Just one game?
Or a chance to make their biggest statement in more than decade?
It’s been quite a while since there was a big-game feel in the atmosphere around Ralph Wilson Stadium and the Bills. But that’s all about to change on Sunday. Buffalo has a great opportunity to run their record to 3-0. Standing in their way? Tom Brady and the 2-0 New England Patriots.
The Bills are off to an unexpected yet pleasantly surprising start to the season. They dismantled Kansas City on the road 41-7, then vanquished Oakland last Sunday in their home opener overcoming a 21-3 halftime deficit then outlasting the Raiders in a wild, second half shootout. Ryan Fitzpatrick is tied atop the NFL with seven touchdown passes and is the second-rated quarterback in the AFC. Fred Jackson leads the NFL in rushing with 229 yards. The Bills lead the league with 79 points scored, a spot and a point total usually reserved for the likes of New Orleans, Indianapolis and say…New England.
Tom Brady is in town, which if previous history tells us anything, is bad news. The AFC’s top rated passer and reigning MVP has gotten off to one helluva a fast, eye popping start while guiding New England to a 2-0 record and tied for first in the AFC East. Nothing new there. Brady has thrown for 940 yards and seven touchdowns in two games. He torched Miami for a career-high 517 passing yards en route to a 38-24 victory. Last week, for an encore, he blitzed San Diego for 423 yards and three touchdowns leading the Patriots to a 35-21 win. New England is tied for third in the NFL with 73 points.
So while points figure to be aplenty on Sunday afternoon with the way both teams have worn out the scoreboard bulbs through two weeks, that storyline is dwarfed by the big pink elephant in the room carrying a gorilla with a refrigerator on its back. It’s been a long time since Buffalo beat New England. You have to go back to the memorable season opener in 2003. Drew Bledsoe was the quarterback. Lawyer Millory switched sides and joined the Bills just days prior to being cut by the Patriots. The lasting image of Bills defensive tackle Sam Adams rumbling, bumbling and stumbling into the end zone still remains fresh in the mind. That was a great day, a 31-0 curb stomping the Bills dished out.
Since then, Brady and the Patriots have owned Buffalo. We’ve changed presidents, captured Osama Bin Laden, and witnessed the Boston Red Sox win not one, but two World Series titles. Brady’s record against the Bills? 17-1 with a 103 passer rating. Rarely has he been touched. tossed around or knocked to the ground. And rarely since ’03 have the Bills come close to beating the Patriots. Buffalo came within eight points in their first meeting last year at Foxborough, falling 38-30 on their way to a dubious 0-8 start. But in the second half of the season, the Bills won four of six before their final showdown with the Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium. It was business as usual for New England.
The Bills scored the first three points. The Patriots scored the last 34. New England led 24-3 at halftime and the game was unofficially over. It wasn’t a huge statistical day for Brady, who threw for just 140 yards but tossed three touchdowns. The Patriots didn’t need Brady. They got enough help from the Bills, who committed seven turnovers. Fitzpatrick was responsible for five of those turnovers (3 interceptions, 2 fumbles). That’s the last taste Fitzpatrick and the Bills have of the Patriots.
15 lossees in a row to the Patriots. Now that’s some serious psychological warfare to overcome if you’re the Bills. That type of total domination matters, whether you’re Brian Moorman and Chris Kelsay or Nick Barnett and Brad Smith you’re a part of that 0-for-15 and 17 of the last 18 streak.
If the Bills beat the Patriots on Sunday, there will no longer be any cautious optomism around Buffalo. They’ll force the rest of the NFL to stand up, take notice and begin to take the Bills seriously. The players have said they’re done patting teams on the back this year and they’ve given Brady and company too many soothing back rubs for the past seven season.
We’re all in agreement in order for Buffalo to become good and become relevant again they need to start beating good football teams. That begins on Sunday at 1 p.m. Here’s hoping that the Bills have finally found the right sword to drive through the heart of the evil dragon.