I really didn't think I'd get to post this. I didn't want to jinx it, so I didn't create the cartoon until the final score was recorded and in the books and the players were in the locker rooms. But, at long, long last, here it is:
Oh my, what a game! The Bills spotted the Patriots a 21-0 lead before they came roaring back, getting the jitters out and making it 21-10 before halftime. Then they made it 21-17 in the third, and when the fourth quarter dawned, it was Pats 24, Bills 17. Then the Bills put up 17 points to the Pats' 7 in that quarter, and that's all she wrote.
Much has been made in these parts of the Bills' losing streak to the Pats. The Bills had lost fifteen consecutive games to the Pats, dating back to September 2003. Here's my blog post from that game. My, how much water is under the bridge! George W. Bush was President. The Iraq War was about six months old. Unless you were unusually well-versed in Illinois state politics, you had no idea at all who Barack Obama was.
Little Quinn would not be born for nearly twelve months. We'd been living in Buffalo again (after our Syracuse winter) for five months. I hadn't met a single other Buffalo blogger. The Daughter was four and was starting pre-school. The week after that game, The Wife and I went to see the hot new movie, Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl. We were still a few months from the theatrical release of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, and I was starting to despair of ever finding a job: my first interview at The Store was still three months away. And while I'm honestly not sure, I think I had yet to reveal in this space my unhealthy obsession with overalls.
As for football stuff that's happened since the last time the Bills walked away from the Pats with a victory? Well, the Buccaneers were the defending Super Bowl champions. Aaron Rodgers had yet to start his first game at Cal. The Bills' head coach when they last beat the Pats was Gregg Williams; since then, Mike Mularkey and Dick Jauron would walk the sidelines before Chan Gailey. The Bills' starting quarterback that day was Drew Bledsoe; since then, we've had the JP Losman and the Trent Edwards eras before finally arriving at Ryan Fitzpatrick.
Yeah, it's been a while.
We were discussing this matchup at work the other day, a few friends and I, and I said, "I don't want that one win back in '03 to be the only time the Bills ever beat Brady. And I don't want to not beat him until he's 38 and clearly in physical decline. I want to beat him now." Well, I got my wish. Hmmm...let me try that again. "I don't want to write a publishable book when I'm 67 years old, I want to write one now!" Huh, I think my space-opera-in-progress just got better!
Some thoughts from the game:
:: Brady piled up big numbers, along with Wes Welker. So what? The Pats' defense looks awful. They've been sliced-and-diced three weeks in a row now, and they're only 2-1 because their offense is really good. Well, take it from a guy who remembers the Bills' glory days, Pats fans: awesome offense that scores a lot plus crappy defense that stops nobody equals somebody else holding the Lombardi trophy.
:: The Bills' defensive game plan appears to have been, "Let Welker get his catches, just don't let him break a giant gain, and contain everybody else." That's pretty much what they did. Aside from their tight end, nobody other than Welker really stepped up for the Pats. They might want to look into that, because if the Pats think that Brady's going to be putting up 400 yards a game all season, they're deluded. Defenses are suffering now, all over the NFL, but they're going to settle in sooner or later, as offensive players get dinged up and as defensive guys find their chemistry after an abbreviated preseason with no offseason workouts.
:: I really hope that since the Bills are doing well, CBS will decide that their games deserve an announcer upgrade. Marv Albert isn't that good anymore, but Rich Gannon is awful. At one point, the Pats were lining up with first-and-goal, and he said -- and I am not making this up -- "Well, the Patriots have options here. They can either throw it or run it." And it was funny to see his reactions to Tom Brady's first two interceptions, as he made the case both times that they weren't really St. Tom's fault. This led me to comment on Twitter, "Brady could literally hand to ball to a defender and Gannon would blame Brady's RB for not being there for the handoff". Of course, after picks three and four -- with the fourth one being run back for a TD -- Gannon just didn't talk at all. I guess he can't decide what to say when something happens that is outside of his preferred narrative (in this case, the Godlike status of St. Tom the Overrated).
:: By the way, St. Tom sure showed a lot of heart on Drayton Florence's pick-six, didn't he? He just kind of jogged toward him but made no effort whatsoever to actually knock him out of bounds and maybe, just maybe, prevent him from scoring.
:: I love comebacks, but I wish the Bills would figure out how to play well in the first quarter too.
:: The Bills still need to improve on the pass rush. Their run defense has improved greatly, but the pass D still needs some help from the front seven to rush the passes.
:: The Bills' offensive line, which had fans terrified during preseason, gave up zero sacks and largely played very well in pass protection and in a fairly productive running game.
Next week, the Bills are at Cincinnati, which may be an interesting game. The Bills and Bengals don't play every year, so the streak doesn't include nearly as many games as the Bills' skid against the Patriots, but the Bengals have not beaten the Bills since the two teams met in the AFC Championship Game after the 1988 season. Last year, the Bills trailed the Bengals by 17 before beating them by 18. Giddyup!