Buffalo's oversight was Carolina's gain

John Fox makes his first trip to Buffalo since he interviewed there early in 2001 for their head coaching position. The Bills passed on Fox, instead opting for Gregg Williams. During the 3 years Williams was in Buffalo, the Bills went 17-31, never reaching the playoffs. Williams was fired after the 2003 season after going 6-10, ironically the same season John Fox, the coach the Bills passed on in 2001, led the Panthers to the Super Bowl.

Ah, what could have been.

"The way things have worked out, I'm pleased," said Fox on Wednesday.

"At that time, I was so worn out because we (New York Giants) had just played in the Super Bowl. I think I interviewed the next day. It's almost been a whirlwind just thinking about it. It came and went so fast that I don't really have a whole lot of recollection of it. But I'm glad things worked out the way they did."

Since joining the Panthers in 2002, Fox has gone 35-27, including a 3-1 record in the playoffs and a narrow Super Bowl defeat.

The Bills are on their second head coach since passing on Fox and their 13th of all time, Mike Mularkey, whose record coming into Sunday's game is 13-13.

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The Panthers haven't beaten the Bills in 3 previous attempts. The last time the two teams met in 2001, the Bills rallied to beat the Panthers 25-24 in Buffalo's Ralph Wilson Stadium.

This time, the Panthers hope to come out of Buffalo with a victory, and an 8-3 record heading into next week's match up against the Atlanta Falcons.

"They stumbled around a little bit earlier in the year when they had some quarterback problems," said Fox of the Bills. "They've fought back and they are 4-6, fighting of their playoff lives just like we are."

Although the Panthers played in relatively cold temperatures last week in Chicago, Buffalo could offer a few more weather-related complications this week. Snow and wind are in the forecast, which could put an emphasis on the Panthers' anemic running game that ranks last in the NFL in yards per carry. Luckily, the Bills' defense allows 149.7 yards per game on the ground on average, 31st in the NFL.

Fox isn't concerned that the weather could affect the outcome of this game, however.

"We went to Philadelphia for the championship game, and it was bad weather," Fox said. "Both teams have got to play in it. That's been my approach. The conditions are equal for both teams."

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