Turns out there's nothing wrong with Randy Moss or the New England Patriots that facing their perennial patsy, the Buffalo Bills, can't fix. Doesn't mean it was pretty.
A week after being accused of quitting by Carolina Panthers defenders, Moss bounced back with five catches for 70 yards and a touchdown in a 17-10 win Sunday. Tully Banta-Cain had three of New England's six sacks to anchor a banged-up defense.
The Patriots (9-5) won their first road game on this side of the Atlantic this season by beating their AFC East rival for the 13th straight time and 18th time in 19 meetings. Better still, the Patriots inched closer to clinching the division title after Miami and the New York Jets lost to drop their records to 7-7.
The Bills (5-9) were undone by 11 penalties for 124 yards, including a pair of pass-interference calls that set up New England's first two scores.
Buffalo's 104 yards in penalties in the first half were the most by an NFL team in an opening half this season.
The loss mathematically eliminated the Bills from playoff contention, capping a decade of futility. They'll miss the playoffs for a 10th straight season, tied with Detroit for the longest active drought.
It wasn't a pretty performance by either team. Tom Brady went 11 of 23 for a season-worst 115 yards, with a 13-yard yard touchdown to Moss and an interception.
Moss had his most yards receiving in five games. And his score marked the ninth 10-touchdown season of his career, matching the NFL record set by Jerry Rice.
It came a week after Moss fumbled after registering his only catch for 16 yards in a 20-10 win over Carolina.
Credit the Patriots defense, which limited the Bills to 241 yards _ and only 94 in the second half _ while playing without defensive line starters Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren.
The Bills fell behind 17-3 before squandering several opportunities to get back into the game.
Lee Evans scored on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick with 3:02 remaining. Buffalo then recovered the ensuing onside kickoff, but the play was negated by _ what else? _ an offside penalty against rookie Aaron Maybin.
Down 3-0, the Patriots took control with two touchdown drives in the first half.
Brady hit Moss in the end zone to put New England up 7-3. The score was set up after the Bills' Donte Whitner was called for pass interference for slapping at Moss' hands in the end zone on an underthrown deep pass.
Laurence Maroney then scored on a 1-yard rush off right tackle in the final minute of the half. That touchdown was set up after Bills cornerback Reggie Corner pushed down Wes Welker in the end zone.
Fitzpatrick finished 17 of 25 for 178 yards and was briefly benched early in the fourth quarter. Trent Edwards took over and didn't prove to be any better in making his first appearance in five games. He went 1 of 2 for minus-1 yard and was sacked for a 9-yard loss during his first series.
Edwards hurt his right ankle upon being sacked, forcing Fitzpatrick to return on Buffalo's next possession.
Terrell Owens was limited to two catches for 20 yards, leaving him two receptions short of becoming the sixth NFL player to hit the 1,000 mark.