Patriots @ Bills: A Primer

Patriots (3-2) @ Bills (3-2) – Week 6 – FOX – TSH/98.5 – 1PM

Sunday will mark the 109th meeting between the New England Patriots and the Buffalo Bills. The two teams began playing a home-and-home series in 1960 as AFL rivals, with the Patriots now holding a 66-41-1 advantage all-time and a dominant 25-3 record in the Bill Belichick Era (2000-present). The Patriots’ last loss at Buffalo came Sept. 25, 2011, when Tom Brady’s four interceptions ‒ one returned for a touchdown by Drayton Florence ‒ fueled a 17-point fourth quarter 34-31 comeback victory for the Bills. Buffalo’s other two victories against Belichick were a 16-13 overtime loss on Nov. 5, 2000, and the famous “they hate their coach” game on Sept. 7, 2003, a 31-0 thrashing by the Bills. Last season the Patriots barely escaped Ralph Wilson Stadium with a 23-21 win, needing a field goal from Stephen Gostkowski with five seconds remaining to steal a narrow victory.

This contest will mark the first meeting of the clubs since the passing of the Bills’ owner, Ralph Wilson Jr., a founding member of the AFL and a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee (speech-video link). Wilson was football in Buffalo for five decades; without him, the Oakland Raiders and Al Davis might have gone out of business in the AFL’s early days. Davis later described Wilson as the “conscience” of the NFL, adding, “His steadfast loyalty to Buffalo is undeniable. He’s worn the colors of Buffalo with pride and poise and class. He’s the star among stars. When he got up, you knew he was speaking from a small market, he was speaking for the good of the league.”

The Bills and Patriots became the first AFL teams to ever meet on the field when they played the league’s preseason opener on July 30, 1960 at War Memorial Stadium in Buffalo, with the Patriots prevailing 28-7. Games throughout the 1960s featured Buffalo’s future U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate Jack Kemp along with  New England legend and HOW-ISN’T-HE-IN-THE-HALL-OF-FAME-er Gino Cappelletti.

The 2014 Bills have already changed quarterbacks, with the struggling E.J. Manuel taking a seat and journeyman Kyle Orton starting in Week 5. Rookie wide receiver Sammy Watkins endorsed the move; when a first-year WR is throwing his second-year QB under the bus, it says great things about the future. Buffalo’s defense ranks 10th in fewest total yards allowed per game but 24th in points allowed per game. Former Patriots middle linebacker Brandon Spikes has helped Buffalo rank third in fewest rushing yards allowed per game (71.5) through four weeks. Hopefully Spikes is happier in Buffalo after his emancipation in the offseason.

Tom Brady has greatly enjoyed playing against Buffalo over his career, posting a 64.2% completion percentage with 54 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He’s punted just twice in his career, one of them a 32-yarder in the 2013 regular season finale. With a 22-2 career W-L record against the Bills, Brady has earned more victories against Buffalo than he has against any other opponent, and his .917 winning percentage is higher than against any other team he’s faced at least 10 times.

The NFL’s new broadcasting scheme has this game appearing on FOX with a 1 PM kickoff. To bring more variety to the networks’ schedules, certain games are now crossing the traditional conference affiliations (CBS = AFC, FOX = NFC) and delivering new matchups to viewers. Booth assignments for the Sunday game have not yet been announced but one of the mid-table crews figures to get the call.

Inside The Pylon will have the Patriots Passing Preview and Patriots Running Preview on Thursday, and the Know Your Enemy previews of Buffalo’s offense and defense on Saturday.

Follow David on Twitter @SoSH_davemc.

David R. McCullough is the Editor-in-Chief of Inside the Pylon. He also writes about the topicsshaping the sport, examines the coaches and players, ruminates on football’s past, and explores the controversial issues facing the game.

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