You couldn't have wrote a better script if you tried. The Bills knew that this opening day battle was a little more important than most. They knew they needed to get the Bill Belichick monkey off their backs. They spent millions in the offseason on new defensive players, including the late signing of Lawyer Milloy, how would they respond on the field? The new look defense was actually even better than advertised. Milloy, Takeo Spikes, and Sam Adams played huge roles as the Bills recorded their first shutout in four years and first opening day shutout since 1981. The defense was so fired up that they fought to the last play to keep New England off the scoreboard by successfully finished their second goal line stand in the final seconds of the 31-0 whitewash of the Patriots.
The sun drenched crowd of 73,262 were fired up for this one and the hometown boys didn't disappoint. Drew Bledsoe knew that a fast start was imperative because falling behind was the biggest reason for the two blowouts by New England last year. He delivered by taking the offense 80 yards in nine plays on the opening possession and 90 yards in 15 plays on their second possession to open up a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter and they never looked back. The opening drive was keyed by two third down conversions by Bobby Shaw, who may move up the depth chart with more performances like this and more struggles by Josh Reed. A pass interference penalty by Ty Law put the ball on the one and Travis Henry put it home. On the second series the Bills actually punted but a holding penalty on the Pats gave the Bills an automatic first down and a second chance for the offense. A 24 yard screen pass to Sammy Morris, who played well in the third down role, setup Bledsoe's first touchdown pass of the year. A 7 yarder to Dave Moore who did not start at tight end because of a hand injury but made his only catch of the day count.
The defense armed with an early lead went into aggressive mode shutting down the Patriots totally. They went three and out their first two possessions and after actually forcing the Bills to punt on their third possession, the defense put the game away before the halftime ceremony to honor Joe DeLamielleure. Using the zone blitz scheme mastered by assistant coach Dick LeBeau the Bills confused Tom Brady. Spikes blitzed while Adams dropped his 340+ frame into coverage. He showed athleticism and footwork as he stepped in front of the screen pass and then showed some speed by rumbling down the sideline for the score led by a nice block from Aaron Schobel and a 21-0 lead.
It was over from that point on as the Patriots seemed to be demoralized team from the outset when the Bills announced the starting defensive unit and saved Spikes and then Milloy for last. There was some question to whether or not Milloy would play with just one practice and a walkthrough under his belt. There was no question in his mind, he was announced as the starter and played every play but one in the first three quarters. Not only did he play but he played well making plays that turned him into one of the best safeties in the league. On one play he closed the gap fast on a pass in the end zone got his hand on the ball and deflected it to Nate Clements for a nice diving interception.
Oh yeah, remember that word, interception? It was back in the vocabulary of the Bills defense, after only 19 takeaways last year they pulled in four interceptions including Clements and Adams picks, Spikes had two in his Bills debut and more importantly they were turned into points. Both second half scores were setup by Spikes picks. His first resulted in a 54 yard touchdown drive in six plays as Henry scored for the second time in the afternoon on a nine yard run. This drive was also aided by a New England pass interference penalty. The Bills closed out the scoring with a 44 yard Rian Lindell field goal after Spikes second pick to give the game the final score of 31-0.
The defense did not let up no matter how much of a rout this game became. They already made a statement but they wanted to make a bigger statement and that was a shutout. They stuffed New England on the goal line on thier last possession to preserve the shutout.
You couldn't have asked for anything else form the team in this opener. It was a nearly perfect effort, the next trick is doing it constantly, they won't all be this easy but it was a hell of a way to start the season. Noboby could have imagined everything would fall into place for a hollywood scripted blowout of their arch rivals. The team had the right attitude in the locker room after the game, talking about mistakes to fix, not glowing in the victory. There were a few, Reed's drops, 10 penalties for 119 yards, another Henry fumble and an interception by Bledsoe. There was also a bad snap that took the Bills out of field goal range. Those are things to fix, but on the whole, it was as perfect a victory as they come. Now comes Jacksonville next, a letdown needs to be avoided at all cost because it is a long season, and it won't always be as easy as it was on Sunday. In fact, it may never be that easy again all year long.
Here are our exclusive gameballs and goats as well as a hard choice for player of the week. As you would expect, there are many more gameballs then goats: