Sunday, December 29, 2013

Fourth quarter flurry earns Patriots first-round bye


At the end of the third quarter in Sunday's matchup against the Buffalo Bills, the New England Patriots' shot at the No. 2 conference playoff spot was anything but a sure thing.

The defense had just given up an 80-yard touchdown drive and, despite a huge kickoff return by LeGarrette Blount, the team was clinging to a seven-point lead and facing a field goal try instead of a shot at the end zone.

Then the fourth quarter began.

Following an encroachment penalty that lead to a first down at the five yard line, New England converted six of its eventual 18 points in the final stanza and withstood a push by the visiting Bills to clinch yet another first-round bye in the playoffs, winning the game by a score of 34-20.

"Things like that are tough and it just shows you how close you are, but you’re not there yet," Buffalo quarterback Thad Lewis, who lead his team to two scores in the final quarter, said following the loss. "If we can get to being close and being able to convert and finish drives and finish games then I know our record would be a whole lot different than what it is now."

For the Patriots, timely conversions near the end of the game have become old hat this season. New England outscored the Bills 18-10 in the fourth quarter Sunday, right around their average this year. Coming into the game, the Patriots held a 160-86 scoring advantage in the fourth against their opponents, with a number of those scores coming in last-second, dramatic fashion. 

Sunday, it was a touchdown by Blount -- his second of the game -- with less than three minutes to go after a failed onside kick by Buffalo that sealed the victory.

Despite their production this season, coach Bill Belichick still believes there's work to be done before their next game.  

"We’re excited to be 12-4 and moving into the playoffs," he told reporters after the game, via "We still have a lot of work to do. I still think we can do things better than what we’re doing, which we’ll need to whoever we play; it will be a tough opponent, whoever the next opponent is. Hopefully we can play our best football whenever that time comes in a couple weeks."

Follow Dan @DanBegnoche
Follow AFC East Daily @AFCEastDaily