It had begun with an opening statement that could easily have set a tone of complete and utter ‘standard fare’ for the New England Patriots today. A long lob pass along the sideline, coupled with smart moves by the receiver, it should have started the game with a 90+ yard TD play for the usually-dominant Patriots at home in Gillette Stadium. However, due to a holding and offensive pass interference penalty on the play, what ended up happening was quite different.
What the Pats got was a 3-and-out.
The Bills followed up with some old-school ground-and-pound, churning along with solid runs to tear up yardage and drain the clock, cleaning up with a toss to McCoy that he ran in at a shallow angle to score what would turn out to be the game’s only touchdown. They used the Wildcat formation for a couple of gashing runs on a Pats defense that didn’t let Miami get away with that nonsense a couple of weeks ago, and as they did against a stunned Cardinals defense the week before, Buffalo dared the Pats defenders to try getting physical with them.
After scoring first, and breaking the Pats’ perfect hold on first quarters that end scoreless for their opponents, the Bills D held their ground, forcing another 3-and-out for the Patriots, which came back down the field for Buffalo for a FG to put them up 10-0. One would think that after this 12 play, 65-yard drive the commentators would have some praise to offer for Tyrod Taylor, Rex Ryan and the Bills as an organization.
One would be wrong.
Instead, the commentary team over at Fox Sports waxed philosophic about the challenges the Patriots faced, and how Garropolo felt as the game drew near. They spoke about how Lagarrette Blount would rise to the challenge as he had the previous weeks without Brady under center. They made note of how uncharacteristically poor the Pats’ defenders were tackling. Utterly absent were any parallels one could have drawn between Taylor and McCoy’s partnership on the short throws to the same dynamic that Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook had developed over several seasons in Philadelphia. They were silent on the brute efficiency and rapid response of the Bills defenders to get to the ball when New England’s offense was on the field.
Instead, every word out of their mouths came from a New England-first perspective.
They were quick to point out Richie Incognito’s foibles and the damage he did to Buffalo’s efforts, twice getting tagged for 10-yard holding penalties that resulted in 1st and 20 (drive killers each time). They fairly leapt from their seats when Brissett landed his team’s first 1st down on an 11-yard slant, but said diddly when this just turned into a 4-and-out with the Bills D stuffing the run and cutting down all possible routes right after that first lucky shot.
And when the Bills had another solid drive to make it 13-0? Still the game was characterized by the announcers as a game wherein the big deal was how unlike themselves the Patriots were, as opposed to how well the Bills were playing in the various facets of the game. Even when Zack Brown knocked the ball loose from Brissett’s grip when the Pats were threatening to score a TD late in the first half, was the focus from the commentators and Twitter on how well-played the moment was from the defenders’ perspective? No, all of the attention was upon Brissett’s making a ‘rookie mistake’, offering no kudos to the Buffalo Bills organization.
Now, to be fair to them, their next focus for the Bills was on Incognito again, who drew another drive-killing penalty like the putz he is. What’s more, there were some rough hits from Zack Brown that, despite my rooting for Buffalo today, should have drawn flags for unnecessary roughness. But we’re now at the half with a 13-0 lead for the Bills.
During the Verizon Halftime Report, one commentator (whose name escapes me right now), actually said the following of Jacobi Brissett and the Patriots: “Sure, he’s a young guy, in there under a lot of pressure, but you’ve got to open the playbook and let him try something. You’ve lost the lead.” This had to be massively infuriating for any Bills fan, or anyone who tires of the round-robin of worship of Belichick, because in order to lose the lead, you actually have to have HAD it at some point.
It was not until there was 2 and a half minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter of the game that the commentary, from only ONE of the telecasters, finally pointed out and praised the efficient and high-caliber play of the Bills in all general facets of the game, without taking away from it by mentioning the Pats in some way to undermine the compliment.
To be fair, settling for field goals three times and not really showing the kind of explosive play that gets a ton of highlight reel coverage, the Bills didn’t do what highlight junkies tend to prefer, driving the nail in the coffin with no questions asked early and hard. They did much the same thing last week against the Cardinals, always dominating on defense and special teams, but not keeping up the production on offense to really slam it home. Yet despite giving the Patriots their first shutout loss in Gillette Stadium in the sort of overpowering fashion that the ’85 Bears used on their opponents, nobody on the telecasting team seemed able to bring themselves to admit that the Bills’ defense just made the Pats look like a senior varsity high school team going against a playoff-caliber squad in the pros. A longtime bias in favor of the Pats, one that is admittedly well-earned based on their past performances, is no excuse for the complete disservice they did to the Buffalo Bills and their supporters.
That’s all for now.