ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — On a day Tom Brady was far less than terrific, J.C. Jackson and New England's defense bailed him out in securing the Patriots' first 4-0 start in four years.
The Buffalo Bills, meanwhile, dropped to 3-1 following a 16-10 loss on Sunday and were left fuming after starting quarterback Josh Allen was unable to finish the game following a helmet-to-helmet hit by Jonathan Jones.
"There is no room in football for that," coach Sean McDermott said and questioned why Jones wasn't ejected.
It was a defensive slugfest between two AFC East rivals in a game the Patriots seemed ready to blow open by building a 13-0 lead after the first quarter.
Jackson had two of the Patriots' four interceptions and also blocked a punt that led to Matthew Slater returning it 11 yards for a touchdown. Linebacker Jamie Collins sealed the victory by coming down with backup Matt Barkley's interception with 1:27 remaining.
Linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who pressured Barkley in forcing the interception, said the Patriots defense took exception to comments Bills tackle Dion Dawkins made earlier in the week. Dawkins told several reporters the Bills didn't care what the Patriots had done in their first three games because they had yet to face Buffalo.
"Just wanted to make sure Dawkins knew who we were," Van Noy said. "We've got really good football players. Maybe people will start noticing."
New England entered having not allowed a touchdown rushing or passing, or a point in the first half. Both streaks ended with Stephen Hauschka hitting a 46-yard field goal with 1:55 left in the second quarter, and Allen diving over the pile for a 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-1 to cap Buffalo's opening drive of the second half.
Brady finished 18 of 39 for 150 yards and an interception.
The Patriots' 16 points were scored as a result of Bills miscues. Brandon Bolden scored on a 4-yard run after Devin McCourty intercepted Allen on Buffalo's opening drive. Stephen Gostkowski, who missed an extra point wide left, hit a 23-yard field goal set up by Jackson's second interception.
Allen was knocked woozy and placed in the concussion protocol, leaving his status uncertain for Buffalo's game at Tennessee next weekend.
The Bills were facing third-down-8 at the New England 45, when Allen scrambled out of the pocket and through a hole up the middle. With defensive back Duron Harmon coming in from the quarterback's right, Allen was struck in the crown of the helmet by Jones, who lowered his head to make the hit.
Allen lay on the field for several minutes before hopping up on his own. He was briefly evaluated on the sideline before being escorted up the tunnel. Allen was spotted walking around in the locker room following the game.
Bills safety Micah Hyde immediately questioned why Jones drew only a personal foul for unnecessary roughness and wasn't also ejected from the game.
"If one of us did that to 12, we wouldn't have been in the game anymore," Hyde said, referring to Brady's number. "That's our quarterback. We ride or die with him. To see that happen, Josh didn't slide, but at the end of the day it doesn't matter if you're a running back, you can't head to the head."
Jones defended the hit saying it was never his intent to hurt Allen.
"No malice or intent. Just a part of football," Jones said. "We're just running around playing football. I hope he's OK. I'm going to check on him."
NFL officiating chief Al Riveron told a pool reporter the decision to not eject Jones came because the hit did not rise to the level of the league standard for disqualification.
"There was a foul called and obviously the penalty stood, but we did not feel this contact rose to that level," Riveron said, who also noted Jones was turning his head just before hitting Allen.
Though Brady didn't play much of a factor, he upped his career record to 31-3 against Buffalo — extending the NFL career mark for most victories by a quarterback against one opponent. New England won its sixth straight against the Bills and improved to 34-5 against Buffalo since the start of the 2000 season.
Scoring didn't come easy in a game in which the teams combined for 14 punts and one which was blocked.
Another key Patriots stop came on the drive Allen was hurt. With Buffalo facing fourth-and-goal from the 2, Barkley threw a high pass that glanced off receiver Zay Jones' fingertips five minutes into the fourth quarter.
Allen finished 13 of 28 for 153 yards and three interceptions. Barkley went 9 of 16 for 127 yards and an interception.
Brady's 45.9 passer rating was the sixth lowest of his career and lowest since finishing with a 34 rating in a 27-20 loss to Indianapolis on Nov. 5, 2006. The Patriots had lost the previous six times Brady finished with a passer rating of 48 or lower.
GORE REACHES 15,000
Running back Frank Gore led Buffalo with 109 yards rushing, and in the process became the fourth player in NFL history to top 15,000 yards rushing. The 36-year-old entered the game needing 88 yards. He topped 100 yards rushing for the 45th time of his career.
Patriots: At Washington on Oct. 6.
Bills: At Tennessee on Oct. 6.