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Down 21 Points, Bills Circle the Wagons & Exorcise Their New England Demons

The clock read all zeroes.  The party began and hysteria ruled the area.  It lasted long after the Bills shocked the NFL world and stunned the New England Patriots overcoming a 21-0 deficit and winning a shootout 34-31.  The fans remained in Ralph Wilson Stadium, jumping up and down.  Hugs and high fives were all over the place.  They cheered.  They chanted.  Players celebrated with fans.  It was an unreal scene, something that hasn’t been witnessed in Buffalo in quite some time.

Losing has been a fixture for Buffalo that almost coincides with the arrival of Tom Brady in New England.  The Bills haven’t had a winning season since 2004 when they went 9-7.  They haven’t been to the playoffs since 1999.  Haven’t won the AFC East since 1995, which is also the last time they won a playoff game.  They’ve been haunted by losing 15 striaght and 20 of their last 21 games against New England.  But on Sunday afternoon, the Bills made a proclamation:  the losing stops now.

Suddenly, the Bills have brought suspense and excitment back.  Football is fun again.  There’s something to look forward to on Sunday.  With each comeback drive engineered by Ryan Fitzpatrick, with each game-changing run or catch by Fred Jackson, with each deficit they overcome the Bills are beginning to erase a losing culture that has ruled the roost for more than a decade. 

They’re not easily recognizable, national figures.  There’s no Peyton Manning.  They’re not armed with a Tom Brady or Drew Brees.  They’re not in commercials like Darrelle Revis or Adrian Peteson, no boisterous sideline figure like Rex Ryan or Jerry Jones.  What they are, however, is a collection of cast offs, seventh-rounders, and undrafted free agents.  Most of all, they’re believers.  They play with heart and determination, a band of brothers who believe in those in the locker room and turn a deaf ear to those outsiders who say it couldn’t be done or can’t be done.

Two straight weeks, the Bills have overcome double digit halftime deficits only to storm back with huge second half efforts and claim victories.  There were plenty of firsts on Sunday.  It was the first time since 1950 that an NFL team overcame two deficits of 18 points to win in consecutive games accordin to STATS LLC.  This was the first time during the Tom Brady era that the Patriots have lost a game in which they led by 21 points.  It was the first time since 2003 Brady has thrown four interceptions against the Bills.  It was also the first time we’ve seen Brady and Bill Belichick flustered and flummoxed since that ’03 opener.

Coming back from 18 points down against Oakland is one thing.  Erasing a 21-0 lead against New England is a totally different animal.  It looked less than hopeful early when the Patriots raced out to an early 14-0 lead in the first quarter.  New England scored on their first possession of the game, marching 84 yards on nine plays in 5:15 finished off by Wes Welker’s first touchdown of the game from 14 yards out.  On Buffalo’s ensuing possession, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s second pass of the game was intercepted by Kyle Arrington.  The ball went back to Brady and, well he knows what to do when you turn the ball over.  He made short work of the Bills’ defense, going 30 yards in under three minutes that resulted in Brady’s second touchdown pass of the game, this time finding tight end Rob Gronkowski for a 1-yard score.

Buffalo’s second possession ended just like their first drive.  The Bills got to the New England 35 and elected to go for it on fourth-and-15 but Fitzpatrick’s pass was intercepted again by Arrington.  With 6:01 before halftime, it appeared New England salted this one away when Gronkowski hauled in his second touchdown reception of the half  from Brady and the rout was on 21-0.  It looked as though this would be just another notch on the Patriots’ blowout belt. 

Once more, aided by a big run from Fred Jackson, an 81-yard answer-back drive led by Fitzpatrick and an 11-yard touchdown fade down the right sideline reeled in by Steve Johnson the Bills dug deep, picked themselves up off the turf and got back in it.  In typical fashion, Brady had the Patriots knocking on the door, ready to answer Buffalo’s score.  But Danny Woodhead couldn’t hang on to a pass near the Buffalo 13 and Bryan Scott intercepted Brady’s pass.  In retrospect, Scott’s interception probably saved the game.  The Bills did something that winning football teams do: close out the first half by putting points on the board.  Fitzpatrick led a 10-play, 66-yard drive in just over a minute and Rian Lindell’s 38-yard field goal made it 21-10 at the half.

Buffalo’s momentum didn’t subside at the break.  Brady’s first pass attempt in the second half was intercepted by Leodis McKelvin and returned 21 yards to the New England 39.  How long do you think McKelvin has been waiting to seek redemption against New England after his famous kick off return fumble on Monday night in Foxborough in 2009?  The Bills made the Patriots pay.  Fitzpatrick found Scott Chandler for a 3-yard touchdown pass and the Bills suddenly were back in it 21-17.  Two straight Brady passes were intercepted and resulted in 10 points.  Talk about a scene out of the Twilight Zone. 

It would get weider.  Brady was picked off two more times in the second half, none bigger than his fourth and final interception that was deflected by Marcell Dareus and returned 27 yards for a touchdown by Drayton Florence that put Buffalo in front 31-24 for the first time in the game.  That Brady character still had a little of that comeback magic.  He led a methodical drive, guiding New England on a 15-play, 74-yard scoring drive that lasted 6:57. Converting the second fourth down of the drive, Brady hit Welker on a fourth-and-six for a six-yard touchdown to tie the game at 31.

He did it last week against Oakland.  He did it last year in Cincinnati.  Fitzpatrick is beginning to make it a habit of having a knack for dramatics.  Answering the bell and refusing the step aside, Fitzpatrick stepped up and did what very few quarterbacks in the NFL have done: steal the game away from Tom Brady.  Fitzpatrick kept Brady and New England’s offense on the sidelines.  Brady was forced to be a bystander.  Belichick was forced to watch his defense endure a late-game meltdown.

The Bills attacked, and all it took was three plays.  Fitzpatrick hit Donald Jones down the sidelines for 29 yards, beating New England’s top corner Devin McCourty cleanly.  Then, there was that Jackson guy again, who, all he seems to do is rescue the Bills with clutch runs and clutch catches when they need it most.  His 12-yard catch put the Bills in good position down to the New England 39.  His next catch sealed the Patriots’ fate. 

Jackson’s 39-yard catch and run appeared to go for a touchdown, but after further review it was ruled Jackson’s knee was down at the New England 1-yard line which turned out to be a blessing.  The Patriots were forced to use their final timeout and reduced to prayers they hoped would be answered by the football gods.  After a series of kneel downs, a personal foul penalty on New England and false start, Lindell trotted onto the field and The Ralph went wild with an ovation.  And this was before he even lined up to attempt the game winning kick with only a few seconds remaining on the clock.

He admitted afterwards that if he had missed the field goal, he would’ve ran straight into the tunnel and kept on running.  But Lindell’s 28-yard field goal completed another even more improbable comeback than the week before.  He booted Buffalo past New England 34-31.  There was bedlam in Buffalo.  The 15-game losing streak was over,  The Bills moved to 3-0 and finally conquered their demons.

It’s hard to deny something’s going on with the Bills.  After hitting rock bottom a year ago by starting the 2010 season 0-8, the Bills have gone 7-4 since.  Different than in previous years, the breaks are starting to go their way.  A fumble on the opening kickoff by Kansas City that leads to a touchdown.  Two fourth down conversions on the game-winning drive against Oakland.  Tom Brady throwing four interceptions (he threw just four interceptions total in 2010).  Chad Ochocinco dropping a would-be touchdown in the fourth quarter.  These are the types of things that have plagued the Bills for the better part of a decade.  Suddenly, they’re the recipients of good fortune and big breaks.

Maybe in previous years, New England would’ve found some way to overcome Brady’s miscues and steal a win in Buffalo, and the Bills would’ve found a new way to let this one slip through the cracks.  But the Patriots couldn’t compensate for Brady’s four picks.  Welker’s career day (16 catches, 216 yards, 2 TDs) and Gronkowski’s big showing (7 catches, 109 yards, 2 TDs) were memorable.  But the lasting image the Patriots will take with them is Jackson running loose in the Patriots’ secondary with plenty of green in front him, Lindell kicking the Bills to a win and kicking New England’s streak to the curb.

Enjoy this one.  Savor it.  This will make a great bedtime story someday.  Something special is going on in Buffalo right now.  The Bills are turning heads and gaining more believers.  Buffalo has arrived.  If you don’t believe me, just ask New England.  We still don’t know where this is headed.  Three wins in September doesn’t gurantee you’ll book reservations for the playoffs in January.  But for the first time in over a decade, the Bills and fun can be used together in the same breath.  They’ve given us something to cheer for, something we can all be proud of.


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7 Responses to “Down 21 Points, Bills Circle the Wagons & Exorcise Their New England Demons”

  1. evesin0207 says:

    I am one of those loyal, diehard Bills fans going back to when I was a kid in the 60’s and my Dad took me to games at the old Rockpile. We suffered through many more losing than winning seasons but we are a resilient breed here in Western New York. Southern Ontario, Northern Pennsylvania, Florida snowbirds,Georgia peaches and other transplants remain loyal and raise their children to be loyal Buffalo Bills fans.

    We’re considered a small market since the aformentioned are not taken into consideration but we have consistently filled the stadium even though ours is a financially depressed area with a high rate of unemployment, relocation or shutdown of our longtime industries and many of our Gen X seeking employment in other states.

    We never have, and never will, turn our backs on our beloved Buffalo Bills even when our last playoff season was 1995 and our last winning season, 9-7 was in 2004. We love our Bills no matter what, sit in sub-zero or 90 degree sun blistering temps and always say, with sincere belief, “we’ll do better next year”.

    Hopefully next year has arrived. We are cautious….3 and 0, 1st place because we spanked NE royally and the Jets lost. We’re not getting smug yet, we know better, but we can now see a glimmer of hope for a “good season”, maybe even a “great season”. The team believes in what they can do on the field, and if they believe, WE can believe!


    • Jeanne and Michael says:

      That was the Best game we watched. I’m from Buffalo and because of the Military we live in Georgia it was AWESOME to finally beat the odda. Our hearts are still with the BILLS!!!

  2. Rick G... says:

    Excercise? Really? You exorcise demons…you don’t excercise demons. For Pete’s sake.


  3. al says:

    Not to be nitpicky but doesn’t “exercise” their demons actually make them stronger as opposed to exorcise them which makes them go away, and also evesin0207, “spanked royally” implies that your team did everything it could do to win, not as in the Patriots case, who did everything they could do to lose, I know New England played very poorly. but really now, the Bills at no time dominated that game, but a win is a win and that’s all that really matters, I guess I will go eat some humble pie, while my team stumbles to 12-4 and yours dominates its way to 8-8, well I guess that would mean another winning season for the immortal Bills. now that’s smug on my part. sorry

  4. evesin0207 says:

    Why is anybody nitpicking over spelling? For the first time since 2004 we have a legitimate chance at a winning season and a possible shot at the playoffs. Four of us are on here supposedly expressing our joy at the way the outstanding way the Bills have played and won the first 3 games of the season and all two of you can talk about is the use of exercise and exorcise.

    Then you Al, will not admit that Tom Brady did do everything to win but we were one step ahead of him and poor Bill Belichik lost his usual cool demeanor and wasted a timeout when it wasn’t necessary.

    The difference between you spoiled Patriot fans and we humble Bills fans is that we don’t get all cocky and smug like you are in your comments. The Pats have kicked butts for 10 years now and convincingly. But what goes up must come down eventually and I don’t want to project what happens down the line, but we may end up with the 12-4 record and the Patriots with the 8-8.

    Why don’t you meet me here in Week 14 and see where both our teams stand since we may be tied for 1st, who knows. Or………………………………….

  5. Hey guys! Well, the comments are a plenty today ehh?! Good stuff all around. First off, yes I was aware of my misuse of ‘exercise’ and ‘exorcise’. But due to a loss of internet connection for almost 8 hours and a lack of sleep and some much needed celebration after the game, I was not able to correct it until a little while ago. That aside, it’s amazing what one Bills victory has done hasn’t it? There’s a new revived spirit when you talk about what’s going on with the Bills right now. I don’t know where this is all headed. If I knew that I’d be at the race track or buying a lottery ticket. But I know the Bills are 3-0, they’ve passed 3 early tests and just maybe the time is right now instead of 2-3 years down the road to turn this thing around. Yes, New England and Tom Brady made some un-Patriot like mistakes yesterday against the Bills for the first time since 2003. But the Bills did what you’re supposed to do: capitalize on them and hit them where it hurts, on the scoreboard. I think everyone who knows football knows enough that unless the Bills start beating the good football teams in the NFL, they’ll be stuck hovering around or below average. Like it or not (I’m pointing at you Patriot fans!), this is a great step forward for the Bills and there’s a renewed energy in Buffalo!

  6. al says:

    evesin0207, I totally admit that Brady tried and failed, I also agree that Belichick blew it on more than one occasion, like why did we take a suck pill and forget how to catch? one Qb hurry?, I just think we handed the game to your team, having said that, your guys had to finish the plays and they did, as a lifelong fan of the AFC east, I would love for you guys to be in the hunt at the end, as long as we are also, the pats/jets gets boring, (maybe it’s because we keep losing to them lately). also please let me explain why we (Boston fans)are a bunch of cocky asshats, just over 10 years ago, we were you, our teams all were crap, always, wait till next year!!! Sox would do good, crap out, Celtics, Bruins Pats, all the same every year, then 2001, Super bowl, the ball started rolling, and since 2 more Super bowls, 2 World series, 1 basketball Championship, and 1 Lord Stanleys Cup, this is in 1 decade, think about it, almost every season someone was winning something, sit back and think about it, how would you react? honestly, probably like an entitled asshat. Good Game guys. Congrats. Al

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