The next time the Bills play on Monday Night Football, keep your pack of Kleenex within arms length.
For the third consecutive season, the Bills lost an absolute heartbreaker while having the spotlight on the hallowed program. First it was the 53-yard by kicker Nick Folk as the clock expired to put the Cowboys over the top. Then, it was the last minute Rian Lindell misfire to submit to the Cleveland Browns. And now this: Tom Brady puts on his Superman cape and saves the day once again.
They say that bad things come in threes, but come on.
This time around definitely hurts the most. To have the New England Patriots, a division rival and one of the league's most critically acclaimed teams, on the ropes for much of the game and then let them slip away is simply astonishing. A season opener in Gillette Stadium almost always spells doom. But the Bills almost defied the odds. Unfortunately for Buffalo, "almost" only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
I always wondered why they called Foxborough "the razor," but after Tom Brady's two touchdown passes in the last 130 seconds, now I know why.
Leodis McKelvin certainly knows why. With the game seemingly in hand, the second-year man out of Troy caught the ball on the fringe of the goal line and decided to gamble. Now, I'm no football guru, but if I'm special teams coach Bobby April, I tell McKelvin to let the ball fall in the end zone and take a touchback. No questions asked. Now, I don't care if you were the number one kick returner in the NFL last year, the Flash, the Invisible Man, or a witch with a hovering broom. You do not take the football out of the end zone. Period.
McKelvin rolled the dice and came up snake eyes, and Buffalo paid the piper.
In terms of the game before the last three minutes, the Bills were phenomenal. The Patriots' run game was stymied from the beginning forcing Brady, fresh off of his knee mishap that you may/may not have heard about, to throw to checkdown receivers. The defense was gang tackling better than Al Capone's entourage. Aaron Schobel's interception return for a touchdown would make Deion Sanders blush. Everything was clicking for a change. The defense had a distinct, swarming quality.
Offensively speaking, Alex Van Pelt's crisp play-calling allowed quarterback Trent Edwards to make simple throws downfield and in the flat. Fred Jackson was the catalyst and made the Patriots defense pay for the over-pursuit of both Terrell Owens and Lee Evans. Heck, even the Salvation-Army quilt of an offensive-line gave Edwards sufficient time to go through his reads.
On all three sides of the ball, the Bills were in it to win it. But it just was not enough.
From an outsider's vantage point, this was another instant classic that will grace the montages of Monday Night Football for years to come. From a Bills perspective, it's another one to put in the lockbox of shame.
Ian Smith is an analyst for BuffaloFootballReport.com.