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Bills set up AFC East-deciding finale at Miami with 27-21 win over Patriots

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen gets up from the pile after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes )
Jeffrey T. Barnes
/
AP
Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen gets up from the pile after scoring a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the New England Patriots in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Jeffrey T. Barnes )

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Josh Allen ran for two touchdowns, cornerback Rasul Douglas returned one of his two interceptions for a score and the Buffalo Bills maintained their clear path to the playoffs with a 27-21 win over the New England Patriots on Sunday.

The three-time division champion Bills (10-6) now prepare for a season-ending showdown at Miami (11-5) next weekend that will decide the AFC East title. Buffalo has already defeated the Dolphins this year, and Miami blew a chance at clinching the division title with a 56-19 loss to Baltimore on Sunday.

The Bills have yet to clinch a playoff berth but could do so Sunday with a Pittsburgh loss or tie at Seattle and a Cincinnati loss or tie at Kansas City.

Buffalo won its fourth straight and fifth in six games by overcoming an inconsistent offense which settled for a touchdown and two field goals off three defensive takeaways inside the Patriots 30 in the first half. The Bills also responded after the Patriots opened the game with Jalen Reagor's 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Allen converted three third-down opportunities on Buffalo's final drive to run out the final 5:02. He capped the time-consuming drive by lowering his head on a 4-yard run on third-and-3 from the Patriots 16.

New England (4-12) proved both stout in a game it had little to play for and sloppy in committing four turnovers. The Patriots are in jeopardy of finishing with their fewest wins in coach Bill Belichick's tenure, which he opened with a 5-11 record in 2000.

Bailey Zappe had more interceptions (three) than the Patriots had first downs (two) during New England's first six possessions. Receiver Pharaoh Brown also lost a fumble.

Zappe's first interception came on his first attempt, when defensive tackle Ed Oliver dived to catch the ball after it was tipped by Douglas. Zappe's third interception was returned 40 yards by Douglas for a score, putting Buffalo ahead 20-7 less than four minutes into the second quarter.

The second-year quarterback steadied himself and finished 16 of 26 for 209 yards and scored on an 18-yard run. Ezekiel Elliott also scored on a 6-yard run, cutting the Bills lead to 27-21 with 11:01 remaining. New England went three-and-out on its next possession and never got the ball back.

The Bills blitzing defense was too much for Zappe, who dropped to 2-3 since the Patriots benched Mac Jones.

For Buffalo, Allen scored his team-leading 15th TD rushing, one short of matching the team's season record set in a 14-game season by O.J. Simpson 1975.

Allen had his streak of games throwing a touchdown end at 23. He finished 15 of 30 for 169 yards and interception.

UP NEXT

Patriots: Close season hosting New York Jets.

Bills: Close season at Miami Dolphins.

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