After being bottled up by the Jets last week, Doug Flutie broke loose and jump-started Buffalo's running game. At the same time, he revved up their playoff hopes in a 13-10 win Sunday over the New England Patriots.
Flutie threw 10 yards to tight end Jay Riemersma with 1:57 left in the third quarter for the Bills' lone touchdown and a 13-3 lead, capping a drive of 47 yards.
Flutie, facing the Patriots for the first time since they released him after the 1989 season, added 49 yards on 11 carries and completed 14 of 26 passes for 178 yards and one touchdown with two interceptions.
The Bills rushed for 213 yards, just 2 shy of their previous high against the Rams. Antowain Smith had 24 carries for 88 yards. Veteran back Thurman Thomas, whose season high had been 42 yards, carried 11 times for 76 yards.
The Bills (6-4) are tied for second with the Jets in the AFC East, one game behind Miami. The Patriots, who had won five of the last six games against the Bills, fell to 5-5 and have lost four of their last five.
"This was a huge win for us," fullback and ex-Patriot Sam Gash said. "We pounded the ball. We won the time f possession (37:17) and most of all we won the game. We're in second place right now, and that's what's fun."
The Bills, who split two games with Miami and lost once to the Jets, are in a good position for a run at a playoff berth. The Patriots, who played without six starters due to injuries, might not be.
"This team isn't going in the tank," said Patriots coach Pete Carroll, who had won all four of his previous games against the Bills. "We had a chance to win."
Christie gave the Bills a 6-0 lead with a field goal each in the first and second quarters. Adam Vinatieri made it a 6-3 halftime score with his 38-yard kick.
The Patriots pulled to 13-10 with a 37-yard pass from Drew Bledsoe to Tony Simmons with 13:11 to play. Buffalo then drove 14 plays to the New England 4, but Flutie's pass was picked off by Lawyer Milloy with 4:41 left.
It was then up to the Bills defense and Bruce Smith sacked Bledsoe twice for losses of 15 yards.
"He makes a lot of plays at the end of the ballgame, because he's got something in his heart that most players don't have," Bills coach Wade Phillips said.
"I'm glad we won, but I still think we could have played a lot better," Smith said. "And I'm sure they feel the same way."
Bledsoe completed 12 of 31 passes for 180 yards and no interceptions, but his stats were far worse than his performance.
"They had a few dropped balls that I'm sure their receivers wished they had gotten back," Smith said.
Bledsoe agreed, to a point.
"We had some dropped balls, but the bottom line is we weren't able to come up with the plays when we needed them today," said Bledsoe, whose team rushed for 48 yards.
A pass interference call set up the Patriots at the Bills 34 with under two minutes left. But after three incompletions, the Bills were winners.
"I've got to make the plays when I get the chances, and I didn't today," said Shawn Jefferson, who dropped Bledsoe's shotgun pass on fourth-and-10 with 1:31 to play.
The Bills marched 53 yards on nine plays on their first possession to set up Christie's 31-yard field goal.
Flutie broke loose for 22 yards and threw 23 yards to Andre Reed on third down to the New England 7 before Christie's 20-yard boot made it 6-0 early in the second quarter.
Vinatieri missed a 40-yard field goal, but the Patriots brought their kicker back within range with a 33-yard pass from Bledsoe to Ben Coates, who broke tackles down to the Buffalo 23. Vinatieri's 38-yarder made it 6-3 with 4:44 left in the half.
NotesThe Bills began the season with three losses and just four teams in NFL history have started the season 0-3 and gone on to make the playoffs. ... Flutie is 9-0 at home as a startr in the regular season in the NFL. ... Buffalo linebacker John Holecek sprained his knee and will be out 2-4 weeks. ... Smith's pair of fourth-quarter sacks increased his career total to 161. ... Riemersma has caught five touchdowns this season. ... Rob Johnson, Buffalo's emergency quarterback last week, was listed as the backup.
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