x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Bills stage remarkable comeback to topple old rivals Patriots

Ryan Fitzpatrick and the new-look, resilient, win-in-the-clutch Buffalo Bills are showing they are for real in their 34-31 win against New England.

David Nelson of the Buffalo Bills, right, fends off the Patriots  Leigh Bodden during the Bills comeback win against their old rivals in the AFC.
David Nelson of the Buffalo Bills, right, fends off the Patriots Leigh Bodden during the Bills comeback win against their old rivals in the AFC.

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK // Is it time to Bill-ieve?

Ryan Fitzpatrick and the new-look, resilient, win-in-the-clutch Buffalo Bills are showing they are for real after producing their second consecutive stunning comeback victory — this time against their AFC East nemesis, the New England Patriots.

Rian Lindell hit a 28-yard field goal as time expired to cap a 34-31 win over the Patriots in which the Bills overcame a 21-0 second-quarter deficit and snapped a 15-game losing streak against New England.

It was a win for the new generation of Bills, who do not know any better. And the victory was particularly cherished by senior members such as the linebacker Chris Kelsay, one of four Buffalo players still on hand since the team's last victory over New England, in the 2003 season opener.

"It's the biggest win of my career. I can't think of any bigger," Kelsay said. "To beat these guys at home, in front of our fans, with the way they're behind us despite being down early, it's huge. I'll never forget it."

Ruben Brown, the former Bills lineman, hugged Buffalo players as they ran up the tunnel. Running back Fred Jackson ran around the field carrying a Bills flag. And stadium workers took no chances, first guarding the goalposts before lowering them on their own before fans got any ideas.

It was that kind of euphoric win for a team attempting to turn around a dreadful past in which it has gone 11 seasons without making the playoffs. And it's a victory that suddenly has the Bills (3-0) alone in first place atop the division after the New York Jets (2-1) lost at Oakland.

The Bills won courtesy of yet another Fitzpatrick-led rally. It was reminiscent of what they did in a 38-35 win over Oakland a week earlier, when Buffalo scored touchdowns on their final five possession to overcome a 21-3 deficit.

Fitzpatrick went 27 of 40 for 369 yards and two touchdowns. Jackson once again provided a spark with 72 yards rushing and a touchdown, and 87 yards receiving, including a 38-yard catch that set up Lindell's decisive kick.

The Patriots (2-1) had a 10-game regular-season winning streak snapped and suddenly find themselves looking up in the standings at Buffalo. Aside from their 15-game win streak, third longest in NFL history for one franchise against another, the Pats had won 20 of the past 21 over the Bills.

"Obviously, it was a disappointing loss for us today," said Bill Belichick, the Patriots coach. "We've just got to do a better job."

Wes Welker had 16 catches for a franchise record 217 yards and two scores, and Rob Gronkowski also scored twice. Tom Brady went 30 of 45 for 386 yards and four scores for New England, but uncharacteristically unravelled.

Despite setting a league record for most yards passing over a three-game stretch, Brady matched a career worst with four interceptions. That included Drayton Florence's 27-yard interception return for a touchdown with 10:22 left that came 14 seconds after Jackson tied the game at 24 with a one-yard plunge.

"We played a good football team and made too many mistakes," said Brady, whose four interceptions against Buffalo matched the number he had all of last season. "It's never easy. ... We had too many turnovers, too many penalties that allowed them to get some easy plays. ... I just wish we would have made a few less mistakes."

Dating to 1950, the Bills became the only team to overcome deficits of at least 18 points to win in consecutive weeks, according to STATS LLC. In fact, only five teams had previously won twice in one season when trailing by 18 or more points.

The last team to do so: the Patriots in 1996.

The game was not decided until the final four minutes, and after Brady led the Patriots back to tie the score at 31 on a six-yard touchdown pass to Welker — on fourth-and-goal, no less.

Back marched the Bills, who got the ball back with 3:25 left.

Fitzpatrick needed only three plays to get the Bills into scoring position.

Facing first-hand-10 at the Patriots 39, Fitzpatrick hit Jackson on a short crossing pattern over the middle. Jackson broke loose and was attempting to dive into the end zone before being tackled from behind by Devin McCourty.

Officials initially ruled Jackson had scored before having it overturned on video review.

That wound up an advantage to the Bills, who ran down the clock by kneeling. The Patriots ran out of timeouts — and composure as an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Vince Wilfork gave Buffalo another set of downs at the 1.

All it took was Lindell to line up and hit a chip shot with the crowd cheering and standing on its feet.

"That's the loudest I've ever heard it in here," Lindell said. "Certainly they've been the team to beat. It's definitely a step in the right direction."

Stevie Johnson had eight catches for 94 yards and a touchdown for Buffalo. Tight end Scott Chandler also scored on a three-yard catch.

Results

New Orleans 40 Houston 33
Tennessee 17 Denver 14
Detroit 26 Minnesota 23 (OT)
San Francisco 13 Cincinnati 8
NY Giants 29 Philadelphia 16
Cleveland 17 Miami 16
Carolina 16 Jacksonville 10
San Diego 20 Kansas City 17
Oakland 34 NY Jets 24
Baltimore 37 St Louis 7
Seattle 13 Arizona 10
Green Bay 27 Chicago 17
Tampa Bay 16 Atlanta 13
Pittsburgh 23 Indianapolis 20