A nasty wind strong enough to tilt the goal posts was no match for Matt Cassel and the Patriots in a 13-0 win against Buffalo.
LaMont Jordan scored on a 2-yard run set up by Cassel's 12-yard completion into the wind on fourth down, and Stephen Gostkowski hit a pair of field goals.
Then came the hard part for the Patriots (11-5), who had to wait to find out they didn't make the playoffs when Miami and Baltimore both won.
The Bills managed 276 yards of offense but squandered several scoring chances, and wrapped up a season at 7-9 for the third straight year under Dick Jauron. His status as coach won't be determined until end-of-season meetings with team owner Ralph Wilson.
The Patriots wanted to avoid becoming the first 11-5 team to miss the playoffs since Denver fell short in 1985.
It won't be for lack of trying for a Patriots team that closed its season with four straight wins, and continued to show resilience despite 14 players on injured reserve, including star quarterback Tom Brady. Rather, New England continued its December dominance, winning its 12th straight game in the month, and extending its win streak over the Bills to 11.