The Bills opened the decade with a victory over the Patriots in Wade Phillips' last season as head coach. On Sunday it could not end the decade with a win against New England for Perry Fewell.
With the 17-10 loss, Buffalo's record dropped to an unfathomable 2-18 against New England in the 2000s.
Then again, it's not so unfathomable for a franchise that once lost an NFL record 20 consecutive games to Miami, a streak that neatly encompassed the entire decade of the 1970s.
The most recent loss to New England was starkly similar to so many recent losses against Bill Belichick and his evil empire. The Bills were in the game for a long stretch, but just never could make a play when it needed to be made to turn the game around.
"Yeah, it is tough," said defensive end Chris Kelsay, who enjoyed a win over the Patriots on opening day in 2003, his first game in the NFL, and now has been a part of 13 consecutive losses. "We felt like today was our day. It just didn't turn out that way. I think we were due, long overdue. As someone who has been around here awhile and seen it happen up close and personal, it's difficult."
Of the domination the Patriots have enjoyed over Buffalo, Kelsay said "It's kind of embarrassing and you get tired of it."
When the Bills of the 1970s lost those 20 in a row to Miami, they did so by an average of 13 points per game. That is the exact same margin of victory New England has enjoyed in the 20 games that were played this decade. Eleven times the Dolphins scored at least 30 points while the Bills did that just once. The Patriots have surpassed 30 points on six occasions, Buffalo just once.
Where things differ just a bit is that the Bills have actually won twice against New England (in 2000 and 2003), and they had more opportunities for other victories. The Bills held a lead at some point in just eight games against the Dolphins, and only twice did they lead in the fourth quarter. Against New England the Bills have led in 10 games and they were in front at some point in the fourth quarter seven times.
This season the Bills led in both games, and in the season opener they were up 24-13 with a little more than two minutes to go and still lost 25-24. Sunday, they opened the game with a 69-yard drive to a Rian Lindell field goal, but didn't score again until three minutes remained when Lee Evans caught a TD pass to cut the Patriots lead to 17-10.
"It's frustrating to lose any game, but it seems like they've had our number for so many years," said punter Brian Moorman, who along with defensive end Aaron Schobel are the Bills' longest-tenured players and have been losing to the Patriots since 2001. "We had them in the bag earlier this year, and it just seems like we haven't been able to close it out and that's frustrating for the team."
Buffalo's futility against the Patriots has reached absurd levels. Not only was this the 13th loss in a row to Belichick, but in 17 of the 20 games the Bills have scored one offensive touchdown or less. In the last five home games against New England the Bills have scored three touchdowns, total, and in 10 of the 19 games they have never held the lead.
In AFC East games this decade, the Patriots are 45-19 and have won six division crowns. The Bills are 21-43 and have not won a division title since 1995.
Since moving into Gillette Stadium in 2002, the Patriots are 8-0 there against the Bills.
The 13-game winning streak over Buffalo is a franchise record, and is currently tied for the longest active streak in the NFL with San Diego, winners of 13 in a row over Oakland. The previous Patriots record was 11 wins in a row, also against the Bills spanning 1983 thru 1987.
Quarterback Tom Brady is 15-1 as a starter against the Bills. He has completed 66 percent of his passes with 33 TDs and 12 interceptions and his passer rating is 102.6 in those games.
Safety Donte Whitner has been a part of the last eight losses.
"I'm extremely tired (of losing to the Patriots)," he said. "Everybody in this locker room and this organization is extremely tired of it."
--QB Trent Edwards made his first appearance since the Tennessee game in mid-November and it was brief and unspectacular. Edwards was sacked twice, completed one pass for minus-one yard, and then suffered an ankle injury that may render him inactive the rest of the season.
Coach Perry Fewell noted that starter Ryan Fitzpatrick was not getting things done on offense s the Bills had a lone field goal, scored on the opening possession of the game, when he made the switch to Edwards early in the fourth quarter.
"We were not converting on the third downs," Fewell said. "We just needed something to give us some momentum. So I made the decision that I thought Trent could come in and maybe give us a little spark, a little momentum and see what we could do."
--The Bills' defense did an admirable job against the Patriots in holding Tom Brady to season lows for completions (11), attempts (23) and yards (115). His 59.1 passer rating was slightly better than half his season mark of 102.1. WR Wes Welker came into the game with a league-high 105 catches but was held to a season-low four for just 40 yards though his last catch was a big one as it converted a critical third-down at the two-minute warning that, in effect, ended the game because the Bills were out of timeouts.
"I think we showed what we were made of in the secondary," safety Donte Whitner said. "Our coverages were solid for the most part all day."
However, Whitner and CB Reggie Corner also committed pass interference penalties that set up both of New England's touchdowns.
--The Bills had their highest penalty yardage day of the season, racking up 124 yards on 11 infractions. It's the fourth time they have reached double digits in penalties. Among the worst were the two pass interference calls, and a false start on offensive lineman Andre Ramsey (who was lined up as a tight end) on a third-and-goal from the 2 that may have cost the Bills an early TD.
"When you play a team like New England that has dominated us over the last 12 or 13 ballgames, you can't make those types of mistakes and expect to win," said Fewell. "When we do that, we kill ourselves. It's tough to beat a good football team like New England, but when you kill yourself with those kinds of mistakes then you lessen the chance of your probability to win."
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL PLAYER NOTES
--RB Fred Jackson had another productive game as the team's No. 1 back. He had 80 yards on 15 attempts and caught four passes for 32 yards.
--WR Josh Reed had his best game of the season with 63 yards receiving on four catches, but he also dropped what would have been a TD pass late in the game.
--LB Paul Posluszny led the team with nine tackles, one of which went for a seven-yard loss on Laurence Maroney, and he had his third interception of the year.
--QB Trent Edwards made what could be his final appearance in a Buffalo uniform. He was in for four plays, was sacked twice (one was wiped out by a facemask penalty), and suffered an ankle injury.
--TE Shawn Nelson set a new career-high with four catches, but they went for only 17 yards.