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Did the Buffalo Bills Just Set the Tone for the 2009 Season?

Samuel Bell JrSenior Analyst ISeptember 15, 2009

FOXBORO, MA - SEPTEMBER 14:  Terrell Owens #81 of the Buffalo Bills walks across the court during warm ups before the game against the New England Patriots on September 14, 2009 at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Buffalo Bills just laid an egg—a big, fat, ugly, 200-pound egg—in the form of a loss that should have never happened to the New England Patriots.

In Tom Brady's epic return to pro football, the Bills gave him all he could handle, but also all he could ask for in a one-point victory in Foxboro.

Don't get me wrong; Brady flat-out earned that win, courageously standing upright in a pocket that continually collapsed around him like a dilapidated century-old building. Buffalo smelled all kinds of blood in the Monday Night Football opener and continuously applied pressure to the much-heralded Patriots offensive line.

All in all, though, it was the Golden Boy walking out of Gillette Stadium with the win and a lucky 1-0 start to build his comeback season.

Losing a game by double digits is painful, but to lose by one tiny point has to hurt more.

Terrell Owens' look of consternation was the lasting image after that game. Oh, and Tom Brady running from ESPN's Suzy Kolber like she was a man-eating mosquito waiting to give him the hugest, reddest, itchiest mosquito bite ever was rude, but admittedly pretty funny.

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Is it just me, or did this latest Monday night loss cause severe deja vu?

Wasn't it the Bills that lit fire under the seats of every fan in Ralph Wilson Stadium two years ago on Monday Night Football by playing the favored Dallas Cowboys to a crushing one-point defeat at the hands of Nick Folk?

They found every way to lose that game and squander every opportunity—and looked like the exact same Bills team in Monday's loss to New England.

Say what you want, but mental advantages sometimes far outweigh the effort of the players on the field.

New England came in winning their last 11 games against the Bills dating all the way back to 2003, and it just seemed the Bills were scared to upend their opponent. The electricity in the air favored the Pats, but Buffalo shut that advantage down by playing solid defense, running the ball, and not turning it over.

Despite the Patriots having the ball for pretty much the whole first half, the Bills led 14-10 and were clearly outplaying the Patriots. In fact, Buffalo outplayed them for almost the entire game—at least up until the final five minutes of the game, when they fell apart like a glass dropped from the kitchen countertop.

Among a myriad of drops and mental mistakes, the Bills gave the Patriots the ball after a great drive ending with a Trent Edwards screen pass to Fred Jackson for a touchdown. It gave them hope.

Hope they could really pull this monumental win off.

With a scared Patriots defense, it appeared the Bills could really win this game after a great tackle in kick coverage left the Patriots with a long field to drive. It was then that Brady found his stride, gashing the Bills' pass coverage time and time again on his way to a beautiful drive capped by a Ben Watson TD reception.

Buffalo was still in good shape with a 24-19 lead and only 2:06 remaining in the game. A Stephen Gostkowski kick and fumble recovery later, the Bills' hope was lost.

Gone.

Leodis McKelvin fielded the kick about two yards into the end zone and contemplated taking the touchback. He would regret not doing so.

Or not, judging by his quote after the game.

McKelvin ran the ball out and was met by a wall of Pats defenders. Instead of patching his wounds and falling to the ground, he stayed up, only to be stripped of the ball, which Gostkowski would recover. McKelvin apparently didn't learn his lesson from earlier in the quarter when backup linebacker Nic Harris recovered his fumble.

A minute or so later, Brady tossed his second TD pass of the quarter to Ben Watson, and the Bills were toast. They knew it, we knew it, and the fans knew it. Edwards and the Bills offense tried to move into FG range in the final seconds, but there was no way the Pats would let that happen.

Somebody pulled the chain, and the Bills were whirling around the stadium toilets.

When asked about his mistake, McKelvin said, "I chose to bring it out because that's me, no matter what it is," adding, "If I had that choice, probably 100 times, I'd do it again."

Really? Put your team and a win at risk for what?

Take the knee and live to fight another drive.

The chances of him returning a kick to the house in that situation are lower than Kanye West getting into a Taylor Swift fundraising dinner after the VMAs, so why even return it? And to not admit the mistake and change ways after the game? Good luck with that one, Mr. Dick Jauron.

The losing culture that has defined Buffalo in the last 10 years is putting a sickening taste in fans' mouths. Owens, who looked dejected all game, said it himself when talking about one of the reasons he decided to come to Buffalo.

"The fans here are very passionate," said Owens.

That's right; they are. All they want is a team that knows how to win—a team that can bring them a playoff berth for the first time in what feels like a lifetime.

If this is the tone the Bills are going to follow for 2009, all of the ballyhooed screams about T.O. and the Bills raising the bar and finally achieving playoff success are invalid and unwarranted.

Can the Bills pull it back together for a potential playoff run? That lies in the players' and coaching staff's hands.

There's one thing I can guarantee you: Owens will not stay quiet if these kinds of losses start to pile up as the season moves along

The Bills showed the world they have the talent last night to get it done. As John Madden once said, "The game is not just physical, but half mental."

Can Buffalo answer this seemingly monumental challenge?

Jauron's job depends on it.