FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Here's a breakdown of the Buffalo Bills' 37-16 loss against the New England Patriots Sunday at Gillette Stadium.
Expected result, but still showing a pulse: Who expected the Bills to emerge from here with a victory? Almost no one. They were, as usual, double-digit underdogs and for the second time this season, they suffered a double-digit loss.
Of course, the outcome did nothing to change the fact the Bills remain very much alive for a wild-card playoff spot that, with help, they could secure by beating the Miami Dolphins next Sunday.
Another week, another pro-Pats officiating controversy: For the second week in a row, the Patriots benefitted when officials reversed an apparent touchdown catch against them after a replay review. Last week, it was Steelers tight end Jesse James, whose nullified TD catch was followed by an interception in the end zone that allowed New England to seal a victory. Sunday, it was Kelvin Benjamin seemingly making a tip-toe scoring catch late in the first half before stepping out of bounds.
After a replay review, the call was reversed with the league saying, in a Twitter statement from NFL officiating director Al Riveron: "In #BUFvsNE, 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. -AL"
The Bills settled for a 23-yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka.
One play before the controversial call on Benjamin, tight end Charles Clay caught a pass in the end zone, but lost it after he hit the ground and the throw was ruled incomplete.
In the third quarter, the Bills were ruled to have apparently held Dion Lewis to no gain on fourth-and-1 from the Bills' 26. However, the call was changed to a first down after a replay review. The Bills' defense still hung tough, forcing the Patriots to settle for a 34-yard field goal.
Another game vs. Patriots, another TD shutout for Bills: The Bills failed to score a touchdown in both games against the Patriots this season.
Benjamin's breakthrough: Despite being scheduled for knee surgery after the season, wide receiver Benjamin had his first breakthrough performance as a Bill. He caught five passes for 70 yards, and but for a highly questionable replay reversal, he should have had a six with one going for a touchdown.
Poyer's first pick-six: Jordan Poyer's pick-six that gave the Bills a 10-3 lead with 10:28 left in the second quarter was the safety's first of his five-year NFL career. It also was Brady's first since the Patriots' win against the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI and first in the regular season since 2015.
Williams moves into sixth place: Defensive tackle Kyle Williams boosted the sack total for his 12 NFL seasons to 43.5. That allowed him to surpass Mario Williams and move into sixth place on the Bills' all-time sack list.
Clay hits 150: Clay became the fifth tight end in Bills history to have 150 receptions for the team. The others are Pete Metzelaars, Jay Riemersma, Scott Chandler, and Lonnie Johnson.
Hauschka hits 100: Hauschka's first four points Sunday gave him 100 points for the seventh consecutive season. That tied him with the Patriots' Stephen Gostkowski for the longest active streak in the NFL.
Hughes hits 40: Defensive end Jerry Hughes registered the 40th sack of his eight NFL seasons.
Cadet's misfortune: Backup running back Tavaris Cadet left the game in the second quarter on a cart with a right ankle injury suffered on his only carry of the game. His ankle twisted awkwardly. It seems unlikely he'll be able to return for next week's season-finale or any postseason game the Bills might play.
Counting the house: There were a whole lot of empty seats. The guess is that some of even the most ardent Patriot fans chose to spend Christmas Eve at home. Word is that many season-ticket holders gave up their seats for this one.
Up next: The most important game of the season, the one that even mattered more to the Bills' postseason chances than the Patriots' game, is next Sunday at Miami. A win could very well mean the end of the 17-year playoff drought. It marks the first time the Bills have a meaningful game in Week 17 since 2004, when they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers' third-stringers with a playoff berth on the line.