The New England Patriots continued their winning ways in a hard fought 31-17 victory over divisional rival Buffalo Bills at Rich Stadium. The victory marked the Patriots eighteenth consecutive triumph going back to the 2003 Championship season.
Ron Borges of the Boston Globe takes a look at the key plays in the game.
Two plays. Two decisions. The difference between two teams.....Midway through the fourth quarter, with the Patriots leading, 24-17, Buffalo got the kind of break 0-2 teams pray for when facing undefeated, defending Super Bowl champions. David Givens fumbled as he was going down after a 12-yard reception and Bills linebacker London Fletcher scooped up the ball and returned it 33 yards to the 2-yard line. It was the kind of play that can revive a losing team, but Fletcher wasn't satisfied with making such a play....As Fletcher was falling he reached out with the ball, apparently hoping to get it across the goal line. Whether this was because he's grown to not trust his offense or it was a more selfish act is hard to know, but that over-reaching led to disastrous consequences when the ball came loose on a hit by Stephen Neal and rolled through the end zone.
Winless rookie coach Mike Mullarkey then pulled out an old playbook from the Doug Flutie days, and called a bootleg with the agile Bledsoe on fourth and 3 at the end of the game.
"We were going to fake it to Travis," Bledsoe said. "It had been there all day. They had not been paying any attention to me after the handoffs, so we thought the last thing they'd be expecting at that point would be to fake the run and boot it around the edge. I still really think it would have been there. There was nobody there."
Well, not exactly.
Henry ran into the wrong hole and Bruschi ignored him, not believing for a minute the Bills would hand it to him. Instead of coming off his fake and blocking Bruschi as he should have, Henry plowed ahead in the wrong direction as Bruschi ran right by him and straight into a shocked Bledsoe as he turned expecting to see a sea of green turf in front of him.
But Bruschi did not tackle him initially. Seeing the ball hanging from Bledsoe's hand, he swiped at it and knocked it loose. Then he tackled him, knowing this would allow one of his teammates a better chance to recover the ball while preventing the closest man to it, Bledsoe, from doing it.
Enter Richard Seymour, who bent over, scooped it up, and rumbled 68 yards for a touchdown that ended for good any illusion the Bills had of ending the streaking Patriots' non-streak at 17 straight victories.
Borges questioned Mularkey after the game about the curious play call.
And what kind of call was that in the first place? Fourth and 3 at the New England 17 and you're hoping to trick the Patriots? You're not trying to beat them with your best play? You're trying to outrun them with your worst runner? This is what passes for a good idea at that juncture of the game?
"I think it is, knowing what I know compared to what you know," Bills coach Mike Mularkey said, testily.
Click here to ask the winless coach your own question.
At the other end of the Boston Globe sportsdesk, Jersey Bob Ryan woke up from his nap after the Yankees game to offer this inane commentary.
This game was clear refutation of the Bill Parcells adage that says, "You are what your record says you are." The truth is that what you are at any given point in the season is a product of how you're playing, who you've been playing, and (sometimes) where you're playing. No Patriot could be foolish enough to believe they actually deserve to be 3-0.
Ryan then goes on to a familiar claim that the Patriots are a "lucky" team.
Among other things, the Patriots were aided by the rule book (Attention, Raiders: see, it's not just you). For whatever reason, if a man carrying the football (say, Buffalo linebacker London Fletcher, who had just picked up a fumble) is tackled on the other guy's 1-yard line, and if a foe (say, Patriots guard Stephen Neal) has just knocked the ball out of his hands and clear out of the end zone, the rule says it's a touchback, and not first-and-goal. Rather large difference. Rather key play, eh?
Ryan fails to tell you that the play was overturned when the Bills challenged the Givens reception, but that fact does not fit into the "lucky" Patriots canned theme of the day for this hack scribe.