The injury-depleted Bills were able to piece together a four-game winning streak by playing hard and displaying a tremendous amount of heart. However, a team needs more than heart to beat the mighty Patriots. It would have been a nice story if the scrappy Bills could have slain the big, bad Patriots, kind of like a fairy tale. But heroes die in fairy tales all the time, and on Sunday night it was Goliath who squashed David like a bug, 56-10.
Ralph Wilson Stadium was buzzing in hopes that the beloved Bills would be the first team to upend the Patriots this season. The pregame atmosphere was electric. That electricity lasted until the third play of the game, when Randall Gay picked off J.P. Losman. From that point on, it was all New England, as the cheers from the Buffalo faithful quickly turned to boos as their team could do nothing to stop the Patriots onslaught.
"That was not a pleasant way to spend an evening," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "We ran into a buzz saw, and we didn't do anything to slow it down. We've watched them and we knew it could get out of hand, and that's what happened."
Bills fans in attendance were given towels prior to the game to twirl in naive excitement before the blowout got out of hand. They'd have been better served ending the misery early by throwing in those towels, or even waving them in submission rather than celebration. In boxing, this would have gone down as a TKO sometime in the second quarter.
"I thought the team was ready to go early," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said in his usual downplaying manner in regards to his team's ability to score on each of its five first-half possessions. "We were able to get on top and get off to a good start."
Added wide receiver Donte' Stallworth: "It was really just about trying to pick up where we left off. Period."
The Gay interception gave the visitors the ball at the Buffalo 13 following a return and a penalty. One play later, Laurence Maroney opened the scoring with a 6-yard touchdown run, his first of the season. Patriots defenders then forced a punt on their next round of downs, and Tom Brady and Co. wasted little time adding another score on a 43-yard touchdown to Randy Moss for a two-score lead midway through the first period.
Buffalo added a big play of its own on a 47-yard Losman-to-Roscoe Parrish touchdown on the next series. But that was as close as the game would get.
After what players described as a very difficult week of practice following their five-day bye break from work, New England took things to the Bills on both sides of the ball as if the return to game action were actually a relief.
"(Belichick) put us through a hell of a week physically and mentally," said Moss, who had a single-game team record four touchdown receptions, all in the first half. "For us to come out and put on a show like we did tonight means we're doing something right and everyone is buying what he's selling."
The Patriots are seeking perfection right now, although it's not exactly the undefeated perfection that much of the media scrutiny surrounding the team is focused on at this point.
"He didn't change his tune too often. It's just the way he coaches. There's never anything that's good enough," Brady said of Belichick's tough approach. "After a while you get sick of it. You know, 'Enough, Coach. We've taken beating after beating after beating.' A lot of if helps us prepare, and a lot of it helps us get our mind in the right frame of mind to go out there and play well each time."
If the Patriots players are taking "beating after beating" in practice, that's the only place it's happening these days. The Patriots scored on their first seven possessions in Buffalo. Moss was Brady's favorite target, with a game-high 10 receptions for 128 yards and the four scores. Brady completed 31 of 39 passes for 373 yards with five touchdowns. Overall the offense churned out 30 first downs, went a ridiculous 8-for-11 on third down (including a perfect 6-for-6 before the half) on the way to piling up 510 yards and the most points by a road team since 1973.
Brady got plenty of time to work against a Bills front that's recorded just nine sacks all year. He hit endless open receivers and at times seemed to be picking between any number of viable offensive options. Five players caught at least three passes for at least 43 yards.
"You just try to pick your one-on-one matchups and hope your guy gets open," Brady said of the deadly passing attack. "Ben (Watson) did that quite a few times. Wes (Welker) did that. Jabar (Gaffney) did that. It's kind of like playing point guard. Just distribute the ball without forcing it, like I did a few times against Indianapolis."
After a tough week of practice at the hands of Belichick, the Patriots picked up where they'd left off heading into the bye to become just the 18th team in NFL history to start a season 10-0.
"That's his job," Hobbs said of the tough love from Belichick. "He tells us all the time that he holds us to a higher accountability. He doesn't want us to go out there and just play knowing that we're good. He wants us to go out there and play with a hunger and a sense of proving a point, leaving no doubt in everyone's mind when we go out there and play that they saw our best."
The entire country got a chance to see the Patriots' best Sunday night in Buffalo, and so did the Bills. The second-place team in the AFC East found out just how great the divide is right now between the Patriots and everyone else.