Upset gone awry

Everything was in place for a Bills upset. Yet somehow, things turned south fast. BFR's Kevin Prise explains the pain of Monday's loss...

When the Bills scored in the latter half of the fourth quarter to extend their seemingly unreal lead over the Patriots to 24-13, fans couldn't help but think that maybe, just maybe, this would finally be the time. Finally the time to take down the Patriots. Finally the time to beat an AFC East rival again, something the team couldn't accomplish last season. Finally the time to put an end to the disappointing string of Monday night losses in recent years. There was no way that the Bills could find a way to blow this one again, was there? With Roger Federer having been defeated in the U. S. Open for the first time since September 2003, the last time the Bills beat the Patriots, it seemed as if things were falling into place. Finally.

Of course, Bills Land is not Bills Land without a new and inventive way to lose a game. After Fred Jackson's tidy ten-yard touchdown dash, Tom Brady and his cohorts got the ball back and methodically drove down the field to score with under three minutes remaining. Okay, Bills fans said, just get the ball back and let the offense run out the clock. Not too difficult a task, right?

When Leodis McKelvin caught the kickoff in the end zone, circumstances seemed to dictate that the logical thing to do would be to take a knee in the end zone and take the ball on the 20 yard line. True, the Patriots had three time outs and the two minute warning to work with, but if the Bills could manage to get one first down, they could probably run out the clock. Remember, however, the Bills are synonymous with late game meltdowns, specifically on Monday night, so McKelvin ran the ball out of the end zone.

No Bills fan was surprised to witness the ensuing scene: McKelvin approached the 20, hit a wall of Patriot defenders, and decided to fight for a few extra yards. As he got closer to the 30, he went down, and in the dog pile that resulted, the Patriots unsurprisingly came away with the ball. At this point, everyone and their deceased Bills-loyal ancestors knew what was coming next. A few plays later, Bills Land was proved correct: Touchdown Patriots. Surprise, surprise.

Not able to mount a heroic comeback, the final result was a one-point loss, 25-24. Gone were the hopes of an inspiring win to open the season, a win that would have shocked the nation, fans, and probably many of the players. No one gave the Bills a chance to win this game; they were 11-point underdogs going in. Many fans were expecting an embarrassing blowout, and what we got was something much, much worse.

When the Bills got ran out of their own rodeo in Orchard Park two years ago on Sunday night, Orchard Park was disappointed, but not surprised. Everyone knew that the Patriots were a much superior team, and the result was a formality by halftime. The stadium was half empty by the middle of the third quarter, and Buffalo carried on the workweek without bother, as the possibility of a win was never there.

Before this game, the possibility was never there. Everyone knew that Edwards would have no time to throw. Everyone knew that Van Pelt couldn't be expected to call a smart game this early in his career as coordinator. Everyone knew that Brady would pick our defense apart with his quick, potent throws.

Somewhere along the way, however, something strange happened. Although the Bills were dominated in total yards, time of possession, and most other stats that usually determine the outcome of a game, they were able to grind it out and stay in the lead. The offensive line kept their composure for the most part, Van Pelt made smart decisions, and Brady was, for the most part, not his usual self. The result was the Bills leading for the game's first 59 minutes and change, and Bills Land was poised to greet the team at Buffalo Niagara International in the wee hours of the morning; bells, whistles, and all the rest.

If the Bills had stayed true to what was expected of them, no one would have been too surprised, and the week would have gone on as usual. However, they stayed in the game the whole way, giving all of Western New York a feeling of "What if?" What if the Bills could hold on and knock Brady off his throne? The sports media would have gone into an uproar, the nation would have been taken by storm, and Bills fans would have had one of the best weeks of their lives.

However, even though Bills Land could look ahead and think of the tantalizing possibilities and feelings that winning brings, all along we knew the sad truth. All along, we knew that the team couldn't finish the job against Bill Belichick, and that some aspect of our game would fold under the pressure that comes with a possible win. Ultimately, the hook-and-ladder play at the end of the game summed it all up. For a while, it seemed as if maybe, just maybe, pull it off, but we couldn't pretend forever. When you are the Bills, a 60-yard hook-and-ladder play can't work. When you're the Bills in this era, a victory over New England can't happen. That's the sad truth.

When T. O. was brought in, fans regained possession of the constant hope that Bills fans never lose. Even though the fan base is disappointed time and time again, they keep coming back for more. Buffalo refuses to give up.

You can bet that come this weekend, crowds will turn out in masses. One fan recklessly vandalizing Leodis McKelvin's lawn doesn't do this fan base service. Fans will rebound from Monday's loss just fine.

After all, Bills Land is immune to heartbreaking losses by now.


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