Playoff hopes come to crashing end in second loss to Pats.
by Steve Saslow
Dec. 8, 2002
The Bills came into Bledsoe Bowl II set on revenging the loss in Buffalo last month. They left the new Gillette Stadium with their season basically over. The Patriots scored two touchdowns in 21 seconds late in the first quarter and never looked back as they beat the Bills 27-17. The victory gave legs to the Patriots playoff hopes and ended the Bills hopes as they fell to 6-7 on the season.
The game went bad for the Bills from the first play from scrimmage when Tom Brady hit rookie Deion Branch for 41 yards. The drive stalled and they had to settle for an Adam Vinatieri field goal and a 3-0 lead. The Bills moved the ball a bit but had to punt on their next possession.
The Patriots smelled blood and walked down the field 86 yards in 8 plays to a 10 yard touchdown pass to David Patten on a wide receiver screen giving the Patriots a 10-0 lead. Drew Bledsoe then gift wrapped the game for New England in the spirit of Christmas as Bledsoe had a pass deflected by Anthony Pleasant and picked off by Richard Seymour and returned to the Bills nine yard line. Two plays later Donald Hayes burned Chris Watson for a score and just like that the Pats were up 17-0.
The Bills quickly marched down the field when a pass to Peerless Price went for 41 yards and set the Bills up on the Pats goal line. Travis Henry fumbled the next play but Mike Williams recovered. The next play, Bledsoe threw his worst pass as a Bill and was picked off by Tebucky Jones in the end zone ending the Bills threat. The Pats would use their short passing game to drive to a field goal and they took a 20-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.
Coach Gregg Williams seemed to lash into the players at the half and the Bills responded. They cut the Pats lead in half in the third quarter. Bledsoe led the Bills on a 13 play, 72 yard drive to the Pats 8. But on 4th and 1 the Bills inexplicitly settled for a field goal. After a rare three and out by the Pats offense the Bills drove 59 yards in 6 plays to an Eric Moulds touchdown as he beat Ty Law on the go pattern in the end zone.
The Pats clinched it in the fourth quarter after Otis Smith recovered a Price fumble. Seven plays later Antowain Smith scored from four yards out. The Bills would pull back to within 10 when an 88 yard drive ended in Moulds' second touchdown of the day in the final minute to give the game the final score of 17-7.
A disappointed day ended the Bills fleeting playoff hopes. In the grand scheme of things most fans would have accepted a 6-7 record after 13 games but the 5-3 start had fans dreaming of greater things. The fact is this team isn't good enough to be a playoff team but with another off season for Tom Donahoe to work with, the team may be one next year. The final three games will be a time to sort out who should be part of next season's revival and who shouldn't be.
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