ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - The New England Patriots have been nearly unbeatable since Tom Brady stopped throwing interceptions more than 2 months ago.
Now they'll probably be even tougher to stop when the playoffs begin after securing the AFC's top seed - and homefield advantage through the first three rounds - with a 34-3 win yesterday over a familiar pushover, the Buffalo Bills.
Brady threw three touchdown passes, including two to tight end Rob Gronkowski, and extended his streak of attempts without an interception to 319. That topped the NFL mark of 308 set by Bernie Kosar with Cleveland in the 1990-91 seasons.
"I guess I'm glad I'm not throwing interceptions," Brady said, shrugging off the record.
He was more pleased with helping the Patriots (13-2) finish first in the AFC for the third time since 2003, and clinch their eighth division title in 10 years.
"It never gets old," Brady said. "We never get tired of winning."
Brady finished 15 of 27 for 140 yards, and had his eighth straight game with two or more scores. Alge Crumpler had a 4-yard TD catch, Danny Woodhead scored on a 29-yard run and Shayne Graham kicked two field goals.
The Patriots round out their season by hosting the Miami Dolphins next weekend and are marching to the playoffs riding a seven-game win streak - their longest since going 16-0 in 2007. Brady is leading an offense that has scored 31 or more points in seven straight games. He has also thrown only four interceptions, and none in his past 10 games, since throwing two in a 23-20 win over Baltimore on Oct. 17.
The Bills (4-11) have had a hard enough time beating their division rival to begin with, having now lost 15 in a row and 20 of their past 21 against New England. And they made it even more difficult on themselves by committing seven turnovers.
"I killed the team today," said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who lost two fumbles and threw three interceptions. "You can't do that on any day when you play a team that is that good and that efficient on offense."
Turns out the only thing that could slow the Patriots was Mother Nature. Bad weather in the Northeast prevented the team from traveling home. The Patriots were instead forced to bus an hour east to stay in Rochester, as most hotels in the Buffalo area are booked due to the World Junior Hockey Championships.
That's fine with Patriots players, even though they had already missed Christmas with their families.
"We got a 'W,' and that's our biggest present, being able to come into the locker room and being able to see that hat and T-shirt," nose tackle Vince Wilfork said. "That's something to be proud of."
Just as significant for Wilfork was how the Patriots' young defense is beginning to jell.
"I know a lot of people counted us out. But all year, we knew what we had in this locker room," he said. "This football team is getting better. We're not where we want to be by any means, but we're definitely moving forward."