ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Rob Gronkowski has broken the New England Patriots franchise record for career touchdowns as the Patriots beat the Bills 41 to 25.
He hauled in a 53-yard catch from Tom Brady for a score in the second quarter against the Buffalo Bills.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady asserted his on-field ownership of the Buffalo Bills again Sunday, matching an NFL record in beating them for the 26th time.
Brady went 22 of 33 for 315 yards and threw four touchdowns. He improved to 26-3 against Buffalo , and matched a record set by Brett Favre, who went 26-9 against Detroit.
The Patriots (7-1) have won four straight since Brady returned after opening the season serving the NFL’s four-game “Deflategate” suspension. His absence included New England’s only blemish, a 16-0 home loss to Buffalo on Oct. 2, the first time the Patriots were shut out at home since 1993.
After a Bills field goal, Brady threw touchdowns passes on his first two drives. They included a 53-yarder to former Bills receiver Chris Hogan, who beat cornerback Stephon Gilmore up the left sideline.
The Patriots then broke the game open by scoring 27 points over five consecutive possessions. The surge began with Brady’s 53-yard pass to Rob Gronkowski with 4:18 left in the second quarter, and ended when Brady took a seat and was replaced by backup Jimmy Garoppolo with 4:29 left.
The Bills (4-4) sputtered minus their offensive top threat, running back LeSean McCoy, who is sidelined by an injury to his left hamstring. And their defense was unable to keep the Patriots in check despite star defensive tackle Marcell Dareus making his season debut.
Dareus missed the past three games because a hamstring injury, and missed the start of the season serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.
The Patriots punted just three times and converted nine of 13 third-down opportunities.
Buffalo’s offense was further depleted with three of its top four receivers sidelined, including Marquis Goodwin (concussion).
Backup running back Mike Gillislee scored on a 3-yard run and Taylor scrambled for a 26-yard touchdown on fourth down in the third quarter. Jonathan Williams scored on a 1-yard run with 30 seconds left.
Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman also caught touchdown passes, while LeGarrette Blount scored on a 1-yard run.
For Brady, it was his first four-TD outing since he threw four in a 36-7 win over Miami last October. And it was the most he’s had on the road since throwing four in a 37-22 win at Orchard Park on Oct. 12, 2014.
Of his 20 regular-season games with four touchdowns passing or more, six have been against Buffalo.
It was a happy home-coming for Gronkowski, who grew up in Buffalo.
He finished with five catches for 109 yards and set two franchise records with his 53-yard touchdown catch . It was Gronkowski’s 69th touchdowns and 68th TD receiving, moving him one ahead of Stanley Morgan in both categories.
Earlier in the week, Gronkowski said he bought about 20 tickets for family and friends.
The Bills had five sacks, upping their season total to 26 — five more than they managed all last season. Veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams had one, his 38th, moving into eighth on the franchise list, one ahead of Sherman White.
Patriots: Amendola’s 73-yard kickoff return to open the second half led to Brady’s 12-yard TD pass to Edelman to put New England up 31-10.
Bills: Bills punter Colton Schmidt bumbled his drop while facing fourth-and-15 at his own 20. He quickly scooped it up and broke up the right sideline for a 16-yard gain. Buffalo eventually went on to score on Taylor’s 26-yard run to cut the Patriots lead to 31-17 midway through the third quarter.
Bills: LB Lorenzo Alexander did not return after hurting one of his hamstrings during a punt return in the second quarter. Receiver Brandon Tate (concussion protocol) did not return after being tackled by Devin McCourty in the third quarter.
Bills: At Seattle on Nov. 7.