Five quick thoughts from Patriots' 37-16 win over Bills


FOXBORO -- Here are five quick-hitting thoughts on the Patriots' 37-16 victory over the Bills on Christmas Eve, which keeps them lined up for the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs . . . 


1) How exactly was that overturned, Al Riveron? The NFL's vice-president of officiating (or his colleagues, or both) ruled from New York City that Kelvin Benjamin did not have possession and two feet down in the end zone at the end of the first half, forcing the Bills to kick a game-tying field goal as time expired to make the score 13-13. On the field, the play was ruled a touchdown. There didn't seem to be a definitive replay showing Benjamin did not have both feet in bounds and possession, meaning the call on the field should have been upheld. Instead, it was reversed. For Patriots fans, it was the first gift of Christmas. For Twitter, it was blood in the water. Riveron later tweeted a message from the league's football operations account. 

2) The Patriots benefited from another review in the third quarter when Bill Belichick challenged the spot on a fourth-down run by Dion Lewis. To the naked eye, Lewis seemed clearly short of "the line to gain," but replays showed Lewis extended his arms forward as he was being hit. The review resulted in a first down for the Patriots, and five plays later they kicked a field goal to tie the score with five minutes remaining in the third quarter, 16-16. Another gift? Not exactly. This one seemed to be more definitive than the Benjamin play at the end of the half.

3) Rob Gronkowski's insanely acrobatic one-handed grab in the second quarter was reminiscent of the one he pulled down against the Broncos in 2014, when Tom Brady asked him, "How the [expletive] did you catch that?" Gronkowski had to reach back, snag it, get both feet in bounds, cross the goal line and maintain possession. He did all of those things and it tied the game for the Patriots at the end of the second quarter, 10-10. Gronkowski's score was the 75th he caught from Tom Brady, putting them fifth all-time when it comes to quarterback-receiver touchdown productivity. 

4) The Bills couldn't figure out a way to score on the Patriots once they got inside the red zone. They got inside the 20 four times in the game's first 35 minutes and could only kick three field goals. (They turned it over on downs once thanks to a Marquis Flowers sack.) Brady helped them in the second quarter, though, when he was picked by Jordan Poyer. Kenny Britt had his route undercut by Poyer, who looked like a free defender reading Brady's eyes in the Bills secondary, and Poyer took it the other way for a touchdown. Brady has been intercepted five times in the last four games.

5) Malcom Brown briefly took over the game late in the third quarter when his 15-yard sack of Tyrod Taylor was followed up by a run stuff of bowling-ball back Mike Tolbert. Since returning to action from an ankle injury suffered that forced him to miss three games, he's been perhaps the team's best defensive lineman. In that span, he has two sacks, a quarterback hit, five quarterback hurries, and 16 stuffs. With Alan Branch out injured the last two weeks, Brown has seen more playing time and he's responded. 


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