The Bills lost last night in a heart-breaker to the Patriots Monday night 24-25 in Foxboro.
It was an evening that was almost magical for Bills fans. Their team was given no chance against a force to whom they had lost eleven straight, in a place where their history of success was almost nonexistent. Then, despite the odds everything seemed to fall into place. The defense stood strong against the pass, the offensive line held the ramparts, and there was even the tiniest sense of swagger.
Then in true Bills fashion, it all came crashing down in the final minutes of the 4th Quarter. I found myself stunned at the turn of events as I stared blankly at ESPN, not surprised, but with that all-too familiar pit in my stomach that all true Buffalo fans have come to dread. Then the text came from my cousin Kit, who I grew up with in Rochester, which summed it up perfectly:
It’s okay. We did way better than expected, but REALITY CHECK we’ll always be the same Bills.
Fact. Reality Check – we almost pulled of a total league shocker. Reality Check – as hard as that pill was to swallow, there is some good news here in Buffalo.
The 1st Quarter belonged to Buffalo. A strong defensive effort was led by LB Paul Posluszny who was an absolute beast up the middle. For anyone who watch the Steelers, Titans game on Thursday he was the mirror image of Polamalu; flying like a bat out of Hell making tackles and pumping up the defense. Then, like Polamalu, he went down to injury. This time it’s a broken arm. Still, without him, the defense looked solid against a prolific Patriots attack, repeatedly delivering strong hits on Brady and coming up with impressive stops on 3rd or 4th and short.
Then Trent Edwards and the no huddle took over and I have to tell you, it looked completely no-nonsense. As one of the harshest critics of the offensive line before the game, they held up very well despite several costly mental mistakes and penalties by 2nd year LT Demetrius Bell. With great running support by Fred Jackson, the Bills marched down the field and Edwards completed his first TD of the season to TE Shawn Nelson. Bills lead 7-0.
As expected, the Patriots responded with a drive of their own culminating in a 1yd TD run by new acquisition Fred Taylor. After another drive was hampered by penalties and a dropped catch by Lee Evans, the Bills gave the Pats back the ball in the final minutes of the half. Trying to keep the Bills tied going into half-time, the defense marched onto the field only to have DE Aaron Schoebel leap at the line making a tremendous one-handed interception which he returned 26yds for a TD. The Patriots proceeded to march down the field with Brady connecting on long strikes to Welker and Moss before the Bills made a truly impressive red-zone stand forcing the Pats to kick. Bills lead 14-10 at the half.
The 3rd Quarter definitely saw the Patriots offensive begin to find their rhythm as Brady settled in and so did Moss. Again though, the defense held strong making a critical stop on 4th down while the Patriots were just out of FG range. The Bills were able to convert several first down thanks largely to the running and catching of Jackson, but were unable to score more than a FG; a 40 yd conversion from Lindell. More importantly though, New England was held to nothing. Bills up 17-10.
In the 4th the Patriots kicked an early FG, after another great red-zone performance by the Bills and another near-interception by Schobel. There was an air of caution though, no doubt. For all those following BLD’s play-by-play last night you surely remember this Tweet:
28yd FG is good 11:43 left in the 4th. Bills red-zone D has been truly exceptional so far tonight. My bet is they will face one more big test
We all knew the Bills had to respond with a score of their own and they did not disappoint. After a shaky return fumbled by McKelvin (recovered by Bills) and the one truly poor decision by Edwards forcing a pass that was almost picked, the Bills found their groove. Great play calling by Alex Van Pelt had Jackson picking up gains on successful screen passes, but again Buffalo was forced to overcome various penalties. Bell was called again on the line, and T.O. was hit with a debatable offensive interference call. The Bills we know would have been devastated by those calls, but this time the offense was able to overcome them as Edwards connected again with Jackson for a TD with 5:32 left in the game. Bills up 24-13. Fandemonium.
Then the heart-break. (Disclaimer: For those of you with a heart condition, stop reading. Better yet, find a new team. But you knew that already) Brady was back and he wanted the world to see it. Using the two-minute drill, he absolutely carved up the Bills defense which was unable to keep the pressure on him. Long, swift strikes to TE Ben Watson, WR Wes Welker, and WR Randy Moss marched the Patriots up-field. Three minutes later they were in the end-zone as Benjamin Watson made a great catch on a bullet of an 18 Yd Pass From Tom Brady (Two-Point Conversion Failed). Bills lead 24-19. Please God…
Will they try the onside kick? No. The Patriots boot the ball down field as McKelvin receives it in his own end-zone. After backpedaling, he rushes out behind the Bills’ hands-team and is absolutely popped. We gasp. He holds on to the ball but tries to get a few extra yards and that’s when it comes out. Turnover. Disaster. We all know how this is ending. And it does just as we expect, to our disbelief and subsequent nausea. Brady on almost the same play to Watson, TD Patriots with fifty ticks left. Conversion failed. Patriots lead 25-24.
Edwards has one last try in the two minute drill and eventually the offensive line folds, he’s sacked twice and the Bills fail to get into FG-range. A desperation hook-and-ladder scramble ensues, no luck. Bills start the season 0 – 1, and show their youth late as the Patriots demonstrate why they have been the most dominant team of this decade.