At 8:25 that morning, as I sat in Lot 1 outside Ralph Wilson Stadium and watched a 75-mph wind gust peel back a corner of the fieldhouse roof, I debated whether my usual foul-weather mantra of “This is FOOTBALL weather!” had finally met its match. Choosing safety over tailgating fellowship, I decided to wander over to Danny’s to visit the WGR broadcast for a while instead of dodging airborne debris in the parking lot. (Wise decision, as I discovered when I returned to find out that a flying canopy had taken a chunk out of the windshield of the car parked next to mine.) Howard Simon was just about to begin his 10 a.m. airshift when ESPN showed a live shot from inside the stadium, and we stared in amazement at the sight of both goalposts twisted off-kilter by the wind. This should be fun.
Oh yeah, the game ... With the wind continuing to howl at a sustained 30-40 mph clip, making any semblance of a downfield passing game all but impossible, both teams opted to rely on their running games. New England used just two short dumpoffs to fullback Heath Evans on their first field goal drive, and didn’t throw a single pass in their 11-play, 43-yard drive to LaMont Jordan’s game-sealing touchdown. Fred Jackson ran well for the Bills, but just three of his 27 carries took place inside the Patriots 30. And when Gostkowski’s second field goal made the score 13-0 early in the fourth quarter, forcing Trent Edwards to throw into the wind to attempt a comeback, the game was as good as over.
In what has become an annual tradition, the Bills put up little resistance in a double-digit loss at One Patriot Place. It may show up in the record books as only a 10-point margin, but New England dominated the game far more than the final score might indicate.
The Pats won the toss, deferred, forced a quick three-and-out, drove 71 yards to Matt Cassel’s 13-yard touchdown run, added a field goal following the first of two Trent Edwards interceptions, and played keepaway for the rest of the afternoon. Buffalo did manage to drive to the 4-yard line midway through the second quarter, but as usual, the drive ground to a halt and Rian Lindell was called on to break the shutout with a 25-yard field goal.
Another Stephen Gostkowski field goal made the score 13-3 midway through the third quarter. Marcus Stroud and George Wilson gave the struggling Bills offense a chance to do some damage early in the fourth when they combined for a strip-sack of Matt Cassel, forcing a fumble Wilson recovered at his own 44. But after a sack knocked them out of Lindell’s range and Kevin Faulk fair-caught Brian Moorman’s punt at his own 8, the Patriots offense put the game out of reach with a clock-grinding, 19-play, 92-yard drive capped off by BenJarvus Green-Ellis’ 1-yard plunge at the two-minute warning.
Leodis McKelvin broke the ensuing kickoff return all the way back to the Pats’ 14-yard line, and Edwards found James Hardy for a touchdown on the next play to cut the Patriots’ lead to 20-10, but the ensuing onside kick didn’t work and the game ended with three Cassel kneeldowns.
New England held the ball for 37:40, and outgained the Bills 370-168.
Edwards had a forgettable afternoon, completing 13-of-23 passes for just 120 yards and two interceptions to go with his touchdown pass to Hardy.
Lee Evans caught just two passes for 22 yards, but those catches were good enough to keep his 67-game reception streak intact ... until it ended eight days later against the Browns, eight games shy of tying Peerless Price (75) for second place in team history behind Eric Moulds (121) ...
The rushing attack never got on track; Marshawn Lynch led the team with a paltry 46 yards on 14 carries, while running mate Fred Jackson managed just 4-14 ...
Rian Lindell’s 32-yard field goal in the second quarter was the 134th of his career in Buffalo, pushing him past Scott Norwood for second place on the Bills’ all-time list behind leader Steve Christie (234) ...
With Sammy Morris and LaMont Jordan sidelined for the Patriots, Green-Ellis took advantage of his playing time to register his first career 100-yard rushing game. The undrafted rookie from Ole Miss finished the game with 105 yards on 26 carries.
Wes Welker was uncoverable, catching 10 passes for 107 yards – his ninth straight game with at least six receptions, breaking the previous league record.
New England improved to 6-3 with the win, moving a game ahead of the 5-4 Bills, whose three-game showdown against the rest of the AFC East resulted in a tumble from the top to the bottom of the division.
This recap originally appeared in the preview for the December 28, 2008 game.