November 15, 2004
Gillette Becoming Buffalo Football Purgatory
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
FOXBOROUGH -- Drew Bledsoe couldn’t win the game, so he thought he’d toss one to his old pal Troy Brown for old times sake.
Brown’s first career interception epitomized the evening for the Buffalo Bills. It was a horrible pass thrown by Bledsoe, and it was the ultimate dishonor for the former Patriot franchise quarterback Last December, a 31-0 season ending loss at Gillette Stadium, Bledsoe was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of the backup. This one was as much a lopsided affair as the 2004 World Series was.
What a coincidence. It just so happened that the world champion Boston Red Sox (that’s still weird typing that) were in attendance at Gillette Stadium Sunday night, as the Patriots paid the Red Sox back for the two times they have let the Patriots throw out the first pitch in two of the last three Fenway home openers. With two Boston area world championship teams in attendance, the NFL champs played to their talents and beyond, like the true champions that they are. The Red Sox could only sit back and watch with glee as the Patriots manhandled the Bills much like they did the St. Louis Cardinals.
The final score was 29-6. It should have been 29-0, the second straight shutout of Buffalo at home. The Bills offense was pathetic all night long, with only 81 total yards passing from Bledsoe and J.P. Losman, and only 37 yards rushing from Willis McGahee. The six points came thanks to a punt coverage breakdown in the third quarter, and someone named Jonathan Smith managed to slip through the coverage and flee seventy yards for a touchdown. (Fittingly, the Bills scuttled the two-point try when McGahee was stuffed at the one after a bogus roughing-the-passer call on Rodney Harrison). Other than that, the Patriots simply blew the Bills out of The Big Razor Blade.
In a nutshell, here is graphic proof of how badly outplayed the Bills were:
Total yards: Patriots 428, Bills 125.
Rushing yards: Patriots 208, Bills 50.
Net passing yards: Patriots 220, Bills 75.
Yards per pass: Patriots 6, Bills 3.
Time of possession: Patriots 41:22, Bills 18:38.
This baby wasn’t close at any time. Three of the first four offensive drives by the Patriots went for 81, 91, 75 and 70 yards. Three of those drives ended in very short Adam Vinatieri field goals. Normally, this practice of settling for field goals can hurt a team, and the only thing the Bills did consistently well was to stop the Patriots inside the Buffalo 10. Instead, the Patriots merely did what they do against Bledsoe, and took McGahee out of his game completely.
Bledsoe threw three interceptions during the game, while Losman, the rookie first round pick out of Tulane and the quarterback of the future for the Bills, threw a pick late in the contest. The first one was more or less like a punt, with Eugene Wilson corralling a deep ball intended for Eric Moulds at the Patriot 3. But the other two misfires helped add to the ignominious legacy Bledsoe has against defenses coached by Bill Belichick.
With 2:24 left in the first half, Bledsoe faced second and 11 at his own 45. Bledsoe tried to hit rookie Lee Evans in the right flat, but did not see Tedy Bruschi (who would later suffer a seemingly horrific leg injury later on but walked off under his own power) lurking in the vicinity. Bruschi closed on the ball quickly and made the pick. He rumbled 29 yards to the Buffalo 27, and Gillette Stadium was shocked at the sight of Bruschi not returning an interception for a touchdown.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Bledsoe was at his own 38, first and ten. He dropped back and looked for Moulds in the left flat. Brown was nearby, but apparently Bledsoe never dreamed that his former go-to guy would pick him off. Whaddayaknow.
Brown caught the insult of a pass at the Bills’ 40 and returned it 17 yards as Gillette Stadium shrieked in delight. It is amazing to see Bledsoe sink so low as to suffer an interception to a wide receiver playing out of position thanks to a slew of injuries.
Defensively, the Patriots played a solid game all throughout and pitched a shutout. Pressure was applied on Bledsoe, and backup corners Randall Gay and Asante Samuel kept the Bills receivers under wraps. Tully Banta-Cain had two sacks (the official record says 1.5, but this writer is being generous), and he also had Losman’s pick with 18 seconds left in the game as the rookie quarterback tried in vain to hit rookie tight end Tim Euhus.
One of the more amazing elements of this game was the Patriots’ ability to gouge the tough Bills defense with the running game. Dillon rumbled for 151 yards and a 5.8 yards per carry average. He might have challenged Tony Collins’s 1983 team record for yards in a game (203) had he not missed a sizeable chunk of the game due to a recurring leg injury. All night long, the Patriots ran right at right defensive end Aaron Schobel, who is undersized and no match for Matt Light and Joe Andruzzi.
Vinatieri tied a personal high of five field goals in the game. This is more a result of long drives which stalled inside the Buffalo five-yard-line. Three of Vinatieri’s five field goals were under thirty yards. He did not suffer any misses.
While both Buffalo quarterbacks had passer ratings in the teens, Brady ended up with a 82.2 figure on 19 of 35 passing for 233 yards. Brady misfired on some throws, including a deep ball to David Givens in the first quarter that would have been an 89-yard scoring toss except Brady overthrew Givens on the play. He suffered an interception in the fourth quarter, a left flat pass which was picked off by Nate Clements only because Bethel Johnson slipped on his route and Brady threw the ball to the spot where Johnson should have been.
Whatever inspiration the Red Sox provided, the Patriots sure put it to good use. Johnny Damon told Suzy Kolber of ESPN how much inspiration the Patriots give them. It was nice to see the Sox, especially Curt Schilling, hobbling out on the Gillette Stadium turf on crutches, return the favor to their more-honored NFL colleagues.
Simply stated, it was like the World Series all over again. The Patriots simply clobbered the Bills. Buffalo has to hate Foxborough, and small wonder. They have been outscored 87-23 in the three games they have played in the new structure. Whatever great a defense Buffalo had, the Patriots reduced it to total rubble.
It’s champions doing what champions do. With champions watching.
Damon is right. This is a happy place to play in right now.
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