The Patriots will close out the 2003 regular season this Saturday against Buffalo, the same team they opened against 111 days earlier. New England has come a long way since beginning its season with a loss to the Bills, winning 13 of their 14 games since then, including a franchise-record 11 games in a row. In the process, the Patriots have claimed their second AFC East crown in three seasons and have shown a flair for the dramatic, becoming the first team in NFL history to win 10 or more consecutive games all by 14 points or fewer. New England is 7-0 at Gillette Stadium and will bid to end the season undefeated at home for the first time in team history. But the Patriots' prior successes can be put aside for now, as their season-finishing clash deserves the spotlight on its own.
The symmetry of the schedule affords the Patriots the chance to avenge their season-opening defeat and try to end the regular season with a performance that can contrast their showing in September. Adding to the intensity is the return to Foxborough of former Patriots Lawyer Milloy and Drew Bledsoe, with Milloy making his first trip back to Foxborough as a member of the Bills. The Patriots will face a significant hurdle in Buffalo's defense, a unit ranked second in the NFL. With a sellout home crowd prepping for the playoffs and significant storylines surrounding the game, the Patriots' season finale promises to be another memorable chapter in what has already been a most memorable season in Foxborough.
This week's game will be televised by CBS. The game can be seen locally on WBZ-TV Channel 4 in Boston. Dick Enberg will handle the play-by-play duties and Dan Dierdorf will provide analysis. Bonnie Bernstein will deliver reports from the sidelines throughout the game. Immediately following the game, the Fifth Quarter postgame show can be seen on WSBK-TV Channel 38 in Boston.
WBCN 104.1 FM is the flagship station for the Patriots Rock Radio Network. Play-by-play broadcaster Gil Santos is in his 27th season as the voice of the Patriots and calls the action along with Patriots Hall of Famer Gino Cappelletti. In 2003, Santos and Cappelletti celebrate their 20th season as a broadcast tandem.
SETTING THE MARK
In 2003, the Patriots have experienced the most regular-season success in team history. The 2003 squad is the first team in franchise history to win 13 regular-season games, besting the previous club mark of 11 wins (accomplished six times, most recently in 2001). New England has established the best 15-game record in franchise history with a 13-2 start to the 2003 season. The Patriots' previous best 15-game start was in 1978 when they held an 11-4 record after 15 games.
ELEVEN TAKES THE RECORD
The Patriots have won 11 games in a row, setting a franchise record for consecutive regular-season victories. New England owns the longest winning streak in the NFL since 1999, when Jacksonville and Indianapolis each won 11 in a row. All 11 of the Patriots' wins have been by 14 points or less, making the Patriots the first team in NFL history to win 11 consecutive games by two touchdowns or fewer. This week, the Patriots will try to become just the 10th team in NFL history to win 12 or more consecutive regular-season games.
The Patriots have clinched the AFC East title and a first-round bye. They will host an AFC Divisional Playoff game the weekend of January 10-11 at Gillette Stadium. This season marks the third time the Patriots have earned a first-round playoff bye since the NFL Playoffs expanded to 12 teams in 1990. Both of the previous times the Patriots have earned a first-round bye (2001 and 1996), they have advanced to the Super Bowl. If the Patriots win this week, or if Kansas City loses, New England would earn the top seed in the AFC.
New England can clinch homefield advantage throughout the playoffs with a win OR a Kansas City loss.
If the Patriots lose AND the Chiefs win, KC would get homefield advantage.
This week, the Patriots and Bills will meet for the 88th time since the series between the AFC East rivals began in 1960. The Patriots lead the series 46-40, with one tie. The Patriots' 46 wins over Buffalo are their most over any opponent, six more than they own over Indianapolis (40). New England has won four of its last five games against Buffalo, dating back to the 2000 season. The teams have had many memorable matchups over the years, including a five-game span from 1999 to 2001 where four of the five contests were decided in overtime. The Patriots have won in Foxborough two years in a row and six times in the last eight seasons.
NEW ENGLAND 46, BUFFALO 40 (1 TIE)
Record in New England – NE 24, BUF 19
Record in Buffalo – NE 22, BUF 22, T-1
Total Points in Regular Season Series – NE 1,717, BUF 1,665
Patriots Largest Margin of Victory – 31 pts (1961, 1983 & 2002)
Patriots Largest Margin of Defeat – 35 points (1970)
Longest Patriots Win Streak – 11 games (1982-87)
Longest Patriots Losing Streak – 9 games (1971-75)
Current Streak – Buffalo, one-game streak
TALE OF THE TAPE
|2003 Regular Season||New England||Buffalo|
|Total Yards Gained||4,718||4092|
|Total Offense (Rank)||314.5 (18)||272.8 (30)|
|Rush Offense||98.4 (27)||105.5 (19)|
|Pass Offense||216.1 (9)||167.3 (28)|
|Points Per Game||21.1||16.2|
|Total Yards Allowed||4,410||3,992|
|Total Defense||294.0 (7)||266.1 (2)|
|Rush Defense||90.1 (4)||98.3 (7)|
|Pass Defense||203.9 (17)||167.8 (3)|
|Sacks Allowed/Yards Lost||30/205||47/357|
THE LAST TIME
Bills 31, Patriots 0 – September 7, 2003
The Patriots began the 2003 season on a sour note by suffering a 31-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Bills controlled the ball for 14-and-a-half minutes in the game's first 16:38, allowing them to build a 14-0 lead. The Patriots were never able to dig out of their early hole despite driving into Buffalo territory five times in their six second half drives. The Bills defense consistently came up with big plays that frustrated New England every time it tried to counter-punch.
Buffalo began the contest with a 9-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a 1-yard touchdown plunge by Travis Henry, putting the Bills in front with 5:02 gone in the game. After the Bills defense forced the Patriots to punt, Buffalo put together a lengthy drive, controlling the ball for 9:28 on a 15-play, 90-yard drive. By the time Buffalo took a 14-0 lead on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Drew Bledsoe to tight end Dave Moore, Buffalo had controlled the ball for 14:30, while the Patriots had possession for just 2:08.
The Bills pulled further ahead in the second quarter after the teams exchanged three-and-outs. Defensive tackle Sam Adams intercepted a Tom Brady pass and rumbled 37 yards for a touchdown that put Buffalo in front 21-0 with 19:46 gone in the game.
PATRIOTS – BILLS QUICK HITS
- The Patriots have 46 wins against the Bills, their most against any opponent.
- Bill Belichick holds a 5-3 career record against Buffalo, including a 5-2 record as head coach of the Patriots.
- Six of the last 11 games in the series have been decided by four points or less (NE 3-3).
- Four of the last eight games in the series have been decided in overtime (NE 2-2).
- The Patriots and Bills have played in 19 games decided by three points or less since 1972.
- The Patriots are 12-6 against the Bills in their last 18 meetings.
- Since 1993, the two teams have played five overtime games, good for a total of 51:49 of extra time, almost equaling an entire game.