Bills aim for consolation prize against Pats
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills ruined their chance for their first playoff berth in 15 years when they lost to one of the NFL’s worst teams.
Now they can salvage a consolation prize by beating one of the best.
Good luck with that.
The New England Patriots have clinched the top seed in the AFC. Against the Bills, they’re 12-0 in Gillette Stadium and 26-3 since coach Bill Belichick arrived in 2000, the same year Buffalo began the longest current postseason drought.
So what would it mean to upset the Patriots on Sunday one week after being upset by the Oakland Raiders?
“It’ll prove we don’t have any quit,” Bills center Eric Wood said, “because it would be real easy to fold up your tent and really focus on next year, but (this is) a big opportunity against a really good team who’s had our number for years.”
The Patriots (12-3) have home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs even if they lose Sunday. It would make the Bills’ job easier if quarterback Tom Brady and other starters spend most or all of the game on the bench.
Belichick isn’t giving any hints — only providing his standard non-answer.
“We’re going to do what’s best for the New England Patriots,” he said
The Bills (8-7) already are guaranteed their best record since they went 9-7 in 2004.
“We’ve got a chance to play one more game coming off of a very disappointing loss,” coach Doug Marrone said. “We want to get that taste out of our mouth.”
Brady probably will start behind the regular line, hoping to go into the first-round bye with a better performance than last Sunday’s 17-16 win over the New York Jets.
“Nothing in the past has mattered. Nothing weeks from now is going to matter,” he said. “I just think everybody’s got to focus on what we need to do this week to try to make ourselves a better football team.”
He’ll face a strong defense — first in sacks, fourth in yards allowed, fifth in points allowed — that welcomes the challenge.
“I want them to start their starters,” Bills safety Aaron Williams said. “I need Tom Brady to step in my house. That would be great.”
It also could lead to more disappointment.
“A couple of times we almost had them on the ropes,” Wood said. “To go there and kind of get that monkey off our back would (be) big, you know, go and prove that in the AFC East we’re not that bottom feeder whipping boy. We’re here to stay.”
Some things to watch on Sunday:
HAPPY AT HOME: The Patriots have won 35 straight home games against AFC teams, the longest streak in either conference since the 1970 merger.
“We’ve got great fans,” Brady said. “We’ve got the weather elements, conditions. The wind always comes into play. Because we practice in that, I always feel like that’s a great advantage for us.”
RUSHING TO RECORD: After rushing last Sunday for 13 yards, fourth lowest in team history, the Bills have 1,378 for the season. If they don’t get 175 on Sunday, they won’t pass the franchise low for a 16-game season (1,552 in 2006).
“That’s not something you want on your resume,” running back Fred Jackson said.
Injuries that sidelined Jackson and C.J. Spiller have hurt, but both are back.
STINGY SECOND HALF: The Patriots have allowed four field goals and no touchdowns in the second half of their past five games. With about five minutes left last Sunday, Vince Wilfork tipped a 52-yard field goal attempt by Nick Folk that would have given the Jets a one-point lead. Wilfork also had nine tackles, his most since making 10 on Dec. 4, 2011.
“We’re not taking anything for granted, especially this time of year,” Wilfork said. “You want to be able to win in December.”
RED ZONE: Marrone said Kyle Orton will make his 12th straight start for an offense that has struggled inside opponents’ 20-yard line. The Bills have 20 touchdowns in 49 drives into the red zone, the NFL’s second-worst touchdown efficiency. They never reached the Raiders 20 last Sunday. The Patriots have held teams to one touchdown in the last 12 drives inside the 20.
DEFENSIVE DECLINE: The Bills allowed Oakland’s Derek Carr to throw two touchdown passes after holding Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers without one in their previous two games. They have two sacks in those three games after getting 48 in the first 12.
“We’ve just got to go back to the old ways that we’ve been doing things,” linebacker Nickell Robey said. “We just have to be physical, take it to their offense.”
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