It’s tough to be a Bills fan. We’ve suffered through some awful, heartbreaking losses. Each week, we’ll take a look at one awful game from years past in a feature called Bills Failure Chronicles.
I hate the New England Patriots. I hate the New England Patriots more than I hate ANYTHING else, including cancer, the DMV, and olives…and I really hate olives. I would do anything to see Brady and Belichick suffer through an 0-16 season. My favorite football game ever? Not a Bills game. It’s the helmet catch game. Suck on 18-1, Patriots.
(Cue the “Well, you’re just a jealous loser Bills fan.” Yep. Exactly. I’m EXTREMELY jealous. I’d trade my left leg for one Bills Super Bowl win. Of course I’m jealous. Doesn’t mean I don’t get to feast on delicious, delicious Patriots hate.)
So yeah, the game I’m about to talk about hurts. A lot.
Background: The Bills did not have a great 2009 preseason. The Bills attempted a much-ballyhooed switch to the no-huddle offense, which did not look good in the exhibition season. After Buffalo scored a whopping six points in its last two preseason games combined, Dick Jauron fired offensive coordinator Turk Schonert and promoted former Bills QB Alex Van Pelt to offensive coordinator. To say the Bills were in disarray heading into this game would be an understatement.
Meanwhile, this game was set up to be the triumphant return of one Tom Brady after a knee injury cost him almost all of 2008. (Thanks Bernard Pollard.) And Brady couldn’t have asked for a better stage: Monday night in Foxboro against a squad he’d had very little trouble dominating in the past. (Save for one glorious day in 2003. Probably my happiest day as a Bills fan.)
The Terrible Result: To the shock of everyone, probably including the Bills, Buffalo managed some early offense, taking an early 7-0 lead when Shawn Nelson (in his NFL debut) hauled in Trent Edwards pass and dove past the pylon. Sadly, that’s still Nelson’s career highlight.
The shocks continued in the second quarter when Aaron Schobel picked off a Brady pass and took it 26 yards for a score. Somehow, the defense continued to keep Brady and the Pats in check even as the Bills offense faltered after the early touchdown, and Buffalo took a 17-10 lead into the fourth quarter.
After a New England field goal, the Bills struck what looked to be a killer blow with a Fred Jackson touchdown reception with 5:32 to play that gave Buffalo a 24-13 lead.
Then it all fell apart.
Brady calmly drove the Patriots down the field via their Patriots’ patented obnoxious (and effective) short passing game. Eventually, Brady found Benjamin Watson for an 18-yard TD with 2:06 to play. The two-point conversion failed, leaving Buffalo with a 24-19 lead.
Surprisingly, the Pats kicked deep rather than trying on an onside kick. Unsurprisingly to any Bills fan who has suffered along with this team for a while, Leodis McKelvin fumbled the kickoff, which was recovered by the Pats. A few plays later, Brady found Watson down the middle AGAIN for a touchdown, and suddenly New England was ahead.
Trent Edwards came out and lead a Trent Edwards-esque drive (i.e. it totally sucked), and that was that. Somehow Buffalo had lost.
Norwood Moment (the worst part): Really, Leodis? Really? Really? DO ANYTHING ELSE IN THAT SITUATION BUT FUMBLE AND WE WIN! ANYTHING ELSE! Run around in circles, fall down at the one-yard line, curl in the fetal position…all better choices. Heck, an intentional safety might have been better. JUST DON’T FUMBLE. Why didn’t he know that? Why didn’t a coach make that perfectly clear before he went back there? WHY AM I STILL SO PISSED OFF ABOUT THIS GAME?
Hope Spot: The Fred Jackson touchdown. I actually truly thought the Bills were going to win at that point.
Ridiculous Stat(s) of the Game:
1) The Bills had a 11-point lead with 2:10 to play…and lost.
2) That McKelvin fumble? Recovered by the Patriots’ freaking kicker, Stephen Gostkowski.
3) Did I mention that both of the Patriots late touchdowns were like on the exact same play? Watson wide open down the middle. Unbelievable.
4) Trent Edwards was actually really good in this game (excepting the last awful drive). 15-25, 212 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT.
5) Shawn Nelson’s touchdown is still his only NFL TD. It came in his first NFL quarter of play.
I was in grad school at the time and had a class I couldn’t skip. As I was driving (recklessly) back home, I was listening to the first quarter on crappy AM radio. As Nelson was about to score, the feed went out, and I almost nailed a tree while yelling in frustration. True story.
Also, from the second the Patriots scored to make it 24-19, I started chanting over and over, “Don’t fumble the kickoff. Don’t fumble the kickoff. Don’t fumble the kickoff.” I may have jinxed it.
Best Postgame Quote:
Leodis McKelvin, proving he learned his lesson:
“I chose to bring it out because that’s me, no matter what it is,” McKelvin said of the lost fumble. “If I had that choice, probably 100 times, I’d do it again.”
And he would, too. Let’s not let him back there in a similar situation again.
Aftermath: This was basically the only good game Edwards played all year, and the Bills never really recovered from this one. A win the following week over a bad Tampa Bay team only delayed a crushing decent into reality after that. Buffalo finished 6-10.
Labatt’s Losing Level: (1 – I’ll be okay; 10 – Only getting blackout drunk will dull the pain)
This one’s a nine. The only reason it’s not a ten is because only the Music City Miracle and maybe the Norwood Super Bowl will be a ten. Ugh. I’m still mad about this.
Past Bills Failure Chronicles: