New England Patriots

Dec 23, 2018; Foxborough, MA: New England Patriots running back Sony Michel (26) runs the ball against the Buffalo Bills in the third quarter at Gillette Stadium. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

Sony Michel runs the ball against the Buffalo Bills in the third quarter at Gillette Stadium. (David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports)

By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com

Who would’ve thought the Patriots could win by 12 points with 41-year-old Tom Brady posting a passer rating that’s dangerously close to his age?

That’s exactly what happened on Sunday afternoon in Foxboro, where the Patriots beat the Buffalo Bills 24-12 despite a shockingly bad 48.3 passer rating for Brady, who had easily one of his worst games of the season. However, the Pats offense more than made up for it on the ground, gaining their most rushing yards ever with Tom Brady starting at quarterback as they finished with 273 yards on 47 carries.

Any way they can move the ball, they’ll take it. And with that, the Patriots are AFC East champions for the 10th straight season. In addition, they move back into the No. 2 seed in the conference with the Texans’ much-hoped-for loss to the Eagles.

Here are some quick-hit thoughts on an interesting day at Gillette Stadium…

Run game rules the day. It didn’t matter if it was a handoff or jet sweep, the Patriots got everything they wanted on the ground against a Bills defense that entered the game ranked 10th against the run. Patterston took four jet sweeps for 66 yards, and Phillip Dorsett took one for 17 yards. Sony Michel had perhaps his most complete game of the season, rushing 18 times for 116 yards and powering into the end zone for a four-yard touchdown.

James White gets involved again. Good things happen when No. 28 gets the ball consistently. This marks the first time this season that the Patriots have won a game with White getting 12 or fewer combined rushes and targets, but White made his touches count. He rushed eight times for 41 yards and a 27-yard touchdown.

Brady has one of his worst days. Granted, you could argue both of Brady’s interceptions were the receivers’ fault. Rex Burkhead ran a wrong route and Rob Gronkowski had a pass go through his hands. But all in all it was not a good day for Brady when he dropped back to pass, often missing the mark when under pressure and throwing at least two attempts behind his targets. Brady’s apparent knee injury really looks to be bothering him, and the guys around him aren’t doing him many favors. He finished 13-for-24 for 126 yards, one touchdown, and the two picks.

Defense comes up with big plays. Two huge turnovers helped the Patriots defense keep the Bills at bay and keep them out of the end zone. First was JC Jackson’s leaping interception of an errant Josh Allen pass attempt, which kept Buffalo scoreless in the second quarter at the time. The other was even bigger. The Bills had a chance to get back within one score with tight end Jason Croom nearing the end zone, but Jason McCourty wouldn’t let him in. He ripped the ball out of his hands and Malcom Brown fell on it to keep the Bills away from their first touchdown, and keep them well behind in the game. It helped that Allen was wildly inaccurate on numerous throws, but the Pats also played their best run defense in weeks, including against the quarterback.

Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at matthew.dolloff@bbgi.com.