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Another Loss To Brady
Only One Team is Executing
by Tony Bogyo
November 1, 2016

Welcome to a familiar place, Bills fans – the loss to New England. No, not the one you knew we were going to lose, the one part of you actually went in thinking ‘we can win this game – we’re ready’. Usually this is the first matchup of the season, but due to an earlier win over the team featuring their third string quarterback the “hopefully optimistic” game was moved to the second game of the series.

Every year the Bills head into a matchup with New England – a regular season bout with Tom Brady at the helm in a meaningful game – and fans believe the Bills are up to the challenge and have a realistic chance of being victorious. This is the “next step game” – the one that will show the world that the Rodney Dangerfield Buffalo Bills will get some respect as a team ready to take the next step and become a contender.

Sadly, we never learn from our history. Since Tom Brady has been the starting quarterback in New England and actually played, no AFC East rival has beaten the Patriots twice in the same regular season. Additionally, Buffalo has only managed to beat a Brady-lead team three times in a meaningful game. In short, the odds have never been with the Bills.

OK, so maybe you didn’t expect the Bills to win, but you have to admit that you probably thought there was a chance it could happen (maybe you stopped expecting years ago). And then they played the game, Buffalo was dominated and all their deficiencies laid bare, and here you are again as a fan – depressed and wondering when anything is going to change (and probably counting the days until Brady’s retirement).

After a very rare week four win in Foxboro (and a shutout at that!), there was some optimism for the Bills. Admit it or not, you probably dared to dream about a second win and an AFC East title. Then came the news that LeSean McCoy was likely out with a bum hamstring, Robert Woods was not healthy and Aaron Williams was still sideline after a cheap shot hit in Miami. The Bills have a more talented team than they’ve had in a while, but depth is always an issue.

And so the game teams met on New Era Field, and the predictable results showed the name to be a misnomer. I’m tempted to write a generic account of the game so that I can reuse this article in future years. The dates and player names change a bit from year to year, but the issues and results remain the same.

It’s been forever since Buffalo had a top offense, so the game plan against New England is always the same – play great defense, run the ball and keep it out of Brady’s hands, don’t make mistakes and capitalize on every opportunity and you might, just might pull out a win. If the defense can generate some turnovers that will make everything easier.

This game wasn’t even close if you look at the final score or you watched it in person or on TV. At no point did I feel that the Bills were in a good position to hold onto a lead, take a lead or manage to come back on a team that was running away with it. This, I believe, illustrates perfectly how New England just seems to take advantage of their opportunities and make things count, while the Bills do not – it’s the difference between playing a game and winning one handily.

Look at the statistics and you won’t see a lopsided contest, except if you look at the score. Total yards of offense were very close – the Bills actually had 376 to New England’s 357. Buffalo had 25 first downs, the Patriots had 23. Neither team turned the ball over, so no advantage there. Buffalo had more yards rushing (167) and New England had more yards passing (285) – shocker. Time of possession was almost equal – Buffalo held the ball nine seconds longer than Brady and company. The Bills had a miserable day with penalties – 12 for 84 yards, but so did New England – 10 for 166 yards. So why wasn’t this game close?

The difference between New England and Buffalo is what it always is – New England makes the plays they need to make consistently, the Bills do not. New England had four trips to the red zone and scored three touchdowns and a field goal. Buffalo also had four trips to the red zone, but came away with two touchdowns, a field goal and a drive that ended on downs. So New England comes out a touchdown ahead, right? Well, in addition to the points they scored in the red zone, New England also tacked on two touchdowns and a field goal without ever advancing to the red zone – Buffalo had a single touchdown from outside the New England 20-yard line. A touchdown here and there and suddenly you’re talking real points.

Defensively, the Bills played a decent game – they weren’t blown out statistically, but Brady had not one but two 53-yard touchdown throws – ouch. The Bills generally had good pressure on the Patriots signal caller, but as usual he was deadly in finding any receiver not blanketed in coverage and keeping the chains moving. In the first quarter alone the Bills allowed New England to convert all five of their third down opportunities and that resulted in two touchdowns. The Bills were one of four in third downs for the quarter and came away with a lone field goal - now the final score is starting to make sense.

And so it went for the afternoon. The Bills secondary played a particularly poor game, but that’s what happens when you play Tom Brady – he usually makes you look silly. I’m not convinced the unit played any worse than they did in the first meeting – the difference is that Brady finds the open man and makes the play just about every time, while earlier Jacoby Brissett would take a sack or throw an incompletion. Instead of giving up 0 points the Bills gave up 41. Stephon Gilmore has just about played himself out of any sort of contract – if I were him I’d find a way to go on IR because every game he plays his next paycheck seems to get smaller and smaller (maybe fake a chronic case of restless leg syndrome?).

Offensively, the Bills ran pretty well, but there is a drop-off between McCoy and Mike Gillislee. Tyrod Taylor only completed half of his passes and failed to break 200 yards, but he did make some plays with his feet, including a nice 26 yard touchdown run. Sadly, we have yet to See Taylor grab the reins late in a game and drive the team to a win – he’s just not that guy. You can’t blame this loss on Taylor, but you also can’t point to any heroics, even if he was given ample opportunities to be a hero.

And so here we are again, the midpoint of the season, sitting at .500 – just like almost any other year. New England is going to win the division, Buffalo will be listed on the “in the hunt” playoff graphic on and off through the rest of the season, but they’ll always be a longshot until December when they are out of it. When that happens we’ll sit down to do some soul-searching about how they could have lost to a bunch of AFC teams that only won a handful of games – woulda, coulda, shoulda (on the bright side, it does help free up some time on the weekends to prepare for the holiday season).

So until this time next year, when your heart gives the Bills a chance to beat Brady, it’s time to come back to earth with this team, realize that for a whole host of reasons they are a .500 team – again. Maybe they’ll get lucky and not lose a bunch of key players to injury next year. Maybe they’ll find some gems in the draft or the offseason. Maybe they will have a quarterback capable of being a hero when needed. Maybe they’ll get really lucky and Tom Brady will retire to California – if he does, the Bills should send him a really nice flower arrangement.

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