The Buffalo Bills, missing their starting quarterback, backup quarterback and starting running back are just days away from taking on the Las Vegas odds-on favorite to win the Superbowl. Double digit underdogs even before losing Jeff Garcia, Buffalo fans brace for what looks to be a beating of biblical proportions. Looking to boost the fan base, the Buffalo News issues a rallying cry -“It’s always darkest before the dawn”.
Wonderful. Thanks for the pep talk, guys.
Dick Jauron, oblivious to everything, including popular opinion, is unfazed. “We should be able to cover the spread. ”
But coach, your punter is your backup quarterback. Aren’t you the least bit worried?
“Look, we lost Trent Edwards and Jeff Garcia. They aren’t exactly Jim Kelly and Frank Reich. I’m expecting Ryan to be able to hand the ball off effectively. We’ve been practicing our goal line sets all week. We’ll be able to protect him long enough to get the ball to Fred Jackson.”
A Dick Jauron speech will never wake up the echoes, but it’s hard to argue with the game plan.
Predictably, the Bills lose the coin toss. New England elects to receive.
With the Bills run defense holding tough, New England needs 15 plays to march down the field for the opening touchdown. Some would call it workmanlike, others methodical. I opted for completely frustrating. Tom Brady was hit, hurried, in the grasp yet was still able to hit a double covered Wes Welker for a first down on four separate occasions.
After the ensuing kickoff, Chris Collinsworth remarks, “The last thing the Bills need after a drive like that is a three and out. It really puts pressure on the defense.”
No Chris, I beg to differ. The last thing the Bills need is two rushes for no gain, followed by Jerrod Mayo intercepting Fitzpatrick on the 18 yard line.
Two running plays on the next two downs, the Patriots now face third and one from the two yard line. Lined up in a pro set, New England fakes the hand off.
“Play Pass! Play Pass! Get Him!!!”
In what feels like agonizingly slow motion, I notice that Wes Welker is wide open in the back left corner of the end zone.
“Oh, you guys suck.”
Visions of hitting the reset button and pretending I didn’t start the game yet enter my head when Paul Posluszny jumps the route, intercepts the ball and starts streaking down the field!
106 yard touchdown. The Bills tie the game 7-7. Suck it Collinsworth.
On the next possession, the Brady and Welker combination continue to chew up field position and the game clock. Buffalo holds New England to a field goal as the first quarter expires.
Statistics after one quarter
Brady: 10-14 135 yards, 1 TD
Buffalo offense: 9 yards rushing, 0 yards passing, 0 TD
Paul Posluszny: 106 yards, 1 TD
After another three and out, capped off by Fitzpatrick overthrowing a wide open TE by 25 yards, Dick Jauron gathers his defense together for a pep talk.
“Men, I’ve found the perfect defense to stop Tom Brady.”
Great coach, what is it?
“Hit him after the whistle repeatedly until he gets injured.”
Umm, coach… we were hoping for a real defensive scheme. Like cover 2, or some sort of combo blitz.
“No, you guys suck. He’s got 200 yards and we’re not even at halftime yet. Hit him after the whistle. Make sure you use the truck stick.”
Ok, coach. Whatever you say.
Out of the timeout, Buffalo calls a kitchen sink blitz. Goal line set, send 11 guys, hope for the best. The kitchen sink blitz won’t work against a human opponent, they’ll just toss it to any of the five wide open receivers. However, every once in a while you can catch the computer off guard and get the sack. I didn’t need a sack, I just needed to injure Tom Brady. At this point, I was willing to risk a touchdawn to do so.
DT Marcus Stroud performs a swim move on the center and barrels down on Brady. DE Kelsay jumps to deflect the pass. Undeterred by the whistle, Stroud continues to pile-drive Brady to the turf. Two whistles and four flags follow closely behind. 5 yards offsides defense, 15 yard penalty for roughing the passer. New England chooses to accept the roughing the passer penalty.
“Uh oh. It looks like we’ve got an injured player on the field, and it doesn’t look good.”
Tom Brady is carried off the field in a stretcher, and thousands of fans gasp in horror. In trots Brian Hoyer. Brian Hoyer? Ryan Fitzpatrick suddenly doesn’t look so bad.
The remainder of the series goes: Incomplete, incomplete, incomplete, punt.
After the punt, a rejuvenated Buffalo Bills team lines up in a goal line formation, and runs off tackle 12 times in a row. The drive is capped off with a halfback dive by someone named Xavier Omon for the go ahead touchdown. Bills lead 14-10.
Buffalo and New England exchange punts for the remainder of the half.
Key Half Time Statistics
New England: 323 total yards of offense.
Buffalo: 126 total yards of offense (28 passing yards).
Paul Posluszny: 106 yards, 1 TD.
After the half time fireworks clear, Buffalo receives the kickoff and takes a knee in the end zone. Two rushes up the middle were met with little success, and Buffalo faces third and 6. Jauron opts for a play action pass. Sack. 13 yard loss. 14 rushes in a row, and Buffalo still hasn’t established the run enough to allow Fitzpatrick time to pass.
Buffalo and New England exchange punts one more time, and nearing the end of the third quarter, Buffalo has the ball first and goal from the seven after a long run by Fred Jackson.
Time for the play action pass? You betcha. Sack. Loss of 8 yards.
Fitzpatrick tries a different approach. To slow down New England’s relentless pash rush, he audibles into shotgun formation and uses a hard count.
Ensuing play, another hard count.
Second and goal from the twenty five yard line, Jauron orders two runs up the middle to establish the field goal. The third quarter ends, 17-10 Buffalo.
A low rumble can be heard running through the bleachers. The low rumble is quickly whipped into a frenzy as Thomas Edward Brady, Jr. steps onto the field. Thomas Edward Brady, Jr. has won three super bowls, owns three quarters of the NFL passing records, has engineered at least 236 fourth quarter comebacks and will not let a minor concussion stand in his way.
Thomas Edward Brady, Jr. drops back to pass.
The crowd goes silent.
Randy Moss is coming open down the far sideline.
Aaron Schoebel is bearing down on Brady.
Thomas Edward Brady, Jr. releases.
The pass is tipped! Aaron Maybin comes down with the interception on the 23 yard line. The Bills recover with excellent field position.
A run by Fred Jackson places the ball on the 15. Jauron calls play action pass.
“Coach, seriously? Are you crazy?!?”
“Crazy like a fox.”
“I don’t like this one bit.”
Fitzpatrick fakes the hand off, and blindly throws to T.O. in the corner. Touchdown. 23-10. Collinsworth calls that “a dangerous pass” and that the “quarterback is not afraid to throw it in there”. Replays show that T.O. was in triple coverage, but was able to leap 12 feet in the air for the circus catch.
Not to be outdone, the New England Patriots block the extra point.
In the end, it did not matter. Buffalo successfully defended a fourth and 10 and Fred Jackson followed up with an 86 yard touchdown run. Buffalo wins 29-10.
Tom Brady: 30-44, 266 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
Wes Welker: 13 catches, 132 yards, 1 TD
Randy Moss: 7 catches, 66 yards
Sammy Morris: 18 rushes, 43 yards
Ryan Fitzpatrick: 7-20, 118 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
Fred “Bo” Jackson: 38 carries, 211 yards, 1 TD
Paul Posluszny: 12 tackles, 1 INT, 106 yards, 1 TD
Player of the Game: Fred Jackson