It was a game that summed up the 2011 season perfectly. Fantastic start…awful finish.
The Bills hopped out to a quick 21-0 lead in the first quarter in Sunday’s season finale, but New England scored 49 straight to end the game (and Buffalo’s season) with a 49-21 beatdown. With the win, the Patriots clinch the top seed in the AFC playoffs and homefield advangage until the Super Bowl. Buffalo finishes the season 6-10.
The Bills were rolling through the questionable Patriots defense early, with three quick first quarter touchdowns. Tashard Choice opened the scoring with a four-yard TD run and Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Stevie Johnson and C.J. Spiller for TD passes to push Buffalo’s lead to 21-0.
The Stevie Johnson touchdown will certainly be a big talking point for Bills fans for the near future, as Johnson got yet another 15-yard excessive celebration penalty after the touchdown. This time, he lifted his shirt to reveal a “Happy New Year” message, drawing the flag. That may very well have been Johnson’s last play in a Buffalo uniform, as Bills coach Chan Gailey responded by benching Johnson for the remainder of the game. Stay tuned for what comes out postgame from Gailey and Johnson about that, folks.
The game remained competitive in the first half despite two Patriot touchdowns. Late in the 2nd quarter Nick Barnett intercepted Tom Brady and took the ball into New England territory, but new kicker Brandon Coutu missed a mid-range field goal at the halftime whistle.
After the half, it was all Patriots. It was the same old stuff for the Bills: turnovers, poor defense, silly mistakes, bizarre play calling. After a lights-out first half, Ryan Fitzpatrick threw four interceptions. At least one was not at all his fault – a ball hit C.J. Spiller (playing wide receiver for some reason) right in the hands and bounced to a Patriot. But it was still ugly for Fitz, and he’ll endure a long offseason of people questioning whether or not he should be Buffalo’s starter in 2012.
Speaking of Spiller, when he wasn’t dropping passes as a wideout he was once again looking very good as running back. Naturally, that means Chan Gailey wouldn’t give him the ball. Spiller received just 13 carries, picking up 60 yards.
On defense, the Bills started well but got eventually just couldn’t keep up with all the Patriots’ weapons. Predictably, New England’s deadly tight end duo of Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski combined for 246 yards and three touchdowns. Tom Brady ended up with 338 yards passing and three touchdowns.
Not much else to say…it’s gonna be a long offseason ahead for Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey (yes, his job is safe) as they try to shore up this roster. It’s probably playoffs-or-bust for this regime, and today the playoffs looked like an impossible dream.