Patriots roll to 16-3 lead in the rain

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The Patriots have faced questions about their passing game in the wake of tight end Rob Gronkowski’s season-ending knee injury, but they’ve found a pretty good way of avoiding them on Sunday.

Just give the ball to LeGarrette Blount. Blount has run the ball 15 times for 118 yards and a touchdown to help pace the offense to a 16-3 lead in the first half on a rainy day in New England. Stevan Ridley has added 48 more on six carries and Shane Vereen has another 44 yards from scrimmage during a big first half for the Patriots backfield.

The rain has had some impact on the ball handling as the Patriots have fumbled three times, with both Blount and Vereen putting the ball on the ground, but they have been able to recover all three loose balls. That bad luck, poor run defense and an erratic performance from quarterback Thad Lewis have conspired to put the Bills in a deep hole with 30 minutes left in their season.

If they don’t climb out, the Patriots will have assured themselves a first-round bye. Assuming Denver’s lead over Oakland hold up, they’ll have to settle for the second seed.