x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Brady's bunch secure AFC top seed and plaudits

The New England's quarterback clocks 319 attempts without interception but insists Patriots have not turned ball over.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes against the Buffalo Bills on December 26.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady passes against the Buffalo Bills on December 26.

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK // The New England Patriots have been nearly unbeatable since Tom Brady stopped throwing interceptions more than two months ago.

Now they will be even tougher to stop when the play-offs begin after securing the AFC's top seed with the first-round play-offs bye and guaranteed home games that come with it.

Brady threw three touchdown passes, including two to the tight end Rob Gronkowski, as New England routed the Buffalo Bulls 34-3.

Brady extended his streak of attempts without an interception to 319, topping the NFL mark of 308 set by Bernie Kosar with Cleveland in the 1990/91 season.

"I guess I'm glad I'm not throwing interceptions," Brady said, shrugging off the record.

"I think our team has done a really good job this year of not turning the ball over in general.

"All the guys that have handled it this year are doing a great job of taking care of it. I'm very fortunate. Believe me, I've had plenty of plays that definitely could have gone for interceptions. It's a good trend for us to be on, and hopefully it continues."

He was more pleased with helping the Patriots (13-2) finish first in the AFC for the third time since 2003, clinching their eighth division title in 10 years.

"It never gets old," he said. "We never get tired of winning."

Brady completed 15 of 27 passes for 140 yards, and had his eighth consecutive game with two or more touchdown passes. Alge Crumpler had a four-yard touchdown catch, Danny Woodhead scored on a 29-yard run and Shayne Graham kicked two field goals.

The Patriots complete the regular season by hosting the Miami Dolphins next weekend and are marching to the play-offs riding a seven-game win streak, their longest since going 16-0 in 2007.

Brady is leading an offence that has scored 31 or more points in seven consecutive games. He has only four interceptions this season, and none in 10 games, since throwing two in a 23-20 win over Baltimore on October 17.

The Bills (4-11) have had a hard enough time beating their division rivals 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.

The only thing that could slow the Patriots was Mother Nature. Bad weather in the northeast prevented the team from travelling home. The Patriots were forced to bus an hour east to spend the night in Rochester; most hotels in the Buffalo-area are booked due to the city hosting the World Junior Hockey Championships.

That's fine with Patriots players, even though they had already missed Christmas with their families after travelling to Buffalo on Saturday.

"We got a win, and that's our biggest present, being able to come into the locker room and being able to see that [championship] hat and T-shirt," the tackle Vince Wilfork said. "That's something to be proud of."

The game was over before half time as the Patriots scored 24 unanswered points after the Bills opened with a field goal.

They went ahead on Woodhead's touchdown, which came after the linebacker Gary Guyton forced Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Buffalo quarterback, to fumble.

The Bills' string of turnovers continued through the last time they touched the ball, giving it away with 1:51 left when CJ Spiller muffed a punt.

Brady broke Kosar's record with his 17th attempt early in the third quarter, when Gronkowski dropped a pass over the middle at the goal line. The two hooked up on the next play for an eight-yard touchdown. Brady has thrown for a touchdown in all 15 games this season, keeping alive his opportunity to become only the seventh NFL player to have thrown a TD pass in all 16 games.

Bill Belichick, coach of the Patriots, is so accustomed to Brady's efficiency that he did not know his quarterback had set a record.

"I didn't realise he broke that. That's great," Belichick said. "Tom does a great job of managing the game and taking care of the ball. I think he deserves that."