The wind played the greatest factor in Sunday's season finale gusting up to 60 miles per hour, but New England was more effective in dealing with it as they won a 13-0 decision over Buffalo. It was the first time the Bills were shut out at home since Oct. 23, 1983, when New England beat them 31-0.
"It was tough," said Lee Evans. "Tough conditions, but you never know what you are going to get here in December. Guys fought the whole time and stayed in it. We had a chance, but came up short."
"Disappointing, very disappointing," said head coach Dick Jauron. "A disappointing end to what turns out being a disappointing year for us, not getting a spot in the playoffs."
For the third straight season under Jauron the Bills finished 7-9 as they lost eight of their last 10 on the season after a 5-1 start. Buffalo went winless in the division (0-6) for only the second time in team history and the first time since 1976.
"It's extremely frustrating," said Kawika Mitchell. "In order to get in the playoffs you have to win in the division and we lost every game in our division and we wanted to beat the Patriots this year and it didn't happen. It's extremely frustrating."
The Patriots padded their modest 3-0 halftime lead with 10 unanswered points in the second half. Buffalo's offense gave New England an extra opportunity when Trent Edwards was sacked by Jarvis Green and fumbled. Patriots linebacker Mike Vrabel recovered the loose ball at the Bills 43-yard line.
New England then put together an 11-play drive, which included a pair of fourth down conversions with LaMont Jordan eventually capping the drive with a two-yard touchdown run to make it a 10-0 advantage late in the third.
After a three-and-out by Buffalo, the Patriots with the wind at their back plowed 80 yards on 15 plays with Stephen Gostkowski putting a 23-yard attempt through for a 13-0 lead with 10 minutes to play.
The Bills tried to make it a game, but an incomplete pass on a 4th-and-1 at the Patriots' 40-yard line gave the ball back to New England on downs.
Fred Jackson was the lone bright spot with a career-high 136 yards rushing on 27 carries.
With the wind at their back New England broke the early stalemate first as their ground game and a pair of receptions by fullback Heath Evans got the Patriots into field goal range. Stephen Gostkowski put a 33-yard attempt right down the middle for an early 3-0 lead with three minutes left in the first quarter.
Buffalo tried to tie the game once they had the wind behind them in the second quarter, but the gales were blowing more diagonally across the field, making the 47-yard field goal attempt by Lindell difficult.
His kick looked more like a slider as he tried to compensate for the wind kicking it left, but in the end it swerved sharply right of the right upright by the time it reached the end line.
Going into the wind the Patriots put a solid 14-play drive together marching 58 yards, but Stephen Gostkowski's 26-yard attempt was blown wide right.
"It wasn't very good either way, with it or against it," said Jauron of the wind. "There were no gimmes either way. The ball was moving all over."
"It's not like it was one way," said Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski. "The winds kept switching in and out. It was insane. I'm pretty happy I made two of them."
The Bills had a second scoring opportunity in the waning seconds of the first half, but on 3rd-and-5 from the Patriots 10-yard line, with no timeouts remaining, the play came in late after the 15-second play clock shut off in Edwards' helmet, forcing him to run to the sideline to get the play call. With 10 seconds left on the play clock Edwards ran back to the huddle to call the play and just got the snap off to avoid a delay of game penalty.
"We were in a position where we were deciding what to do, whether to throw or run, and then the play clock had gone down to 15 seconds," said Edwards. "And it might have been something with the previous play getting the personnel grouping in and then we decided to run the run play on the first sound and then run the kicking team out."
Surprisingly, the play was a run up the middle by Jackson, who was stopped short of a first down. With no timeouts and the clock winding down, Duke Preston got into a shoving match with a pair of Patriot linemen and did not get off the field. Meanwhile the entire kicking unit did not get on the field in time to snap the ball from the new line of scrimmage as time expired without a field goal attempt to tie it.
Players claim they heard a whistle and thought that would stop the clock, but head referee Gene Steratore said the umpire had the ball at the new spot ready to be snapped.
"At the end of the previous play, we did bring a kicking ball in with approximately 10 seconds left and the game clock running," Steratore said. "A member of the Buffalo offense was downfield in another situation after the play had ended with two New England players. We were breaking that up, but we did have a football set to be set down with nine seconds remaining in the half. The Buffalo player was not being restricted in any way to not be able to get back to the line to set up for the next play.
"Therefore there would be no foul for delay of game on the defense for not allowing an offensive player to get back to get set for the next play. The fact that we had a football ready to be set for the attempt, there was no administrative stoppage because we had the football back and ready."
Buffalo has now lost 11 straight to the Patriots, matching New England's longest winning streak against an opponent, which is also against the Bills from 1983 to 1987.