So it’s come to this. One last game, to end another disappointing Bills season.
And wouldn’t you know it, it’s against the Patriots. In Foxborough. Oh boy.
The Pats are playing for home field advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Bills are playing for pride.
The Pats are still angry about the Bills beating them at the Ralph in September. They just expect to beat the Bills every time.
The Bills are coming off an honest-to-goodness win….an emotional and entertaining one at that.
Brady may not be 100%, but the Bills are more banged up.
So the big question is what to expect. Do the Bills have anything left in the tank? Even if they do, will it be enough to actually sweep the season series against the Pats? Or at least keep it close? And would that be enough to give them some decent momentum ending the season…..something to build on for next year?
That would be enough for me, after the way this season went from hopeful to hopeless.
As long as they don’t turn in another “run for the bus” effort, like they’ve done so many times at the end of a disappointing or downright awful season. Including the last time they ended the season at Foxborough. Here are a just a couple examples of Bills sad season enders.
January 2, 2011: New York Jets 38, Bills 7
Let’s hope Chan Gailey does a better job in his second season finale than he did in his first. Remember how the Bills turned things around after starting last year 0-8? Remember how they won four of the last eight games? Except they ended the season badly. Really badly. They lost to the Pats 34-3 in week 16, and then went to New Jersey to play the Jets in the finale. The Jets had clinched their playoff spot so they rested a bunch of starters and pulled Mark Sanchez after only nine plays (all runs). But it didn’t matter. 114-year-old backup QB Mark Brunell threw for a pair of touchdowns, some guy named Joe McKnight ran for a career-high 158 yards, the Jets defense was dominant (of course, Brian Brohm was the Bills’ QB, so domination came fairly easy) and the Bills just plain ran out of gas, and ended their season with a serious butt-kicking.
December 27, 2003: New England 31, Bills 0
There were a lot of similarities between the Bills 2003 season and this year. For one thing, 2003 was the last time the Bills beat the Patriots before snapping their 15-game losing streak this year. We all remember that sensational 2003 season-opener when the Bills intercepted Tom Brady four times, Drew Bledsoe was still good, and the Bills won the game 31-0. But by the end of the season the Pats were good, the Bills were bad, and the season ended in a complete reversal of the opener. The Pats stomped the Bills by the exact same 31-0 score. Instead of four picks, Brady threw four touchdown passes. In the first half. This time, the Bills had four turnovers. Including an interception of Travis Brown in the end zone with 13 seconds left to preserve the shutout. The Bills would close the season with a three-game losing streak. The loss to the Pats would be Gregg Williams’ last game as Bills coach. So at least one good thing did come out of this game.
December 16, 1984: Cincinnati 52, Bills 21
There’s actually one good thing to say about this game. The 52 points that the Bills gave up WASN’T THEIR WORST SEASON FINALE EVER. More on that in a moment. We’re Bills fans….we need to look at the positive whenever we can. And there weren’t very many positives in the mid 80’s. The 1984 & 85 teams may have been the worst teams in Bills history. Which is saying a lot, considering two other times the Bills finished with only one win. These two teams finished 2-14. Looking back on it, that’s amazing….two consecutive years with only two wins. No offense….the 1985 team only scored 200 points in 16 games. The 1984 team did a little better (250 points) but was horrendous on defense, giving up a whopping 454 points, the worst in team history. And the season finale pretty much summed it all up. For one thing, Joe Dufek played quarterback for the Bills that day. That’s probably all you need to know. But here’s more. The Bengals intercepted him twice, and returned both of them for touchdowns. Ken Anderson threw three touchdown passes, Cincinnati ran for two more scores…..but it could have been an even worse blowout, except the Bills got a late touchdown on a one-yard run by Greg Bell, to “only” lose by 31 points.
Dec 12, 1976: Baltimore 58, Bills 20
Here’s the only season finale worse than the Bengals game in 1984. Actually, it’s worse than that. The Bills gave up THE MOST POINTS in any game in team history. How’s that for a great way to go into the offseason?
The 1976 season started out with optimism….the Bills had made the playoffs in 1974, and were a decent 8-6 team in 1975. But Lou Saban quit five games into this season, Joe Ferguson was injured and missed the last half of the season…..and the Bills lost the last 10 games to finish 2-12. And you know the saying about the backup quarterback always being the most popular player on the team? Back then, fans had a love-hate relationship with Fergy, and really liked backup Gary Marangi. Until he became the starter. And completed about only about a third of his passes. And threw more than twice as many interceptions as touchdown passes. Then we loved Ferguson again. The Bills were actually fairly competitive in most of their losses, but it all went south on the last day of the season in Baltimore. Even though OJ had a pretty good day (171 yards) the Bills lost four fumbles, one of which was returned for a touchdown…..Bert Jones threw for three touchdowns….the Colts ran for three more scores…..and the Bills ran for the bus. Which set the stage for a 1977 season that wasn’t much better, only 3-11. But Chuck Knox was hired in 1978, and things got better for a while.
December 1, 1969: San Diego 45, Bills 6
This is how it all started. The first season-ending blowout loss in Bills history. The Bills weren’t very good in the late 60’s. They were great in the mid 60’s…winning the AFL title in 1964 & 65, then losing the AFL title game to the Chiefs in 1966…..but then the wheels started coming off the bus. Lou Saban was gone, great players were gone or got hurt or just got old….and the Bills won only four games in 1967 and only one in 1968. But there was hope in 1969. We had OJ. We had a new coach, John Rauch, who had won an AFL championship with the Raiders. But the Bills still only won four games. And some of the losses were pretty bad. That was the year they lost to the Raiders, 50-19, when Daryle Lamonica threw six touchdown passes. In the first half. So they were a pretty discouraged bunch when they went to San Diego for the season finale. And it showed. The Chargers scored early and often. They actually led the game 45-0, but the Bills got a fourth-quarter touchdown, so it was just a blowout, not a shutout. (they missed the extra point, which was the perfect capper on the game) By the way, this was Jack Kemp’s last game as a Bill.
January 1, 2012: ????
Which brings us back to this season. What can we expect at Gilette Stadium? Brady has a bum shoulder (Hear that, Bills defense? Maybe we could sack him a couple times, or just hit him?) but there’s nothing wrong with his throwing arm. He doesn’t need many yards to hit 5,000 for the season. For that matter, he doesn’t need many to join Drew Brees in breaking Dan Marino’s record. Wouldn’t that be great? The quarterback we hate breaking the record set by the quarterback we used to hate, and doing it against us. Let’s just hope Brees gets enough yards Sunday to stay ahead of Brady. But let’s get back to the game itself. Can Chan be creative enough with what’s left of the Bills offense to do well against a pretty bad Patriots defense? Can CJ run like OJ? Can Fitz prove the contract extension was worth it? Can the Bills defense play at least a fairly decent game against Brady? How about some interceptions? Some sacks? How about not missing tackles and not making stupid mistakes?
We know the Patriots have a lot to play for. We know they’ll be motivated.
Will the Bills show up for the game? Will we be encouraged, or will we be embarrassed?
The team bus will be parked outside the stadium. Walk to it guys, don’t run.