In a game that didn’t mean much of anything to either team, the Bills emerged victorious over the Patriots today and can take pride in this: For the first time in a decade, Buffalo has finished a season with a winning record.
The Bills’ 17-9 victory puts them at 9-7 on the season, their first winning record since another 9-7 finish in 2004. The Bills had nine straight losing seasons until this year.
That represents progress, but today’s game didn’t mean much of anything. The Patriots, who had already clinched home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, coasted through the game. Tom Brady exited early after going 8-for-16 for 80 yards. Brady was replaced by rookie Jimmy Garoppolo, who made a few good throws but didn’t do anything special.
The Bills got decent games from quarterback Kyle Orton and receiver Sammy Watkins, but the big question facing Buffalo going forward is whether it has the quarterback who can finally get the Bills back to the playoffs. Buffalo has plenty of talent on defense and some good young skill position players on offense, but it seems unlikely that either the veteran Orton or the 2013 first-round draft pick he replaced, EJ Manuel, is the long-term answer.
For the Patriots, the purpose of this game was to get out of it without any major injuries, and it appears that they succeeded, with one possible exception: Starting left tackle Nate Solder left the game with a knee injury. There was no immediate word on the severity of that injury.
Now the Patriots will get a week off and host a playoff game in two weeks. And the Bills will get to work on trying to put together another winning season next year — and perhaps threaten the Patriots in the AFC East.