Hyped Bledsoe Bowl turns into blowout.
by Steve Saslow
Nov. 4, 2002
This game was suppose to be the ultimate revenge for a player who was cast aside by his former team. It turned out that way but not for Drew Bledsoe but for the forgotten running back of the Patriots, Antowain Smith.
Smith scored three touchdowns and rang up 142 total yards as Patriots coach Bill Belichik came up with another perfect gameplan on both sides of the ball leading the Patriots to the rout of the Bills 38-7. On offense, the Patriots took advantage of the over pursuing nature of the Bills to beat them with many screen passes. The high percentage passes allowed Tom Brady to have the most efficient day in Patriots history with a QB rating of 154.1 as he completed 23 of 27 passes for 310 yards.
On defense, the Patriots constantly befuddled the Bills by not playing anybody in a three point stance, so the Bills offensive line didn't know where the pass rush was coming from. The Patriots sent their linebackers on many occasions at Bledsoe as he was sacked four times. He was also hurried on many other occasions and with the Pats sending four, and dropping seven in coverage there was rarely in open receiver. Bledsoe finished with 302 yards passing of his own but most of it was garbage time when he shouldn't have even been in the game anymore.
How bad was it? The loss is the biggest margin of defeat at home for the Bills since the Pats beat them 31-0 in 1983. The Patriots rolled up 422 yards in total offense and had a 17-0 lead midway through the second quarter. That took the Bills out of their gameplan to run the ball with Travis Henry. The Bills running back finished with just 11 carries for 53 yards, a nice 4.8 yard average but he didn't get enough opportunities because the Bills were playing from behind all game.
The Pats scored on their opening possession as they marched right down the field 68 yards on eight plays to a five yard scoring pass to Christain Fauria. The Bills answered with a drive of their own but Mike Hollis missed a 50 yard field goal short. It would be the first of three misses from the usually reliable kicker on this day. The Patriots would score on Smith's first touchdown, a 13 yard reception from Brady as Smith showed Bills fans he could catch passes with five receptions, two for scores. An Adam Vinatieri field goal from 46 yards out gave the Patriots the 17 point lead that proved insurmountable.
The Bills scored their lone touchdown right before halftime as Bledsoe found the only productive Bill on this day, Peerless Price, for a 1 foot touchdown pass with :10 to go before the half to pull the Bills to within 17-7. The Bills had the ball first in the second half and could've mounted a comeback as they moved the ball to the Pats 32, but on a 4th and 2 play, Coach Williams surprisingly decided to punt. The 15 yard net punt showed the Patriots that the Bills were a beaten team on this day, as Williams had no confidence that his high powered offense could gain two measly yards against the superior coaching of Belichik. The game was over at that point and the Patriots marched 83 yards in eight plays to a 45 yard touchdown pass from Brady to Kevin Faulk on one of the many pesky screen passes that worked all day long.
With a 24-7 lead midway through the third quarter and the Bills with no answers offensively the huge crowd of over 73,000 knew it was over. Smith added his second and third touchdowns to pour salt on the open wound that gave the game the final score of 38-7 early in the fourth quarter. The only fans the Bills deserved to see in the seats at the end were the many Patriot fans that made the trip across the thruway for the game. They stayed to the end as the Bills fans left early to chants that should have only been heard in Boston. At least the Bills fans showed up for most of the game that is more than could be said about the players.
The team was suppose to rally around their leader and win a big game for him, the fact is, the Patriots rallied around Belichik and Brady and wanted it more as they were a desperate team that needed the win more. The Bills head into what will now be a long bye week with the worst loss of the Gregg Williams era. The big picture shows the Bills still ahead of schedule at 5-4 and still in the division race. This loss just makes it a three team race, while a victory could have buried the defending champions. What it does show, is depsite a lot of progress the Bills have a long way to go to be true contenders.
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