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18 and counting: QB Brady, New England defense secure record-tying win over Bills

Ex-Dixie running back Corey Dillon (28) runs for a Patriots' touchdown during the first half of Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills.
Ex-Dixie running back Corey Dillon (28) runs for a Patriots' touchdown during the first half of Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills.
David Duprey, Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — With Tom Brady as their quarterback and a stingy, opportunistic defense, it's difficult to imagine when the New England Patriots might lose again.

Brady and defensive end Richard Seymour combined to secure the Patriots' record-tying 18th straight victory, 31-17 over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

Brady put the Patriots ahead for good with a 2-yard pass to tight end Daniel Graham four minutes into the fourth quarter. The Patriots' defense did the rest.

With New England ahead 24-17, the victory was clinched when Seymour picked up quarterback Drew Bledsoe's fumble and ran it 68 yards for a touchdown with 2:44 remaining.

The play came as the Bills were facing fourth-and-3 at the New England 18. Whatever play Buffalo prepared was blown up by linebacker Tedy Bruschi, who was untouched in bullying his way up the middle to force the fumble.

It's now 53 weeks since the Patriots have lost, a 20-17 defeat at Washington on Sept. 28, 2003.

New England has won 15 straight regular-season games, including three to start this season, and three straight in the playoffs, including last February's Super Bowl.

The Patriots tied a record held by four other NFL teams — Chicago did it twice — and also by the 1947-48 AAFC Cleveland Browns. They're the first to win 18 straight since Denver in 1997-98.

New England gets an opportunity to break the record by hosting Miami next weekend.

Brady went 17-for-30 for 298 yards and two touchdowns, including a 30-yard pass to David Patten.

Former Dixie College standout Corey Dillon had 79 yards rushing and a touchdown. Adam Vinatieri also hit a 42-yard field goal.

The Patriots have won eight straight on the road and made up for last year's season-opening 31-0 loss at Buffalo.

The Bills, as if on cue, bumbled their way to their third straight loss, reflective of a team that's won only 17 games since the start of 2001.

Bledsoe finished 18-of-30 for 247 yards and a touchdown. But he was intercepted once and sacked seven times.

Travis Henry finished with 98 yards rushing, but he stumbled — literally — when the Bills (0-3) needed him most. On the play before Bledsoe's fumble, Henry was untouched when he fell face first at the line of scrimmage for a 1-yard loss on third-and-2.

The Bills prevented a Patriots score when defensive end Chris Kelsay forced and recovered Dillon's fumble at the Bills' 4. And Buffalo punter Brian Moorman, after bobbling a snap, picked up the ball and ran up the right side for a 34-yard gain that set up Bledsoe's 41-yard touchdown pass to Eric Moulds to put the Bills ahead 17-10.

And then there was Terrence McGee, who returned a kickoff 98 yards for a TD late in the first quarter.

None of that seemed to matter with the Patriots, known for their ability to pull games out in the clutch. The win marked the 16th time Brady led the Patriots to victory in the final 15 minutes or overtime.

Despite his touchdown, McGee had an up-and-down game. The lowlight came when McGee got caught in traffic, leaving Patten wide open on his 30-yard touchdown reception that tied the score at 17. McGee was in after veteran Troy Vincent hurt his left knee on the Patriots' first drive and did not return.

The Bills were also down two starting offensive linemen. Center Trey Teague did not return after hurting his left knee early in the second quarter. Left tackle Jonas Jennings was knocked out cold with about four minutes left in the third quarter.