This is number four in a ten part series dedicated to the worst moments or games in the history of the Buffalo Bills. As hard as some of these moments have been, we Bills fans wear our hearts on sleeves and consider some of these events badges of honor. Enjoy.
This is when it gets really painful. The rest of my top ten is especially painful. You might disagree, but on a personal level these are bad. Ironically, our top half of the list starts with the hated New England Patriots.
When the schedule came out in April, I knew we were probably going to lose this game. Brady was coming back on Monday Night Football under the lights in Foxboro. This was a building that the Bills had never won in (and still haven’t for those of you keeping count). It was simply a house of horrors. We had come close, most notably in 2005 and 2006. However, you just don’t count on the Bills to win those types of games.
This didn’t stop me from still getting hyped for the game in April. When the schedule came out, I immediately started planning a party at my house. It was a Monday, but if I planned it five months in advance people would come. Everyone thought I was weird for planning a party that far in advance but no one had an excuse not to come.
There was reason for optimism in Bills land that year (as there is every year). After a big first half in 2008, Trent Edwards was poised to take a big step forward in 2009 and become the quarterback that everyone wanted him to be. Fred Jackson was starting to emerge as a legitimate number two running back and was paired with Marshawn Lynch to create a two headed monster. And who could ignore the biggest free agent signing in years in receiver Terrell Owens?
The beginning of the season, especially the first two or three games, has Bills fans bright eyed and bushy tailed. Big offseason or not the fans believe the Bills can beat anyone, no matter what task lies ahead of them. As I was surrounded by a dozen friends, plentiful amounts of beer and food and multiple TV’s throughout the house the Bills started the journey on that fateful Monday night.
In Bills land, there is a decree that states that the team shall install copious amounts of confidence into their fans, yet at some point severely let them down. It could happen over the course of a season or it could happen over the course of a single game.
This was the kind of game that as a fan, you wanted so bad. Second only to terrible decisions made by the organization, the New England Patriots have been the shining example of fail for the Bills in the worst decade in team history. The Bills were riding an eleven game losing streak to the Patriots. We thought we would get them the year before when Brady went down, but the Bills were a casualty of the Patriot system and we were once again swept.
Still, fans felt like the Bills had a good shot to end the streak even if the whole world thought we were going to lose the game. Brady had to be shaky in his first game back and it was just Buffalo’s time. It was time to shock the nation and pull it off.
There’s a certain superiority complex that Bills fans have with teams like New England, like David and Goliath. The Bills are the hard luck small market team with the old stadium. Buffalo is kind of like NFL Siberia. Not a lot of high profile free agents want to go there, while everyone wants to go to New England where streets are paved with gold and you are automatically gained entrance into Utopia (which actually happens according to the people of Boston). It wasn’t about just ending the streak, it was about pride and showing everyone Buffalo has a football team and we can beat you.
The Bills began the game playing very well. In a way it was the start Bills fans kind of expected. Brady looked shaky and the Bills came out hungry to shock the football world. They scored the only points of the first quarter on a Trent Edwards touchdown to Shawn Nelson. Brady and the Patriots came right back in the second quarter with a Fred Taylor touchdown and the game was tied.
Something happened in the second quarter that made you think this could be the Bills’ night. Aaron Schobel, with his Bills career nearing an end, knocked a Brady pass in the air and returned it for a touchdown. It was exciting, it was amazing, and it gave the Bills momentum going into halftime with a 14-10 lead.
At this point, fans were feeling cautiously optimistic. We were thirty minutes away from ending the streak and starting the season off 1-0. There were only two scenarios that could occur that would leave me satisfied. Scenario one would be for the Bills to win the game. This was obviously the best scenario. The second would be for the Bills to get blown away in the second half. That way it wasn’t close and I could actually rest easy that night, because a last minute heart breaker would be too much to handle. To know we were so close only for Goliath to snatch victory from defeat from us would be devastating.
The third quarter wasn’t great, but we still added to our lead in the form of a Rian Lindell field goal which were the only points of the quarter. The offense wasn’t great, which was alarming, but the defense was getting after Brady and wreaking havoc in the backfield. The Bills entered the fourth quarter with a 17-10 lead, which was obviously a small one but a lead none the less.
In the mind of a Bills fan, we say nothing can be worse than this. Nothing could hurt more. But it seems like something always happens that trumps the previous heart breaker and it’s always unfathomable. The fourth quarter was what nightmares are made of.
Ironically enough, it started out great for the Bills. The Bills once again built on their lead with a Fred Jackson touchdown to make it 24-10 midway through the period. Even with a Patriot field goal to cut the lead to 24-13 with only a few minutes left, fans started to get the sense that we were actually going to pull it off. We were actually going to get the monkey off our back in a huge way. A Tom Brady strike to Ben Watson with a failed two point conversion put a little unrest into us, but the Bills still had a 24-19 lead with less than two minutes left to go. The Bills had the game in the bag, all we had to do was to protect the ball.
Unfortunately for the team and the fans, Leodis McKelvin plays for the Bills. As a collective fan nation, everyone could feel their hearts drop to their feet when McKelvinfumbled the ensuing kickoff and the Patriots recovered. Just a few plays later the Patriots scored a touchdown to take the lead. The Bills’ defense effort, which was so gutsy the entire way was wasted by a cap gun offense and a really dumb mistake. In other words it was over. Trent Edwards tried to bring the Bills within field goal range but the Pats defense was too much. Boom, ballgame, heartbreak.
They say every fan has their breaking point. This was mine. Tears flowed, bottles were shattered. I broke a window in my house. I had never been so angry at a football team. I was angry at the Bills for letting me down again. I was angry at New England because Goliath won again. It was a time when as a football fan you feel so small. Some of the things I did might be pathetic. But when you put your heart and soul into something, whatever it may be, your emotions are going to be high.
Some say I put too much emotion into being a Bills fan because I honestly still think about this game and it still hurts. But I look at it as another due paid for when our time will eventually come. Hang in there Bills nation, we’re the best fans in the league.