Bills lose in UNBELIEVABLE fashion AGAIN!!!

There are to be no more moral victories. No more "Hey, you lost, but the players' showed pretty good effort." No more. Gregg Williams is sick of moral victories, and his body language explicitly demonstrated that after the Bills lost to the Patriots 12-9 on Dec. 16 in just about as painful a way as a team could muster:

 

overtime, team forces a fumble then recovers it; the call gets reversed via replay; on the next play the opponent runs 38 yards to his team's three-yard line and two plays later, the opponent kicks a field goal to win.

Buffalo drops to 2-11 and secures its worst home record in history (1-7).

So what about the moral victories? If you take away ex-Bill Antowain Smith's 38-yard overtime run, then Buffalo held the Patriots to 91 yards rushing. It held Tom Brady to 206 yards passing, no touchdowns and it intercepted a pass. Pretty good, right?

"The defense played strong, they played hard, but they didn't wrap up in the end," said Williams, adding, "Our guys played hard today. (The Patriots) played better at the end.

Williams is obviously at the point where morals of the story are for children's fairy tales, not big, gruff and tough ol' football players.

Sure, there was a fluke play in overtime that forced the officials to make a tough ruling. But that's not why the Bills lost.

Smith's 38-yard run on the very next play made more of an impact than the overturned fumble.

Smith disappeared into the left interior of the Bills' four-man line, and it looked like he was going to be stopped for no-gain. But somehow, he managed to stay on his feet and cut back to the right, rolling around a mass of bodies and running just outside the reach of contain man Keith Newman.

But it didn't have to be that way.

Newman maintained his position as the play unfolded, but when it looked probable that Smith was going to be tackled, he instinctually took a few steps inside; no one was even blocking him.

As it turned out, Smith stayed up and ran toward the right sideline. Newman was ever so slightly out of position and an arm-length away of reaching Smith, who was able to turn the corner. Newman tried to chase him, but Smith simply was too fast.

"I had my chance on the back side, but I couldn't get him," Newman said.

Antoine Winfield made an excellent leg tackle at the three to bring Smith down. It was too late, however.

"When Antowain broke free," said Winfield, "I kind of figured the game was over."

It was, for all intents and purposes – it just needed the formal kicking of the field goal to seal it.

So those were the two plays that everyone will remember, but let's look at why the Bills really lost.

The offense was terrible in passing situations. Alex Van Pelt looked like he wasn't in sync with his receivers as he delivered the ball behind them or too far in front of them or in a general area where they weren't. Three of his passes were deflected by New England strongside linebacker Mike Vrabel.

"I missed guys in the first half," Van Pelt said. "I thought that I had some guys open and I did not get them the ball. For the most part, I thought we did a good job on running the offense in the second half, but we need to capitalize on turnovers."

Buffalo trailed 6-0 at the half. New England took advantage of a drive start at the 50 and got a first quarter field goal. Later, Brady completed a 40-yard, up-pattern pass to David Patten, beating third down corner Chris Watson on third down, resulting in another field goal.

Overall, neither team was good in the red zone. The Patriots were held to three field goals when they were inside the 20.

"We had a good plan going in," free safety Keion Carpenter said, "and I think we did well executing as a unit. The plan first of all was to stop the run. Then it was to take (Troy Brown) out of the game, then to make the quarterback beat us."

Buffalo stopped the run for the most part; Brown only had 62 yards receiving and Brady did not beat the Bills. But Buffalo still lost.

And it was the offense's fault.

With the exception of getting to the New England 25 during the two-minute drill, which resulted in a missed 43-yard Shayne Graham field goal to end the half, Buffalo never really got close to the red zone in the first two quarters.

It was there twice in the third quarter and settled for a field goal and a costly interception. Two other drives were ended between the Patriots' 21 and 30, resulting with Graham field goals.

Buffalo ran the ball OK – Travis Henry had 54 yards in the first half before leaving with a second quarter knee sprain – but it never got enough sizable gains to sustain a solid offensive attack.

Peerless Price's 33-yard catch at the end of the half gave them the shot at the 43-yard field goal.

Price also could caught a seven-yard end zone pass from Van Pelt in the fourth quarter with Patriots corner Terrell Buckley covering, which would have given Buffalo a 10-6 lead, but he was ruled out of bounds. The Bills decided not to challenge the close ruling, instead opting for the 25-yard field goal and a 6-6 tie.

Williams said, "With the shots we got, we did not believe it was conclusive enough to overturn the call."

Van Pelt said, "I think I caught him in between strides, a half of a step earlier he could have gotten both feet down easily. I could not put any more zip on it because Buckley was undercutting it so I had to throw a little bit of air on it to get it over Buckley."

Buffalo took a 9-6 lead with six minutes, 20 seconds left, but New England tied it on the ensuing drive. Buffalo had one more chance in regulation, but that drive nearly ended in disaster as on the last play of regulation, Van Pelt was sacked and fumbled at the Buffalo 10. Fortunately, Jerry Ostroski recovered the ball as time ran out. If the Patriots recovered, there would have been time for Adam Vinatieri to kick the game-winner then.

On the opening drive of the third quarter, Bills strong safety Raion Hill's strip and recovery of an Antowain Smith fumble in Patriots territory helped Buffalo get on the board with Graham's 41-yard field goal reducing New England's lead to 6-3.

 

Big play

Patriots ball, first and 10 from the New England 46, game tied at 9, with 10 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in overtime.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady dropped back to pass and found David Patten breaking on an out pattern at the Buffalo 41. Patten caught the ball, and got his feet down, but free safety Keion Carpenter nailed him in the midsection and jarred the ball loose. Unfortunately, Patten's helmet was touching the sideline while the ball – in what appeared to be in the field of play – was stuck under his leg. Nate Clements recovered it and it was ruled Buffalo's ball.

But the referees, who are the only ones who can call for replay during overtime, decided to review the controversial play. And out came Rule 3, Section 20, Article 2, Paragraph C of the NFL Rule Book concerning out of bounds and in-bounds spots: "The ball is out of bounds when a loose ball touches a boundary line or anything on or outside such line."

The referees were right in reversing the call.

"If a loose ball touches anything that is out of bounds, it is itself out of bounds and it would be in possession of the receiver," said referee Mike Carey. "He had possession through the catch so then that team had possession and when the ball's out of bounds, it goes back to the last team with possession."

Carey added that the play was overturned because the replay was "indisputable."

Gregg Williams said, "The interpretation that I was told was that the ball was fumbled and the ball was in contact with the team that last possessed it. So, they ruled out of bounds by contact. I have never seen a play like it."

It might be a lifetime before he sees that bizarre type of play again.

Carpenter certainly was stunned about it: "I'm only 24 yards old, but I have never in my life seen anything like it. It was just bad to fight for 5-and-a-half hours and have the game come down to that. I've heard of the rule, but you've got a guy who's not even conscious receiving the ball in bounds."

Keith Newman said, "I definitely don't like the call. I guess they went by whatever rules they have in the rulebook. But the guy that just got the (crap) knocked out of him couldn't have possession of the ball."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, "I couldn't hear it when referee Mike Carey tried to explain it. We were really trying to get the next play in, trying to get ourselves focused on what we were going to do, what plays we were going to call when we got the ball. So I really can't give you a detailed explanation on that play … It was a close call. It could have gone either way."

When Carey revealed the outcome, and the play was overturned, that prompted Bills general manager Tom Donahoe to come out and question an NFL official in the press box.

"If that's a rule, that's ridiculous. What difference does it make where his head is?" Donahoe asked.

It seemed to be a rhetorical question. But the ruling made a huge difference for the Patriots because it meant they still had possession of the ball. On the next play – the one that Belichick spent a lot of time planning during the replay – New England took advantage as Antowain Smith ran 38 yards to the Buffalo three. Two plays later, Adam Vinatieri kicked the game-winning 23-yard field goal.

 

Fast facts

The Bills play at Atlanta Dec. 23 at 1 p.m.

 

Reading the keys

Yes      No      

[TIE]                Bills' middle of defense vs. Patriots' running game. Buffalo's interior was close to getting a "Yes," but couldn't get bring down Smith on his damaging 38-yard run in OT. Therefore, it's a tie.

YES                 Strip the ball. Raion Hill made one strip on Smith, which led to Buffalo's first field goal.

YES                 Bills running back Travis Henry vs. weakside linebacker Roman Phifer and strong safety Lawyer Milloy. Henry gained 54 yards before leaving with a right knee sprain with less than four minutes remaining.

NO            Get touchdowns in the red zone. Buffalo was 0-for-2 in touchdowns, including a penetration to the New England 7 in the fourth quarter.

 

Leading indicators

Third-down conversions: The Patriots were seven of 17 (41 percent) and the Bills were three of 15 (20 percent) so the leader in this category during Buffalo's 13 games this season improves to 9-4.

Rushing yardage: The Patriots rushed for 129 yards. The Bills rushed for 98 yards. The leader in this category improves to 7-5-1.

Sack differential: The Bills were plus-four with five sacks to New England's one. The leader in this category drops to 9-3-1.

Turnover differential: The Bills were plus-one with two takeaways to New England's one. The leader in this category drops to 10-3.

No. of offensive plays: The Bills had 73 offensive plays and the Patriots had 67 so the leader in this category is now 5-6-2.

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