ORCHARD PARK – In his 10 seasons with the Bills, elder statesman Kyle Williams has seen Tom Brady carve up the Bills on numerous occasions. But never to this extent. This evisceration was ugly – and historic – a painful reminder that the balance of power in the AFC East and the NFL hasn’t shifted. The New England Patriots still reign supreme.
Tom Terrific sliced and diced Buffalo’s vaunted defense for 466 yards and three touchdowns in the Pats strange 40-32 victory Sunday at the sold-out Ralph in a game that would have been even more lopsided had Patriots coach Bill Belichick not tried to rub it in by throwing rather than running the ball with an 18-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Asked to sum up his team’s performance vs. his arch nemesis, Williams called it a pile of manure. Only he used a four-letter word for manure. Not a very eloquent description, but it got the job done, which is more than you can say for the Bills defense.
A week’s worth of hype in which Rex Ryan and several of his players talked about their disdain for Brady’s bunch came back to bite them. And in the wake of the Bills 24th loss in 27 starts against one of the game’s greatest quarterbacks, the bombastic coach and his players learned that it’s a lot more difficult to eat your words than to say them.
Brady – pun intended – left the majority of the 70,858 spectators at the Ralph feeling deflated. His passing yards, achieved on 38 completions in 59 attempts, were the most racked up against a Bills team in their 55-season existence, and the second most accumulated by Brady in his illustrious career. For the record, the future first-ballot Hall of Famer now has 61 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions vs. Buffalo. He needs three more victories against the Bills to break Brett Favre’s NFL record for single-team dominance (26 vs. the Detroit Lions.)
On this day, the Bills weren’t beaten just by Brady, but also by themselves. They were penalized 14 times for 140 yards and also committed three turnovers, all on interceptions by Tyrod Taylor, who bounced back in the second half to throw three touchdowns. Actually, Buffalo was flagged at least 17 times, including three times on one play, something I had never witnessed in 31 years of covering pro football. The Bills offensive line didn’t do Taylor any favors, yielding eight sacks, including three by Chandler Jones.
“There’s a difference between coming out ready to go, fired up ready to play and coming out and being totally without poise, without focus, and a lot of stupid, idiotic stuff,’’ said Williams, the Bills four-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle. “That plays right into their hands. If you have no poise, no focus, you get caught up in all the BS, that’s what they do. We did that – especially in the first half.”
Ryan, who proclaimed during his six seasons with the New York Jets that he wasn’t going to kiss Belichick’s Super Bowl rings, pointed a finger at himself. “This loss is squarely on one man’s shoulders; it’s on my shoulders,’’ he said after losing to Belichick for the 10th time in 14 meetings. “You know, yeah we gotta get better as a team. There’s no question. But I have to get better. You know Belichick out-coached me. No question about it, and that’s where the game . . . that’s how it ended up, and it’s unfortunate. The plan has to be better on defense. Can’t give up 500 yards and beat anybody, and then we turn it over three times. You know we did a horse (bleep) job and it’s my responsibility. Our team will get better, but it starts with me getting better.”
The penalties, in particular, galled the first-year Bills coach, whose Jets teams had a reputation for being undisciplined. “You should play with emotion,’’ he said. “But sometimes you let your emotions get the better of you and it went to our detriment and it starts with me. I obviously have to control my emotions a little better regardless of how bad things are going.”
Earlier in the week, Ryan joked that he didn’t know the name of Patriots running back Dion Lewis. He probably does now. Lewis followed up a strong performance in the season opener vs. Pittsburgh with 40 rushing yards and 98 receiving yards against the Bills. “Uh, that’s the reason we lost,’’ Ryan said sarcastically when asked if he felt comments like that helped add to the Patriots motivation. “Go ahead (and report that). I still don’t know his name.”
Although the most hyped game in recent Bills annals failed to live up to the hype, it did get interesting in the fourth quarter. And Buffalo can thank Belichick for that. Despite leading by 18 points with 11:42 remaining, the Patriots boss opted to keep throwing on almost every down instead of running the ball to milk the clock. On a fourth-and-one from the Buffalo 41 with 8:15 to go, Belichick called for a deep pass to Julian Edelman. Brady overthrew him and the Bills took over. Buffalo strung together a seven-play, 59-yard drive that was capped by Taylor’s seven-yard touchdown run. A two-point conversion attempt failed, and the Patriots recovered the ensuing on-sides kick at the Bills 43 with 5:27 to go.
Again, New England eschewed the run. On a second-and-two, Brady was sacked by Jerry Hughes and Preston Brown recovered at mid-field. Two snaps later, Taylor threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Sammy Watkins, and Dan Carpenter’s extra point cut the lead to 37-32 with 4:16 remaining. New England added a Stephen Gostkowski 25-yard field goal with 1:18 left, and the Bills last-ditch attempt to tie the game died when Logan Ryan picked off Taylor with 1:07 to go.
Belichick defended the strategy. Asked if he felt he kept the Bills in the game by passing as much as he did, he said: “I think we did what we thought was best to win the game. That’s what we always do.” Belichick wasn’t buying the statement that he had out-coached Rex. “No,’’ he said. “It’s our players. Our players went out there and played. They made the plays to win the game and I’d say they probably overcame some not so great coaching on my part. I’ll give credit to the players.”
Interestingly, when asked if Brady looked as sharp as ever, Belichick answered no. “I think there’s a lot of things we can do better,’’ he said. “Everybody can do better. I didn’t think it was all that spectacular by anyone, but it was good enough. We’ve got a lot of room to improve.”
Williams and company would disagree. In their eyes, Brady looked better than ever. In a painfully recurring theme in this one-sided series, he beat them again, and they beat themselves again.
NOTES: Jim Kelly said before the game that his most recent MRI showed that he’s cancer-free. He has tests every three months . . . Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, Andre Reed and Marv Levy were in town to see Bill Polian officially receive his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring during halftime ceremonies . . . Aaron Williams, who left the field in an ambulance after suffering a neck injury in the fourth quarter, was released from a Buffalo-area hospital Sunday evening after being thoroughly examined . . . The Bills’ crowd did not break the football game noise level, according to an adjudicator from the Guinness Book of World Records . . . Taylor finished 23-of-30 for 242 yards. He had a 93.3 passer rating . . . LeSean McCoy rushed for 89 yards on 15 carries and caught three passes for 27 yards.