Doug Flutie's two touchdown passes and Drew Bledsoe's bad day gave Buffalo a 17-7 win over New England today and dealt a serious blow to the Patriots' playoff hopes.

Flutie threw touchdown passes of 54 yards to Eric Moulds and 31 yards to fullback Sam Gash, and Steve Christie kicked a 28-yard field goal to help the Bills (8-4) strengthen their position in the tough AFC East.

"It gives us good separation from New England and keeps us within striking distance of the AFC East title," said Flutie, who completed 9 of 16 passes for 207 yards with no interceptions.

The Bills' defense held the Patriots to 267 yards and kept them scoreless for almost the entire game. Bledsoe went 18 for 34 and was intercepted once and sacked six times.

The Patriots (6-5) couldn't capitalize on their big plays and Bledsoe couldn't find his receivers. New England lost its third in a row.

"I'm pretty down," said Bledsoe, who threw a 45-yard pass to Terry Glenn with 2 minutes 41 seconds to play to avoid New England's first shutout in six years.

"To lose three in a row and to feel like you're ultimately responsible for that is a very depressing thing," Bledsoe said.

New England Coach Pete Carroll agreed. "We're not making plays on offense, and we're putting ourselves in tight situations," Carroll said. "We're not playing good enough football."

Buffalo moved within a half-game of Miami (8-3), which lost to Dallas on Thanksgiving. The Bills have a bye week and play the Patriots again Dec. 26.

Buffalo, 4-2 in the AFC East with two division games remaining, has surrendered only 54 points in six home games this season and has held three teams to no touchdowns. The Bills are 5-1 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"If we can keep this going down the stretch, that will help us a lot," Bills defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said.

Christie's field goal made it 3-0 with 1:32 left in the first quarter. It was set up by a pass interference call against Chris Carter on Flutie's long pass for Moulds. That gave the Bills a first and goal at the Patriots 8-yard line, but two carries by Antowain Smith and a futile Flutie scramble left the Bills at the 10.

Flutie's quick strike to Moulds just before halftime made it 10-0. Patriots cornerback Steve Israel tripped while chasing Moulds, who sped away and made the catch over his shoulder.

"I just fell," Israel said. "I believe I got tangled up with his legs. That's the tough thing about this position; one mistake, and it's six points."

The touchdown catch by Gash in the third followed a 45-yard completion to rookie tight end Bobby Collins.

Bledsoe, who had eight interceptions in the previous two games, threw for 54 yards in the first half.

CAPTION: Doug Flutie throws 2 scoring passes, enough to propel his team within a half-game of Miami in tough AFC East.

CAPTION: Defensive end Willie McGinest is grim after Patriots' third straight loss. Team is 6-5.