ORCHARD PARK, N.Y., Dec. 16 (UPI) -- Antowain Smith broke off a long run in overtime Sunday to help set up Adam Vinatieri's 23-yard field goal 5:45 into the extra session, lifting the surging New England Patriots to a 12-9 victory over the Buffalo Bills.
A first-round pick of the Bills in 1997, Smith never lived up to expectations in Buffalo and was released during the offseason. He rushed for a 100 yards and a touchdown in a win against his former team earlier this season.
On Sunday, Smith was held in check for the most part, but produced a 40-yard run down the right sideline in overtime, moving the ball to the Buffalo one. He carried 20 times for 95 yards.
"It felt good to go out there and get the win against my (former team)," Smith said. "With the run at the end I felt like I contributed to help my team win the game."
Vinatieri, who kicked three field goals earlier in the contest, split the uprights on the next play to give New England the win.
"I was just happy I had the opportunities," Vinatieri said. "We didn't get in the end zone but they could get me pretty close on a couple of field goals."
It was the fourth time in the last five meetings that the AFC East rivals had gone to overtime.
"It was no surprise out there today," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "That's the way the games between the Patriots and Bills have been going. Obviously, that was a dogfight. We were fortunate to be able to make just enough plays to win."
Initially ruled a fumble, referee Mike Carey determined by a video review that Patten's head was out of bounds while he was still in contact with the ball.
"It's just sad when you fight for five quarters and have the game come down like that," Carpenter said. "We were doing whatever it took to win the game. We went out there fighting, to have a game end like that, what can you say?"
"The interpretation I was told was the ball was fumbled and the ball was in contact with the team that last possessed it, so they ruled out of bounds by contact. I had never seen a play like it," Bills coach Gregg Williams said.
New England (9-5) won its fourth straight game and moved within a half game of first-place Miami in the AFC East. The Patriots host Miami next Saturday.
Shayne Graham kicked three field goals for the Bills (2-11), who completed a 1-7 home schedule.
Trying to avoid looking ahead to the big showdown with Miami, the Patriots contolled the contest in the first half, but managed only field goals of 40 and 32 yards by Vinatieri.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick also did his best to confuse Buffalo quarterback Alex Van Pelt, who went just five of 18 for 67 yards in the first half.
Van Pelt did lead the Bills into field goal range at the end of the half but Graham was short on a 43-yard attempt as time expired.
The Bills did get on the board early in the third quarter with the help of their defense. Safety Raion Hill hit Smith and forced a fumble and recovered at the New England 30.
But Buffalo went three-and-out, and Graham came on and connected from 41 yards, pulling the Bills within 6-3.
Van Pelt found his rhythm on the next possession, moving the Bills to the New England 26. But on second and eight, Van Pelt was intercepted inside the 10 by safety Lawyer Milloy.
Van Pelt, who took over as the Bills starter when Rob Johnson was injured earlier this season, atoned for that miscue later in the third quarter, when he moved Buffalo 76 yards in 15 plays.
But after reaching the 10, the Bills stalled and settled for Graham's 25-yard field goal, tying the contest at 6-6 with 11:38 remaining.
After his shaky first half, Van Pelt rebounded to finish 22 of 44 for 219 yards and one interception.
Graham, who was signed earlier this season after Jake Arians struggled, gave the Bills a 9-6 lead with 5:57 remaining after making a 41-yard field goal. Van Pelt had completions of eight and 13 yards to Eric Moulds on the eight-play, 33-yard drive.
With an upset staring them in the face, the Patriots were able to rally to tie the game behind the surprising Tom Brady.
Held in check for the most part, Brady engineered a seven-play, 56-yard drive. He had a 19-yard completion to the embattled Terry Glenn and a 25-yard connection with tight Jermaine Wiggins to the Buffalo 11. Brady finished 19 of 35 for 237 yards with an interception.
The Patriots reached the seven before Vinatieri kicked a 25-yard field goal with 2:45 remaining.
Buffalo rookie Travis Henry rushed for 54 yards on 12 attempts but left after suffering a knee injury in the second quarter.