Week 1: Bills Lose Tight One 19-17
Momentum changing fourth down run was the turning point.
by Steve Saslow
We all wanted the Bills to play well in this game and they did but a gutsy call may have cost them the game. With the Bills leading 17-7 and moving the football on the opening drive of the second half the game changed. On a fourth and one at the 6 they decided to go for a knockout blow and failed. Willis McGahee was stopped on a fourth down plunge that seemed to take an eternity to develop. That gave the Patriots momentum and they didn't turn back as they beat the Bills 19-17.
The Bills got off to as good a start as a team can to start the season. On the first play from scrimmage Takeo Spikes rushed in and hit Tom Brady forcing a fumble. London Fletcher picked it up and ran in for a touchdown :12 into the game. The Bills would build a 17-7 halftime lead thanks to a 53 yard Rian Lindell field goal and a 18 yard touchdown run by Anthony Thomas.
The defense played very well after the Patriots took their second possession 85 yards for a touchdown. They hunkered down and forced four straight punts and a kneel down to end the first half. The Bills would then move the ball right down the field 69 yards in 10 plays to the six before the ill fated fourth down play.
It was a gutsy call, if they made it and went in for the touchdown the Patriots may not have made the comeback. Not making it gave the Patriots new life and they dominated the rest of the game. They went 93 yards to Kevin Faulk's diving touchdown catch. Forced a three and out and went 63 yards to the tying field goal drive. The Bills would then give the Pats the lead as J.P. Losman would get sacked in the end zone for a safety that would prove to be the winning points.
Losman had moved the ball fairly well in the first half, he didn't make any mistakes in the game until the safety. He was also very accurate through the air but when the Patriots got the momentum he couldn't stem the tide. Earlier on Losman didn't make any mistakes and got rid of the ball when he had to until the safety. He had respectable stats going 15 for 23 for 164 yards with no scores or picks.
The Patriots domination finished with a fourth down plunge of their own on their final series to get the final first down to finish off the game. It turns out that the difference in this game may have been in the fourth down conversion stats. The Bills missed their attempt and the Pats hit both of their attempts. The final one didn't give the Bills a chance to comeback.
You can second guess Dick Jauron's fourth and one attempt but he was going for the kill against a much superior team. I liked the call at the time but not the play they ran. They were running the ball well and dominating the game, going for the jugular was the right move. The play was a slow developing handoff that took way too long to develop and it failed.
You kind of knew that was going to be the opening the sleep walking Patriots would need to comeback. Brady came alive after throwing for just 30 yards in the first half and moved the ball at will in the second half. Even a Donte Whitner interception didn't turn things back in the Bills favor. Key penalties and a fired up Patriots defense shutdown a Bills offense that moved the ball well in the first half.
It's a tough loss to take but to open up the season in New England as the biggest underdog of the day and almost winning is something for a young team, that is rebuilding and going nowhere, to build on. Losman took some steps forward and had his best half of play as a Bill in the first half. Unfortunately they looked like last year's team when trying to stop the run and wilted in the end of the game. The team did not get another first down after the failed fourth down play, although one was called back on a penalty by Robert Royal.
It's surprising in a loss to have so many more gameballs than goats but that is the case in this one. Here are our exclusive gameballs and goats from the Bills game against the Patriots: