By: Ian Logue/
September 08, 2003

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y -- As he has done for so many years Lawyer Milloy gave his team an emotional lift en route to a big AFC East Divisional victory.

Unfortunately for the Patriots, it was for another team after Milloy and former quarterback Drew Bledsoe handed New England a 31-0 trouncing at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday.

From the time he exited the tunnel as the last player announced on Sunday, it was apparent that Milloy's mere presence as a member of the Buffalo Bills was going to make a big impact. There was an air of confidence on the Bills sideline that only amplified the solemn looks on Milloy's former teammates across the field.

That confidence carried Buffalo right down the field on their opening drive, including a 24-yard completion from Bledsoe to wide receiver Bobby Shaw who had beaten Milloy's replacement on defense, Antwan Harris. This was an area that the Bills' offense appeared to be looking to exploit, and it ended up leading to a touchdown for Buffalo.

Meanwhile Milloy was in the starting line-up on defense for the Bills. He was on the field for nearly the entire afternoon, and finished the game fourth on the team in tackles, including a sack and also forced an interception.

For the Patriots they must have been wondering how it was possible for a player who had been preparing for a game with them less than a week earlier could be standing across the field wearing their opponents uniform. While he'll never admit it, even Belichick must have been taken back watching Milloy make plays for another team.

After the game the normally calculated Belichick appeared frustrated. When asked about Milloy the head coach just ignored the issue and repeated the same answer, telling reporters that he felt his team simply didn't play well. But one thing is probably certain, when Belichick traded former Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe to the Bills, he obviously knew what he was doing and had control of that decision. In the case of Milloy, he probably never imagined that by making the difficult decision to release his defensive captain, he'd end up facing him just five days later.

In their two meetings last season the Patriots beat the Bills by a combined score of 65-24 and outscored them in the first half by a 37-7 edge. This time around it was Buffalo who took a 21-0 lead into the locker room at intermission.

In their previous meetings when New England had been successful in getting pressure on Bledsoe, on Sunday it was the Bills defense who spent most of the afternoon in the Patriots backfield. Brady was sacked twice and under constant pressure, with New England's offensive line struggling to pick up a blitzing Buffalo defense. He threw four interceptions and no touchdowns, his worst performance since he last threw four against Denver nearly two years ago.

Belichick will now face one of his biggest tests this week as he tries to restore confidence to a team that looked like they were definitely lost on Sunday. Despite whatever Belichick may have felt Milloy's deficiencies were, there's no question about the role he played both in the locker room and on the field.

However former Patriots head coach Pete Carroll released former Patriots veteran safety Willy Clay because he felt at the time that Milloy was ready to take over the leadership role for New England's defense. Back then Milloy spoke out against the move, only to later become the team's captain.

Now it's time for someone else to fill that role.

In the NFL there are very few players who play their entire career with one team. When the time comes for a team to make a change, eventually there is always a player who emerges to fill whatever that role may be.

For their sake the sooner the Patriots are able to find that player, the better.