With the playoffs no longer a possibility, the Patriots still had a chance to get to at least .500 for a 20th consecutive season.
That path, too, was put to rest on Monday night in a changing of the guard game if there ever was one at Gillette Stadium. The Bills became the first AFC East team to sweep the Patriots since 2000, toying with their longtime nemesis in a 38-9 rout that was never in doubt.
Buffalo, now 11-4, has already clinched its first AFC East title since 1995.
Now 6-9, New England will play out the string Sunday at home against the Jets, who all of a sudden are on fire with back-to-back wins following an 0-13 start.
Cam Newton was finally bench in the third quarter after completing 5 of 10 passes for 34 yards. While those clamoring for Newton to take a seat were certainly justified, Jarrett Stidham did nothing to show he deserved an opportunity, either, going 4 for 11 for 44 yards.
It was even worse than it appeared in many ways. The 29-point loss for the Patriots was their worst at home under Bill Belichick, a dubious distinction they've now attained twice this season (a 33-6 loss to the 49ers in October was the previous mark). Overall, it's their second-worst loss under Belichick, a 31-0 laugher against the Bills on the road in Week 1 way back in 2003.
Those Patriots went on to win 34 of their next 38 games. It's anyone's guess as to just how far this team still needs to sink before it hits rock bottom.
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Believe it or not, though, New England did hold a 3-0 lead after a Nick Folk 45-yard field goal on the game's opening drive, and even managed to hold the Bills to a field goal on their first possession.
Following a New England three-and-out on which in managed to lose 10 yards, Buffalo took the lead for good on a Zack Moss 5-yard touchdown run just 10 seconds into the second quarter.
The Patriots did respond with a nine-play, 90-yard scoring drive, which Newton finished off with a 9-yard touchdown run -- a nice play in which he was nearly sacked before bulldozing his way across the goal line for his 70th career rushing score -- but Folk missed the extra point on New England's first touchdown in 10 quarters of football, leaving the team trailing for good.
The Bills scored touchdowns on each of their next three full possessions, excluding a kneel down at the end of the first half. Stefon Diggs, whom Buffalo acquired in the off-season via trade from Minnesota, scored two while former Patriots draft pick Lee Smith hauled in another.
Smith was drafted in the fifth round by New England in 2011, at a time when it had two promising young tight ends on its roster named Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. He's gone on to be a serviceable blocking tight end for the Bills and Raiders, as tonight's score was just the 10th of his career.
Diggs would add another touchdown for the Bills, finishing the game with nine catches for 145 yards. He leads the NFL with 120 catches on the season.