FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — No one on the New England Patriots likes to lose.

But if they were going to lose, well, Sunday’s regular-season finale against the Buffalo Bills would be a good place to do it.

With a first-round playoff bye clinched weeks ago and home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs in their back pocket, the Patriots had absolutely nothing to gain in Sunday’s game.

So what if their record was 13-3 (if they won) or 12-4 (if they lost) going into the playoffs?

Didn’t matter.

And that’s why no one seemed to care that they lost 17-9 to the Bills at Gillette Stadium – Buffalo’s first victory in New England since Nov. 5, 2000, the Patriots’ first home loss to an AFC opponent since Nov. 30, 2008, a streak that included 35 victories.

That the offense didn’t score a touchdown in a game for the first time this season didn’t matter.

That the defense, which had given up one red-zone touchdown in its previous five games (in 12 trips), gave up two against Buffalo (in two attempts) on Sunday didn’t matter.

“The game’s over,” said defensive end Rob Ninkovich. “You can’t look into anything that happened in the game.

“You’ve got to move forward. It’s about taking care of yourself and getting better now.”

That’s why Coach Bill Belichick, who was examined by team trainers and doctors after the game for an undisclosed (but according to him not serious) ailment, decided to sit six starters before the game.

The Patriots’ inactive list was headed by tight end Rob Gronkowski, who in the year of his comeback from a devastating knee injury may be the most valuable player on this offense. Gronkowski, who by all accounts is healthy, wasn’t around. Neither was wide receiver Julian Edelman, who has a thigh injury and is recovering from a concussion, or running back Jonas Gray (ankle), or cornerback Brandon Browner (groin) or linebacker Dont’a Hightower (shoulder), or guard Dan Connolly (knee) or tackle Sebastian Vollmer (back).

Gray is the only non-starter, though even he occasionally starts. The others weren’t going to be anywhere near the field, especially Gronkowski. A little extra time to heal. Heck, cornerback Kyle Arrington, who is recovering from a hamstring issue, dressed but was the only Patriot not to play – again, injury management.

Surely the Patriots remember 2009, when Wes Welker blew out his knee in the last regular-season game in Houston and two weeks later, the Patriots’ season was over with a divisional round loss to Baltimore.

Even with the liberal substitutions, the Patriots might still have suffered a big injury. Left tackle Nate Solder left with an injury to his right leg – knee or ankle – just before the half. He didn’t return and the Patriots, given their lack of quality depth on the offensive line, have to hope it’s not serious.

Yes, losing doesn’t sit well with the Patriots, but it’s the next game that really matters.

“We’ll have a bad taste in our mouth until we get a chance to play again,” said guard Ryan Wendell.

“It’s tough,” said quarterback Tom Brady. “We always hate losing, absolutely. We didn’t make enough plays to win. But hopefully we make them in a couple weeks.”

That’s the key now.

“It’s a one-game season,” said Ninkovich. “The intensity’s stepped up. Everybody’s got to play better.Everything means more. Every play means more.”

Safety Devin McCourty said the loss doesn’t mean anything. Then again, he said, neither would have a win meant anything.

“I think we as a team understand what the playoffs are,” he said. “So I don’t think if we had won it would have been any different.

“We understand that if we want to have a chance to win going forward, we need to fix all the things that the coaches come in here with us this week and say, ‘This is what we need to work on,’ because it’s probably going to be the difference between winning and losing going forward in the playoffs.”

Brady was asked about the offensive struggles the team has experienced the last couple of weeks: a sluggish first half against Miami, only 17 points against the New York Jets, now only nine against Buffalo.

“We have a lot of confidence as an offense,” he said. “We’ve been able to score points against a lot of good teams, a lot of good defenses. Nothing that we’ve done this past season is going to help in two weeks from now.

“What’s going to matter is how well we prepare this week and how well we prepare next week and how ready we are to go whenever we play.”

Ninkovich stood through a couple of waves of reporters, all asking the same questions and all getting the same answer:

“We’ll go back and look at the things we need to improve on,” he said. “You’ve got to take this time to improve. And you’ve got to get your body back to as good as you can get it at this point of the season.

“We’re looking to the future.”