FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots played one of their worst games on defense this season.
However when it mattered most, safety Devin McCourty made the play that won the game.
After giving up 35 first downs and 481 yards, New England stopped the Buffalo Bills when McCourty intercepted a pass thrown right at him in the end zone with 23 seconds left.
That interception clinched a 37-31 win on Sunday that was tougher than expected against a team that lost for the fifth time in six games.
“No matter what happens in the game, there’s nothing bigger than turnovers,” McCourty said. “A lot of times if you can just win that turnover ratio, you end up winning the game.”
The Patriots began the day with an AFC-best plus-13 turnover differential. They increased that to plus-16 with the interception and two fumble recoveries, one in the fourth quarter that the Patriots recovered at their 1-yard line.
Not bad for a team with only the 22nd-ranked defense going into the game.
“Every time we’ve played these guys, we’ve been successful moving the ball,” Bills running back C.J. Spiller said, “The guys on the sideline were very confident we could go down and win it, but they just made that play at the end.”
Ryan Fitzpatrick even outplayed Tom Brady — until that last, errant throw.
Fitzpatrick completed 27 of 40 passes for 337 yards, while Brady was 23 for 38 for 237. Each threw two touchdown passes.
“It’s frustrating when we don’t play as well as we’re capable of,” Brady said. “Part of the mental toughness of the game is to put those things behind you and to keep playing hard. We did that and that’s why we won.”
The Patriots (6-3) lead the AFC East but let a 17-3 lead slip to 34-31 with 7:47 left on Fitzpatrick’s 2-yard scoring pass to Donald Jones. Then the Bills (3-6) held the Patriots to a 27-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski with 2:06 to go.