October 1, 1989: New England Patriots vs. Buffalo Bills
Historical Game of the Week
By Ken Crippen
- Professional Football Researchers Association
Published: September 7th, 2009
The Bills were 2-1 heading into their game with the 1-2 New England Patriots. The Bills had a slim one-game lead in the division over the Patriots, New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins. Emotions were high after their 47-41 overtime victory over the Houston Oilers the previous week, giving the Bills their first victory in the Astrodome since 1966. Jim Kelly had a superb day, passing for 363 yards and five touchdowns, but the Bills’ defense had struggled. However, that was not the case against the Patriots.
The Patriots scored first on a Greg Davis 35-yard field goal. The Bills answered on a seven-play, 72-yard drive that ended in a four-yard Thurman Thomas run. The Bills scored again in the second quarter when Keith McKeller caught a 39-yard pass from Kelly. Jimbo tossed an eight-yard pass to Pete Metzelaars and Scott Norwood tacked on a 36-yard field goal to end the scoring for the half with Buffalo leading 24-3.
The Patriots tried to mount a comeback in the second half when Doug Flutie connected with Cedric Jones on a 20-yard touchdown pass, but the Bills defense was too strong. The Bills finished the scoring with a 74-yard pass to Thurman Thomas. It’s a play we always work on,” said Thomas. “I run toward the sideline and Andre Reed cuts across the middle. It’s like a pick play. We wiped two of their guys out, that’s why I was so wide open.”
According to Patriot quarterback – and future Bills quarterback – Doug Flutie, “I was frustrated. I’ve been throwing well in practice and I wanted to go out there and fire it, but it just wasn’t happening.” Holding the Patriots to just 4-of-16 on third downs and 279 yards of total offense, the Bills held on to win 31-10 over their division rivals. According the head coach Marv Levy, “This was probably the toughest 31-10 win I’ve ever been through.”
In the following game against the Colts, Jim Kelly separated his left shoulder and publicly blamed right tackle Howard Ballard for the injury. He apologized a few days later, but Kelly missed almost a month of games due to the injury. Still, the Bills were able to keep pace in the division. Buffalo went on to with the AFC East crown and faced the Cleveland Browns in the wildcard round of the playoffs, only to lose 34-30 when Ronnie Harmon dropped a pass in the endzone with 14 seconds remaining on the clock.