McCourty's pick-6 seals Patriots' 25-6 win over Bills
By JOHN WAWROW, AP Sports Writer
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Devin McCourty was pleased that the New England Patriots defense didn’t have to play second fiddle to Tom Brady and Co. for once.
With the Patriots leaning more on Stephen Gostkowski’s leg than Brady’s arm against the Buffalo Bills on Monday night, McCourty stepped up and returned an interception 84 yards to secure a 25-6 victory.
“The last couple of games it was our offense scoring and us trying to keep the team out. This was a game where they were moving the ball and couldn’t get into the end zone,” McCourty said. “We had to make sure Buffalo didn’t get in the end zone, and once it cracked, we had to take advantage of it.”
The interception proved to be the turning point in what had been a tightly contested game in which New England settled for four Gostkowski field goals, and after James White scored on a 1-yard to make it 18-6 with 9:58 left.
The Bills responded with what was initially ruled a touchdown, when tight end Jason Croom appeared to make a diving, one-handed catch in the end zone. The 25-yard catch was negated when replays showed Croom never had possession.
Two plays later, McCourty jumped in front of Derek Anderson’s attempt to hit tight end Charles Clay over the middle.
“Those are bonus points. It’s hard to count on those,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “It was a big play for us. They were driving in the red area and it turned it around.”
Buffalo lost its third straight and dropped to 2-6 for its worst start since opening the 2010 season with eight losses.
The Bills offense continued its anemic ways in being held to under 7 points for the fourth time this season — once more than that’s happened from 2013-17. Buffalo has scored just two touchdowns in its past five outings, a stretch in which it has been outscored by a margin of 116-37.
Running back LeSean McCoy took the offense’s struggles personally. Though he had a team-best 82 yards receiving, McCoy finished with just 13 yards rushing and has yet to score this season.
“I’m 30 years old. I’ve been playing since high school. This stuff has never happened to me. Yeah it’s tough,” he said.
What hurts more is McCoy knowing how the offense has let down the defense.
“It’s not fair to them,” he said. “I didn’t expect to have no season like this. I’m not really playing well at all. We’re not doing much on offense.”
Credit the Bills’ defense for not playing the role of the expected pushover against a Brady-led offense that had scored 38 or more points in each of its past four games.
“You come out and you hold those guys to one touchdown and still can’t get a win. It’s tough, man,” Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White said.
Stephen Hauschka accounted for the scoring by hitting field goals from 51 and 47 yards.
“It’s clearly not good enough,” coach Sean McDermott said of his sputtering offense. “I thought the defense came out and played well at times. Offensively, we shot ourselves in the foot a little bit there, and just couldn’t get it going enough.”
Anderson finished 22 of 39 for 290 yards and two interceptions.
He was escorted off the field with 1:25 left when he was sacked by Kyle Van Noy. He was making his second start in place of rookie Josh Allen, who’s listed as week to week with a sprained elbow on his throwing arm.
Brady finished 29 of 45 for 324 yards, but was held without a touchdown pass for the first time this season.
“They made it tough on us,” he said. “We couldn’t get anything going in the red zone, not enough positive plays down there.”
Brady continued his string of career-long dominance over the Bills by improving to 29-3, extending the NFL record for most wins by a quarterback against one opponent.
The Patriots beat Buffalo for the seventh straight time and improved to 32-5 in their last 37 meetings under coach Bill Belichick.
The highlight for Bills fans was a halftime ceremony in which the team retired Hall of Fame running back Thurman Thomas’ No. 34.
He became the third player in Bills history to receive the honor. Jim Kelly had his No. 12 retired in 2001, and Bruce Smith’s No. 78 was retired in 2016.
With the lights turned out at the sold-out stadium, highlights from Thomas’ Hall of Fame career were shown on the video scoreboard while two spotlights projected 34s onto the field. “When I look up and see the No. 34 retired under my name, I’ll be reminded that number doesn’t just belong to me,” Thomas said. “It belongs to the Bills fans everywhere.”
The receiver- and quarterback-needy Bills had free agent Terrelle Pryor in for a visit earlier in the day. Pryor is a seventh-year player who was released by the New York Jets on Oct. 20 with an injury settlement after hurting his groin.
Patriots: Rookie RB Sony Michel (left knee) and starting LB Dont’a Hightower (knee) were inactive.
Bills: Rookie starting middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds did not return in the second half after being diagnosed with a concussion.
Patriots: Prepare for a Brady-vs.-Aaron Rodgers showdown, hosting the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night.
Bills: Host the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
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