Now, this has been an article I’ve dreaded writing. The massive history between the Buffalo Bills and New England Patriots, two all-time division rivals, is encyclopedic. It only got as one-sided as it seems to be at the turn of the millennium. Before those Brady days, these teams were heated enemies. Not because of impotent rage and jealous fever, but because of pure, constant competition. It’s a long story, but one that starts at the very beginning.
Fire is Forged in the AFL (1960-69)
In 1960, both these franchises debuted in the brand-new AFL, and the Buffalo Bills threw the first punch. In their first regular-season game against each other in week three, Buffalo’s defense bullied the Patriots offense, shutting them out en route to a 13-0 victory. New England was bloodied, but they would come back strong in 1963’s postseason.
December 28, 1963
The Bills and Patriots both finished the 1963 season with an identical 7-6-1 record, splitting their season series and residing atop the division as a duo. It would be the first playoff appearance for both franchises, but things went poorly for Buffalo early on. An early kickoff fumble gave Boston good field position. They took an early lead that they wouldn’t relinquish. Though Elbert Dubenion took a beautiful touchdown 93 yards to the house (an AFL playoff record), Buffalo was dead in the water. The Patriots would go on their first and only AFL Championship appearance, which they lost.
|Buf 13-0 Bos||Bos 14-38 Buf||Bos 23-21 Buf|
|Buf 21-52 Bos||Bos 28-28 Buf||Buf 10-21 Bos|
|Bos 21-28 Buf||Buf 7-17 Bos||Bos 26-8 Buf|
|Bos 36-28 Buf||Buf 24-14 Bos||Bos 7-24 Buf|
|Buf 23-7 Bos||Bos 20-10 Buf||Buf 3-14 Bos|
|Bos 23-0 Buf||Buf 44-16 Bos||Bos 16-7 Buf|
|Buf 6-23 Bos||Bos 16-23 Buf||Buf 21-35 Bos|
Post-Merger Rivalry (1970-79)
After the AFL-NFL merger, the Boston Patriots relocated to Foxborough, where they still play today. Their name changed to the New England Patriots, but they were still the already-hated rivals we’d grown to loathe. Buffalo started their relocated rivalry off the right way, with a nine-game win streak from 1971-1975 that settled the Pats into the sediment of the new NFL landscape. The second-last of those wins was one to remember.
November 23, 1975
On the back of O.J. Simpson, Buffalo dominated the recent history of the two teams, and this game was no different. On that cool November day, few expected to witness a shootout. The Buffalo Bills opened the game with two beautiful touchdowns from quarterback Joe Ferguson (19 and 77 yards each) before Steve Grogan and Sam Cunningham replied with two TD drives of their own, evening things out at the beginning of the second quarter. O.J. Simpson took his first touchdown of the day across the line in response. Buffalo then added a field goal to take a 10-point lead. Then, Grogan found Russ Francis on a pass for a score to bring things to 24-21 ahead of halftime.
New England came out of the gate hot, taking their first lead on Cunningham’s third touchdown, but Buffalo responded well. O.J. caught his second TD and, after a Patriots field goal, things were level at 31-31. The fourth quarter belonged to Buffalo, as Simpson put the game on ice with two more short touchdowns sprinkled into his otherwise unimpressive running day. New England contained him all game, but couldn’t keep him out of the end zone when it mattered most.
|Buf 45-10 Bos||Bos 14-10 Buf||Buf 33-38 NE||NE 20-27 Buf|
|NE 14-38 Buf||Buf 27-24 NE||Buf 31-13 NE||NE 13-37 Buf|
|NE 28-30 Buf||Buf 29-28 NE||NE 31-45 Buf||Buf 34-14 NE|
|NE 26-22 Buf||Buf 10-20 NE||Buf 24-14 NE||NE 20-7 Buf|
|NE 14-10 Buf||Buf 24-26 NE||NE 26-6 Buf||Buf 16-13 NE|
Alternating Success (1980-2000)
In the early-mid 1980s, the Buffalo Bills were entirely forgettable. Their rivals? Not so much. The Patriots dominated the decade on the back of Grogan, earning their first visit to the Super Bowl in 1985. Buffalo, meanwhile, had begun to plant the seeds of greatness. Their draft selections, free agent signings, and staff hires during this period led directly to their competitiveness at the end of the decade and all through the 1990s. As Buffalo began to turn things around, the all-time series record started to swing in their favor again.
|NE 13-31 Buf||Buf 2-24 NE||NE 17-20 Buf|
|Buf 19-10 NE||Buf 19-30 NE||NE 31-0 Buf|
|Buf 7-21 NE||NE 21-17 Buf||Buf 10-38 NE|
|NE 17-14 Buf||Buf 3-14 NE||NE 23-3 Buf|
|Buf 19-22 NE||Buf 7-14 NE||NE 13-7 Buf|
|Buf 16-14 NE||NE 20-23 Buf||NE 10-31 Buf|
|Buf 24-33 NE||Buf 27-10 NE||NE 0-14 Buf|
Buffalo would go to their first of four-straight Super Bowl appearances in 1990, but would ultimately fall short of winning on a missed field goal by Scott Norwood. The defensive coordinator for the New York Giants in that famous loss? Bill Belichick. The future head coach of the Patriots created one of the league’s scariest units and beat the famed Buffalo Bills “K-Gun” offense to a pulp. All could have been forgiven if not for a single missed field goal. But alas, it was not to be.
New England may have been beaten soundly during this era, but they got a few good hits in.
December 18, 1994
In 1994, they managed to officially end our Super Bowl streak, knocking us out of playoff contention in a 41-17 rout at Rich Stadium. A Patriots field goal opened the game. Buffalo responded with 17-straight points. Things turned sour as New England’s defense adjusted, forcing two interceptions and a whole host of fumbles, which Drew Bledsoe and company turned into as many touchdowns as they desired. It was the end of an era and the beginning of something else entirely, though we may not have known it yet.
|NE 17-22 Buf||Buf 13-16 NE||Buf 41-7 NE||NE 7-16 Buf|
|NE 14-38 Buf||Buf 13-10 NE||Buf 38-35 NE||NE 41-17 Buf|
|Buf 14-27 NE||NE 35-25 Buf||NE 10-17 Buf||Buf 25-28 NE|
|Buf 6-33 NE||NE 31-10 Buf||NE 10-13 Buf||Buf 21-25 NE|
|NE 7-17 Buf||Buf 13-10 NE||Buf 16-13 NE||NE 13-10 Buf|
Two Decades Of Defeat (2001-19)
Prior to the 2001 NFL season, the Patriots narrowly lead the all-time series 42-39-1. Despite having a whole lot of talented players on the roster over the next 20 seasons, things got bad. Really bad. From 2001-2019, the Patriots sealed up 36 of the next 40 matchups against us, as one of the most dominant dynasties in professional sports history took the NFL over. It all started with a trade.
The Drew Bledsoe Trade
Just one year after signing him to a 10-year, $103 million contract, the Patriots needed to part ways with long-time quarterback Drew Bledsoe. He’d been injured, and a young, cheap prospect by the name of Tom Brady excelled in his absence, winning them their first Lombardi trophy. In order to clear the way and settle the debate, which was heated, they dealt Bledsoe to the Buffalo Bills for our 2003 first-round pick. Buffalo thought they had their franchise guy, and so did New England. Tragically, only one of us was right… and it wasn’t the Bills.
September 7, 2003 (and NE’s Retaliation)
Though this series got exceedingly dull over the ensuing 20-year span, it did have its share of memorable moments. In 2003, the Buffalo Bills shut out the Patriots in the first game of the season by a score of 31-0. They intercepted Brady four times (including the famous Sam Adams pick-six) and cruised to victory. That game wouldn’t go unpunished, as the Patriots recreated the experience in the season’s second matchup, shutting them out by the exact same score in Week 17. They picked off their former quarterback three times and forced two fumbles on their way to a vengeful victory.
|Buf 11-21 NE||NE 12-9 Buf||NE 38-7 Buf||Buf 17-27 NE|
|NE 0-31 Buf||Buf 0-31 NE||NE 31-17 Buf||Buf 6-29 NE|
|Buf 16-21 NE||NE 35-7 Buf||Buf 17-19 NE||NE 28-6 Buf|
|Buf 7-38 NE||NE 56-10 Buf||Buf 10-20 NE||NE 13-0 Buf|
|Buf 24-25 NE||NE 17-10 Buf||Buf 30-38 NE||NE 34-3 Buf|
September 25, 2011 (& NE’s Retaliation)
Much like in 2003, these two franchises traded similar games in a single season once more. The Patriots jumped on two consecutive Ryan Fitzpatrick interceptions to get out to a healthy lead. Down 21-0 in the middle of the second quarter, Buffalo knew they had a huge uphill climb if they intended to make a dent in that deficit. Stevie Johnson capped off a touchdown drive to get on the board. A subsequent Brady interception saved a touchdown, allowing Fitzpatrick to get us in field goal range in the last minute of the half.
After a brief three-and-out to start the second half, Leodis McKelvin picked off Brady’s next pass attempt and returned it to give us good field position, which was quickly converted to a touchdown. They’d cut the gap to 21-17 in a very short period of time. However, New England wasn’t done scoring. One Patriots field goal later, Buffalo was back to punting.
It would take more great defense to give us another chance. Another touchdown-saving interception had us on our own five-yard line, but in only a few short plays we’d find paydirt. Two massive penalties and a huge catch by Donald Jones later, Fred Jackson bullied his way into the endzone to tie it up. Only 14 seconds later, Buffalo found the endzone again. Brady’s next pass was tipped by Marcell Dareus for his fourth interception of the day and Drayton Florence brought it back for a house call. Buffalo had the lead.
Our Foxborough foes wouldn’t be denied. They made their next (and final) drive count, evening the game up again at 31-31 with only three and a half minutes remaining. In only three plays, Fitzmagic found Fred Jackson on a slant destined for the endzone, though he was eventually ruled short of the goal line. Instead, Buffalo would kneel it out to take the clock away before chipping in the game-winning field goal as time expired. They overcame Wes Welker’s 217 yards and 2 TDs, forced four interceptions, and took home a huge upset comeback win as a result. Check out this short video to see all the action!
Clearly, the Pats took that last meeting personally, but it’d didn’t feel that way as the Buffalo Bills jumped out to a 21-point lead of their own in the first quarter of their next meeting. They wouldn’t score again, as New England burst back into the game with 49 unanswered points to secure the win.
October 2, 2016
Though the series was dominated by our rival in unprecedented fashion throughout the 2000s and 2010s, Buffalo did secure another memorable win. Until the 2020 season, it was their last. Tom Brady was suspended for refusal to comply with the NFL’s ‘Deflate-gate’ investigation, amongst other scandal-related offenses the NFL had considered “detrimental to the integrity of the league”. He fought his four-game suspension for a long time, but eventually conceded his punishment and served it to start the 2016 season.
His backups, Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo, did a serviceable job. But, with the latter injured, the former fell short at home. Tyrod Taylor and friends marched into Foxborough and secured a comfortable win. The Patriots offense was limited to just two drives of more than 6 plays, which ended in a missed field goal and a turnover on downs in desperation time. LeSean McCoy scored the day’s only touchdown on Buffalo’s opening drive.
|NE 31-34 Buf||Buf 21-49 NE||NE 52-28 Buf||Buf 31-37 NE|
|NE 23-21 Buf||Buf 20-34 NE||NE 37-22 Buf||Buf 17-9 NE|
|NE 40-32 Buf||Buf 13-20 NE||Buf 16-0 NE||NE 41-25 Buf|
|NE 23-3 Buf||Buf 16-37 NE||NE 25-6 Buf||Buf 12-24 NE|
|NE 16-10 Buf||Buf 17-24 NE||NE 21-24 Buf||Buf 38-9 NE|
The Buffalo Bills 2020 Revenge Tour
Things haven’t been excellent over the past 20 years, and the times we are currently basking in might make for short memories. But we can’t forget that there’s a score to be settled. We took the first steps towards evening out the all-time series last season, as a sweep of the AFC East awarded Buffalo their first division win since before the 2002 division realignment, en route to their latest AFC Championship appearance.
November 1, 2020
As always, we faced New England twice, and the first was a nail-biter. In a display of discipline that is unmatched throughout the McDermott era, Buffalo ran all day long up the gut of the Patriots defense, which was poised to play pass-heavy every snap to take the newly-unstoppable Josh Allen out of the game. In wet weather, Buffalo took what they were given, and made it work. Things looked bleak late in the game, as Cam Newton’s Patriots marched downfield down only a field goal. They seemed destined for the goal line if not for a timely punchout by practice squad call-up Justin Zimmer. He forced the turnover and the offense kneeled out the clock for Buffalo’s first win over New England since 2016.
December 28, 2020
The latest mark in this series is one that the Pats are looking to forget. They were blown out by the Bills in only three quarters of their previous Monday Night Football head-to-head. A day that saw Stefon Diggs torch New England’s standout cornerback J.C. Jackson for three touchdowns, and a nearly perfect performance from Josh Allen that helped his case for MVP, ended with Matt Barkley taking plenty of snaps as we rested all the starters.
There’s plenty more to look forward to, as Buffalo puts forward one of the best teams the city has ever seen, and they take on the newly-competent Patriots this weekend. In the first matchup of the season, these two go head-to-head on Monday Night Football once again, and it might mean all the marbles. In a close division race, this game could be all the difference, so let’s bring out the big guns, shall we?
If you like this series, check out last week’s edition about the New Orleans Saints, and a special one about the Buffalo Bills on Thanksgiving! Don’t forget to check back next week when we play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, too.