout the postseason. The Jaguars play at San Francisco Sunday. The Steelers play at Houston Monday.
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. It is the longest postseason absence since NFL merger in 1970.
New England has won at least 12 games in eight straight seasons - an NFL record.
Buffalo stayed close throughout and went into halftime locked in a 13-13 tie.
But the Bills managed just three points in the final 30 minutes, after a touchdown at the end of the first half was taken away.
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.
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.
The Bills were forced to settle for a 23-yard Hauschka 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," he wrote his Twitter feed.
The game was tied at 13 at the half.
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 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 Rob Gronkowski pulled in with one hand to tie the game at 10.
Some fans at Gillette were decked out in holiday gear on Christmas Eve:
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.
With reporting from WBUR's Kassandra Sundt and Kyle Hightower of The Associated Press.
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