Patriots shut out Bills, earn top seed in AFC

Posted: Sunday, December 28, 2003

FOXBORO, Mass. Tom Brady needed just one outstanding half to assure the New England Patriots of home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

And they did it with a sense of redemption, beating the Buffalo Bills 31-0 on Saturday in the regular-season finale after losing the opener to them by the same score.

Brady threw four touchdown passes to four receivers in the first half after throwing four interceptions in the loss in Buffalo and New England rolled into the playoffs with a franchise-best 12-game winning streak.

The Patriots (14-2) had their best regular season ever and earned a first-round bye in their quest for a second Super Bowl championship in three seasons.

The Bills (6-10) lost seven of their last nine games in the last game of coach Gregg Williams' three-year contract. He never took them to the playoffs, and an announcement about his future is expected this week.

Brady went 21-for-32 for 204 yards with no interceptions. Buffalo's Drew Bledsoe completed just 12 of 29 passes for 83 yards and one interception and was sacked three times.

Seahawks 24, 49ers 17

SAN FRANCISCO Matt Hasselbeck passed for 315 yards and threw scoring passes to Koren Robinson and Alex Bannister to keep Seattle's postseason hopes alive.

Hasselbeck and Shaun Alexander came up with just enough big plays to give the Seahawks (10-6) their second road victory of the season and a season sweep of the 49ers.

Now the Seahawks need Minnesota to lose at Arizona, or Denver to beat Green Bay at Lambeau Field on Sunday. Seattle also could get in if Dallas loses at New Orleans, kicking off a complicated scenario that would eliminate the Packers.

Jed Weaver and Cedrick Wilson caught TD passes from Jeff Garcia for the 49ers (7-9). San Francisco dropped just its second home game of the season with a non-existent rushing game and a fragile defense that couldn't stop Hasselbeck or Alexander, who rushed 60 of his 85 yards in the fourth quarter.

The Seahawks went ahead 21-17 late in the third on Robinson's diving 30-yard TD catch, which was upheld after instant-replay review. Robinson had six catches for 85 yards.

Eagles 31, Redskins 7

LANDOVER, Md. Donovan McNabb completed 23 of 32 passes for 242 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another score, leading Philadelphia to its third consecutive NFC East title.

The Eagles (12-4) secured a much-needed off week to rest their injured players; running back Brian Westbrook joined the list when he tore a triceps muscle in the first half. Philadelphia will have home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs if St. Louis loses to Detroit on Sunday.

The Redskins (5-11) lost 10 of their last 12 and finished with their worst record since going 3-13 in 1994, and there is rampant speculation over the future of coach Steve Spurrier.

Bruce Smith, the Redskins' defensive end and NFL sack king was honored at halftime of his final game. The cries of ''Bruuuuuce!'' turns to boos when Smith thanked owner Dan Snyder, who has overseen four consecutive non-winning seasons. The 40-year-old Smith finished his 19-year career with 200 sacks, breaking Reggie White's mark of 198.



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