The Bills can sweep the rival New England Patriots for the first time since 1999 when they travel to Foxboro, Mass., on New Year's Day for their final game of the season.
Of course, emotions have been tempered a bit by
the sobering fact that since defeating the Patriots 34-31 back on Sept.
25, Buffalo (6-9) twittered away what energy and optimism it had
captured that day. A seven-game losing streak ensured a 12th
consecutive season of missing the playoffs.
As for the Patriots (12-3), well, they're the
Patriots and they can clinch home-field advantage in the AFC with a win
Sweeping New England isn't the first thing on
coach Chan Gailey's mind.
"You'd be able to win two in a row going into next
year which is always good," he said of what's on his mind after his
team snapped its losing streak with a spirited 40-14 victory over
Denver last Saturday. "You are able to beat a good football team, which
is another good thing if you can get that done. I don't worry about
streaks. I don't worry about history. I worry more about the present
and future than I do that."
The Bills' rousing comeback from a 21-0 deficit
over New England at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Week 3 was engineered by
quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was 27 of 40 for 369 yards, with two
touchdowns and two interceptions in that game, and a defense that
intercepted Brady four times.
But since then, the fortunes of both quarterbacks
and teams have done an about face. The win helped Fitzpatrick earn a
$59-million contract extension but his play hasn't backed up the deal.
For the year, he has thrown 22 TD passes vs. a whopping 19
The Bills didn't exactly stop Brady back in
September. He threw for 386 yards and four touchdowns with Wes Welker
catching 16 passes for 217 yards and two scores. Brady's turnovers were
uncharacteristic. On the year, he has thrown for 4,897 yards, 36
touchdowns and 11 picks.
He's 190 yards behind NFL passing leader Drew Brees, who has 5,087 and broke Dan Marino's single-season record on
Monday night. Brees faces Carolina on Sunday, also in a 1 p.m. start.
It's possible Brady could pass Brees and capture the NFL mark against
the Bills, who have one of the NFL's weakest pass rushes.
Then there's the matter of sealing home field.
"It's not something that we talk about at all,"
Brady said. "I think what we've talked about is trying to beat a
Buffalo team that's coming here and always plays us tough and a team
that beat us earlier in the year. We're not thinking about anything
beyond this weekend. I keep saying that every week. I know you guys
probably think I'm full of crap, but it's a very short-term focused
team. We just try to stay focused on the present and that's trying to
have good practices and ultimately be prepared for our game on Sunday."
Fitzpatrick was able to get on track against the
Broncos to a degree, completing a safe 15 of 27 for 196 yards without a
turnover. But he also threw some horrendous passes. The game was a
blowout due to Buffalo's defense scoring twice off interceptions of Tim Tebow and special teams scoring on a Leodis McKelvin 80-yard punt
return. The Bills' offense was 1 of 6 in the red zone.
"I'm not going to sit and complain and analyze
everything that we did on offense, what we could've done better, the
red zone stuff," Fitzpatrick said. "A win like this, especially when we
lost so many in a row, enjoy the victory."
He would enjoy a win over New England even more,
allowing him to go into the offseason feeling good about his standing
as the team's undisputed No. 1 quarterback. Otherwise, Buffalo may be
forced to draft a quarterback in April.
Meanwhile, it could be the final time wide
receiver Stevie Johnson, a free agent, suits up for the Bills.
As for Gailey, he and GM Buddy Nix are facing
another important offseason of retooling their roster.
"My confidence? My confidence never wavers,"
Gailey said. "Do I get down after a loss? Yeah, I do. You're always
searching for how to get better and how to help the players be a better
player. That's what you're trying to do. That's my job is to help put
guys in position to try to be successful."
SERIES HISTORY: 103rd regular-season meeting.
Patriots lead series, 60-41-1. New England has won 15 of the past 16
games. The Bills snapped a 15-game losing streak to New England with a
34-31 victory on Sept. 25 at home, rallying from a 21-0 deficit and
winning on Rian Lindell's 28-yard field goal as time expired.
--RB C.J. Spiller, the team's first-round pick out
of Clemson in 2010, has given the front office something to think about
regarding handing veteran Fred Jackson a rich contract extension.
Spiller, who has been starting since Jackson was lost for the year with
a broken leg, has been very good the past two games, including
recording his first 100-yard game against Denver (111 on 16 carries).
On the year, he has 94 carries for 501 yards, a whopping 5.3 average.
"C.J.'s playing extremely well right now," coach Chan Gailey said.
"He's seeing things a lot better, is a lot more patient and he's a
threat out of the backfield as a receiver. It's a great opportunity for
him to show what he can do and he's taking advantage of that
opportunity." Spiller figures to have another strong game this week vs.
New England's 32nd-rank run defense, allowing 411.7 yards per game.
--Many NFL rookies not used to a 16-game season
spread over 17 weeks hit "the wall." Bills' top pick Marcell Dareus,
however, seems to be getting stronger and should make several NFL
All-Rookie teams. "It doesn't seem like he's hit the wall and he's
battling some being beat up a little," coach Chan Gailey said. "He's
battling a couple of things so that's been impressive."
--Veteran LB Chris Kelsay's big game
against Denver got better this week when the NFL awarded him a second
sack, giving him a career-high three for a single game. His 30.5 sacks
are 10th most in club history. The extra sack was awarded when what was
initially ruled an interception that Spencer Johnson returned for a TD
was ruled a sack/forced fumble by Kelsay and fumble returned for a
touchdown. Buffalo's takeaways have come in bunches this year.
"It's frustrating when you lose an the way we've
dropped several games in a row," Kelsay said. "Our coaching staff, all
the players, put in a lot of time. I can speak for everybody in that
room, this game, this means a ton to us so when you're not rewarded for
that effort it's easy to get down. But the character of this team is
the exact opposite of that. We came together and we're going to
continue to work."
--Brandon Coutu, who has never kicked in an NFL
game, will be the Bills kicker Sunday in New England. He replaces free
agent Dave Rayner (pelvis) who had replaced Rian Lindell (shoulder).
The Bills gave no reason for placing Rayner on injured reserve
Wednesday, but he had been dealing with a sore pelvis. He was 4 of 6 on
field-goal attempts in Saturday's win over Denver and was 10 of 15
overall for Buffalo. Coutu was most recently on the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad. He was a seventh-round pick of Seattle in 2008.
--Veteran safety and team captain George Wilson
has been named the Bills' 2011 Walter Payton Man of the Year. He was
also selected in 2009. The prestigious award began in 1970 and honors
players who demonstrate outstanding balance in their lives between
civic and professional responsibilities. It's named for the late and
great Chicago Bears running back. Wilson leads the Bills with four
interceptions and is second in tackles with 96 despite missing three
games with a neck stinger. In the community, his charity work is
extensive, including efforts to help youth become physically fit,
acting as spokesperson for the Bills Play 60 Campaign. Wilson will
receive $1,000 for the charity of his choice from NFL Charities and is
eligible for the league-wide NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year honor.
Other Bills honored with the award include Fred Jackson, Lee Evans,
Drew Bledsoe, Jim Kelly, Jerry Butler, Ted Washington, London Fletcher,
Ruben Brown and Brian Moorman.
BY THE NUMBERS: 17 -- Number of players to record
a pass reception this season, a new club record.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Yeah, it was good. You kind of
forget the feeling because it's been so long. It was just good, just
good for us moving forward, to build that confident, to know we can
still do this. We can still play like that if everybody plays up to
their capabilities." -- FS Jairus Byrd after the Bills snapped a
seven-game losing streak with a 40-14 victory over Denver.
More Bills news at: Buffalo
Bills Could Sweep New England?
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