ORCHARD PARK, NY (AP) – Chris Kelsay’s introduction to the Bills’ supposedly very one-sided divisional rivalry against the New England Patriots differed from that of many contemporaries of the defensive end during his 10 seasons at Buffalo.
He started his career with a victory.
And yet, Kelsay will never forget the words of warning he received shortly after the Bills opened the 2003 season with a stunning 31-0 win, punctuated by heavy defensive tackle Sam Adams returning the interception. Tom Brady on 37 yards for a touchdown.
“I remember guys saying, ‘Don’t get used to that,'” Kelsay said with a laugh this week as Buffalo (11-6) prepares to host the Patriots (10-7).
Perhaps no truer word had ever been spoken.
Not only have the Patriots responded by beating the Bills 31-0 in the season finale en route to their second of six eventual Super Bowl titles spanning the 2001-18 seasons, they’ve won their next 15 straight games against Buffalo. .
“Oh yeah, I’ve played them 20 times in my career and I think I’ve beaten them twice,” Kelsay said, referring to Buffalo’s 34-31 win over New England in 2011. ” You’ve always been optimistic about your game plan, your preparation, but during that time they obviously got our number more than we got theirs.
As difficult as it was back then, Kelsay is encouraged to see signs that the situation is finally reversed. The Bills have taken three of four wins and have loosened the Patriots’ long grip on the AFC East by winning division titles in each of the past two seasons.
“It’s really remarkable,” said Kelsay, who admitted to initially having a twinge of jealousy seeing the Bills succeed in retirement. “It’s great to see the success they have. “
The Bills are no longer the Patriots’ patsy that performed over a long stretch from 2000 to 19 which coincided with the arrival of coach Bill Belichick and Tom Brady’s final season in New England . In that streak, Belichick won 35 of 40 games, with Brady going 32-3 (now 33-3 after leading Tampa Bay to Buffalo last month) to set the NFL record for most. of victories against an opponent.
With Brady’s departure, Buffalo swept away the season series last year for the first time since 1999. This year, the Bills responded to an embarrassing 14-10 loss in windy home conditions on December 6 with a 33-21 win in New England three weeks. later.
The teams will only meet for the second time in the playoffs on Saturday, after the then Boston Patriots defeated Buffalo 26-8 in the former American Football League’s Divisional Playoffs in 1963.
Bills coach Sean McDermott dismissed any recent Bills success, referring to the 14-10 loss in which the Patriots attempted three passes while finishing with 222 rushing yards to counter the elements.
“It’s a good football team,” McDermott said. “And I don’t think you have to look any further than to know that they beat us here a few weeks ago.”
Former Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo also ignored the past, noting how the two teams have changed. The Bills are now led by fourth-year starter Josh Allen, while the Patriots are in transition under rookie Mac Jones.
“Honestly, I don’t really like comparing teams,” Mayo said. “Each team has its own unique structure, its own unique identity.”
That’s easy to say for Mayo, given he went 14-2 against Buffalo in his eight New England seasons from 2008 to 2015.
The difference is, Mayo didn’t have to endure the sometimes overwhelming frustrations the Bills endured in almost always failing.
There was the 25-24 opening loss of the 2009 season, in which Leodis McKelvin of Buffalo had a vulgar symbol spray-painted on his lawn after missing a kickoff, which led the Patriots to score 12 points in the final 2:06. There was New England’s resounding 56-10 victory at Buffalo in 2007, when Brady threw four touchdown passes to Randy Moss in the first half alone.
Even Buffalo’s victory in 2011 was ultimately unsatisfactory. After the Bills recovered from a 21-0 deficit to beat New England, they lost a 21-0 lead in a 49-21 loss at the end of the season.
For Kyle Williams, defeats stand out more than victories.
“I remember more of my licks and kicks in the butt that I took,” said the former Bills defensive tackle.
On the contrary, the few wins reminded Williams of how much effort and focus it took to beat New England.
Happy as he is with the recent Buffalo run, Williams doesn’t think this team relieved the ghosts of the Bills’ past – not his, at least.
“I’m extremely proud for them and happy, but I’m not sure if it really exorcises the deepest Patriots demons I have because I’m not the one who made this happen,” Williams said, who had three wins over New England in his 14-year Buffalo career from 2005 to 2018. “I had my opportunities. It did not work.
Bettor Brian Moorman takes a different approach, claiming he lives vicariously through these bills.
“I’m certainly happy, as are all Bills fans across the country, that this curse has been broken by this staff and this team,” said Moorman, whose Buffalo career included two saves spanning 2001-13.
“We’re just not competitive, we’re the team to beat,” Moorman said, making no apologies for using the words “us” and “us” when referring to the Bills. “Everyone admires us. And I don’t think you can take that away from them. They should be proud of it and obviously be confident for this game. “
AP Sports writer Kyle Hightower contributed.
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