By Lenn Robbins
When the Buffalo Bills pulled a Bill Belichick on the Patriots, a bracing Northeast wind seem to blow from Foxboro to San Francisco, from Boston to Baltimore.
Some thought it was the wind of change.
The Bills had just scored a touchdown with one second left before halftime to tie this AFC East title game, 10-10. And the Bills were set to receive the second half kickoff.
How many times in the course of 11 straight AFC East titles have we witnessed the Pats parlay late first-half points with second half score that turned a game?
That was one of Belichick’s trademarks. And the Bills were poised to turn the table on the defending Super Bowl champs.
The Bills didn’t score on their first possession of the third quarter but they did take a 17-13 lead to the fourth. The Pats had been outgaining the Bills by an almost 2-to-1 ratio but Buffalo was able to do what the 2019 New England couldn’t do – make big plays.
So the emergency call went out – again: New England’s dynasty was in critical condition.
The Pats have been pronounced dead on the scene more times than a fentanyl addict. Each time a surgeon named Tom Brady, or the chief of staff known, as coach Belichick worked some miracle.
Such was the case Saturday afternoon in New England’s 24-17 come-from-behind victory over the surging Bills in Gillette Stadium. Brady was precise, leading the big-play-challenged Pats to 11 fourth quarter points. Belichick’s defense was stifling, shutting out the Bills who had scored on a 53-yard touchdown pass.
This win doesn’t guarantee the Pats a 7th Super Bowl crown since the turn of the century. If the Ravens win out, they’ll have home-field until the Super Bowl.
And even the most fanatic Patriots fan must acknowledge this is a flawed offensive team. New England’s receivers averaged10.4 yards per catch. Buffalo’s averaged 16.
But the Pats still have the greatest quarterback of all time. At 42, Brady has nursed an assortment of hurts, especially an elbow injury, the most worrisome of his pains. Still, he made all the clutch throws, especially in that fourth quarter when he capped a touchdown drive with a two-point conversion dart to Julian Edelman
“He’s the heartbeat of this football team,” special teams captain Matthew Slater told reporters. “We’ve been one of the most fortunate organizations the last 20 years to have that guy at the helm. He proved it again tonight.”
The defense, as has been the case for most of the season, held at the very end. They stopped the Bills at the New England 15.
“Obviously they’re AFC East division rivals and that’s their consecutive whatever-it-is year winning the division,” Bills QB Josh Allen to reporters. “We’ve got to find a way to get over that hump.”
The other three teams in the AFC East have uttered similar words.
And every team in the league had hope the dynasty would end when Brady tore his ACL in 2008, or in 2017, when the Falcons led Super Bowl LI by a score of 28-3 at halftime, or in 2018, when there were reports that Belichick, Brady and owner Bob Kraft at odds.
The dynasty didn’t end then. Will end this season?
The 49ers are balanced and physical. The Ravens smacked the Patriots 37-20 earlier this season. And the Chiefs, a popular pick to win the AFC, are getting healthy for a stretch run.
So before declaring any NFL better than the Pats, remember, “The Dynasty” just won its 11th straight AFC East title. And that’s not their goal. According to published reports, in post-game locker room, the Pats wore T-shirts with these words:
“The East is Not Enough.”