The Buffalo Bills’ blowout win in Week 1 turned some heads, and
a stirring comeback last weekend left them among the league’s seven
Any kind of victory Sunday would take the buzz to a whole new
The upstart Bills will face the ultimate early test when they
try to avoid a 16th straight loss to the New England Patriots, who
visit western New York for a showdown between the AFC’s
Coming off a 4-12 season that extended its playoff drought to 11
years, Buffalo (2-0) is surely the most surprising of the three AFC
East teams yet to lose.
After steamrolling Kansas City 41-7 in their season opener, the
Bills rallied from a 21-3 halftime deficit last Sunday and beat
Oakland 38-35 on Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 6-yard, fourth-down touchdown
pass to David Nelson with 14 seconds left.
As happy as the Bills are to start 2-0 for only the second time
in eight seasons, wide receiver Stevie Johnson knows they have a
chance to make an even bigger statement against the Patriots
“If we want to change things around here, this is where we’ve
got to start,” Johnson said. “We know that they’re the team above,
but we feel like we can go out there and beat these guys.”
That’s something the Bills haven’t done since a stunning 31-0
win Sept. 7, 2003. Although they challenged New England in a 38-30
road loss last Sept. 26, the NFL’s longest active streak in any
series stretched to 15 with the Patriots’ 34-3 win in Orchard Park,
N.Y., on Dec. 26.
Fitzpatrick had major problems in that game with three
interceptions and two of the Bills’ four lost fumbles, but he’s
turned the ball over just once this year. He’s completed 63.4
percent of his passes and thrown for seven TDs while getting plenty
of help from Fred Jackson, the NFL’s leading rusher with 229
“This is a new Buffalo Bills team,” New England defensive tackle
Vince Wilfork said. “Looking at them on film, they’re making big
plays after big plays. They actually look pretty good. It’s no
smoke and mirrors with them.
“They’re the real deal.”
That’s certainly true of Tom Brady, on pace to throw for more
than 7,500 yards this season after two prolific performances.
The reigning NFL MVP posted a career-high 517 passing yards and
four TDs in a 38-24 win at Miami, then torched San Diego for 423
yards and three scores in last Sunday’s 35-21 victory.
Brady is 17-1 with a 103.0 passer rating against Buffalo.
“With Brady, it has to be one play at a time because he’s going
to make plays,” Bills defensive lineman Kyle Williams said. “If you
get caught up on junk that happened before, I think that’s when he
While the Patriots are third in the NFL with 73 points, the
Bills lead the way with 79, and they could post another big number
against New England’s 31st-ranked defense and banged-up
Safeties Josh Barrett and Patrick Chung and cornerback Leigh
Bodden are all battling thumb injuries. It’s possible all three
play Sunday, although it’s unclear which players will need
The status of rookie cornerback Ras-I Dowling (thigh) also is
uncertain after he left last Sunday’s win.
“It seems to be going around a little bit on the defensive
backs,” Barrett said. “You’re not in there thinking about it at
all, but just wrapping up (ball carriers), small stuff, that it can
hinder and inhibit you from doing.”
A knee injury will sideline Aaron Hernandez, who has combined
with fellow tight end Rob Gronkowski for 337 receiving yards and
five touchdowns. The Patriots also released Gronkowski’s brother
Dan, leaving Rob Gronkowski – who caught three touchdowns against
the Bills last year – as New England’s lone healthy tight end.
The Gronkowskis grew up in the Buffalo area.
A tight end also has made a major impact for Buffalo. Scott
Chandler had two touchdown catches against the Chiefs and one in
the fourth quarter last weekend.
He and Nelson may be asked to carry a heavier load after Roscoe
Parrish was placed on injured reserve with an ankle injury this
week. Parrish had 400 receiving yards in eight games last year,
including a season-high 83 at New England.
“He’s a big part of what we do and what we wanted to do,”
Fitzpatrick said. “That’s going to be hard for us.”
Not as hard, perhaps, as the challenge the Patriots pose.
“It’ll be a great test for us,” Jackson said. “It will be a good
way for us to establish ourselves as one of the best teams in the
league if we can go out and get this win this weekend.”