Dec 28, 2014 4:12 PM
Disinterested Patriots rest starters, lose finale to Bills 17-9
The Associated Press
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) Safe on the sideline, Tom Brady watched the Buffalo Bills finish with their first winning record in 10 seasons.
Then he predicted the New England Patriots would be just fine once their top players are back on the field in the playoffs.
"I'm not worried about us lacking confidence," Brady said after playing just the first half in Buffalo's 17-9 win Sunday. "We've got a lot of good players."
Kyle Orton threw for a touchdown, Anthony Dixon ran for another and the Bills beat the going-through-the motions Patriots (12-4), who already had clinched the AFC's No. 1 seed and a first-round bye and wanted to avoid injuries. New England next plays on Saturday, Jan. 10.
The Bills (9-7) ended their string of losing seasons, matching their record in 2004. But they had little else to play for after a loss to Oakland one week earlier eliminated them from playoff contention for the 15th straight season, the longest current NFL streak.
"We had a winning season but we didn't go as far as we wanted to," linebacker Nickell Robey said.
The Patriots held out their top receivers, Julian Edelman and Rob Gronkowski, but the plan to protect players wasn't entirely successful. Starting left tackle Nate Solder didn't return after hurting his knee late in the first half.
And after the game, coach Bill Belichick met with trainers about his own health.
"I had to spend a few minutes in the training room after the game, nothing serious, just a couple things to look at with the trainers and the doctor," Belichick said in a conference call after skipping his usual postgame news conference. "It was no big deal. I don't want to get into it."
The loss snapped several streaks: Buffalo's 0-12 record at Gillette Stadium, and New England's 35 home wins against AFC teams and 16 at home against any opponent.
"We always hate losing," Brady said. "We didn't make enough plays to win, but, hopefully, we'll make them in a couple of weeks."
Buffalo safety Aaron Williams was proud of the victory against a team that didn't try its best.
"I don't want to hear no excuses about who didn't play, who played," he said. "They showed up. We showed up. We just were the better team today."
With starting offensive linemen Dan Connolly and Sebastian Vollmer also inactive, New England failed to score a touchdown for the first time since the fifth game last season, a 13-6 loss at Cincinnati. Stephen Gostkowski kicked three field goals.
The sellout crowd lacked its usual energy but cheered when backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo took off on several runs.
Brady played all five offensive series in the first half and failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season. He was 8 of 16 for 80 yards and was sacked once.
On his next-to-last possession, he was tackled by Stefan Charles for a 7-yard loss. On his final series, he kept the ball for a 2-yard keeper for a first down then ran for 7 yards before sliding to avoid being hit.
Orton was 16 of 23 for 176 yards and went over the 3,000-yard passing mark for the third time in his career.
"Any time you step on the field is important," Orton said. "It's great whenever you get a winning season and win the last game against your rival."
The Bills rushed for 104 yards one week after picking up just 13, fourth fewest in team history, in a 26-24 loss to the Raiders.
"We'll have a bad taste in our mouth until we get a chance to play again," Patriots right guard Ryan Wendell said.
NOTES: The Bills went all season without a player rushing for 100 yards for only the fourth time in team history and first since 1979. Fred Jackson led them Sunday with 58. ... The Patriots held their sixth straight opponent without a second-half touchdown. They've outscored teams 67-12 in the second half in that span. ... Buffalo held its opponent without a touchdown pass for the third time in four games. It shut out Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Brady but allowed two scoring passes by Oakland's Derek Carr.
AP NFL websites: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL