#BecauseItsBuffalo: Counting Down the Bills’ Most Heartbreaking Losses of the 21st Century

5. Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets, Week 1, 2002 Season: Jets 37, Bills 31

The Bills had a new sheriff in town at quarterback for the 2002 season, and his name was Drew Bledsoe. Coming off of a horrific 3-13 season in 2001, Buffalo traded its first-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft to the Patriots for their former franchise quarterback.

The Patriots had just won a Super Bowl with Tom Brady and handed over the franchise to the young signal-caller. Bledsoe was still in his prime and New England traded him to the Bills? Suckers! The Bills were thought to have their first franchise quarterback since Jim Kelly.

The first week of the 2002 season was very exciting. The Bills were tied 17-17 with the New York Jets at halftime of their season opener. The Bills took a 24-20 lead in the third quarter on a two-yard Travis Henry run. The Ralph was rocking!

The Jets answered with a blocked punt by Jason Glenn early in the fourth quarter, which led to a 33-yard John Hall field goal that cut the lead to 24-23 for Buffalo. Special teams had been off for the Bills throughout the game, as Jets kickoff returner Chad Morton also had a 98-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.

With less than five minutes remaining, Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde hit Wayne Chrebet with an 18-yard touchdown pass. Testaverde also converted a 2-point conversion to Anthony Becht, which put Buffalo down 31-24.

This moment was made for Bledsoe. With less than five minutes remaining, Buffalo received the ball. The offense, however, stalled out after gaining one first down and Brian Moorman came on the field to punt.

For whatever reason, the Jets came after the ball and a roughing the punter penalty was called against the Jets. This gave the Bills new life and with 26 seconds remaining, Bledsoe found Eric Moulds for a 29-yard touchdown pass, which tied the game and sent it to overtime.

The Bills lost the coin toss and kicked off to the Jets. With Morton having already returned a touchdown, the Bills would play it safe and kick it away from him, right? Wrong.

Kicker Mike Hollis sent to the ball to the Jets’ four-yard line. Morton took the ball and #BecauseItsBuffalo, he took the ball 96 yards for the game-winning touchdown.

4. Buffalo Bills vs. Pittsburgh SteelersWeek 12, 2010 Season: Steelers 19, Bills 16 (OT)

Chan Gailey’s first season as Bills head coach did not get off to a good start. Buffalo was the last team to win a game in 2010 after losing their first eight games.

The Bills weren’t that talented in 2010, but they were a team you rooted for. Journeyman quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick took over as the starter in the third week of the season, and the team suddenly became fun to watch.

Following their bye week in Week 6, the Bills started to turn the season around. While they lost three straight games to the Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears. Buffalo took Baltimore and Kansas City to overtime before losing and lost 22-19 to the Bears. In each contest, Buffalo lost by only three points.

Heading into the Steelers game, the Bills had finally righted the ship, riding a two-game win streak as they had defeated the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals in back-to-back weeks.

The team seemingly was improving when the Steelers came into town.

The Steelers, however, were 8-2 and jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead. The game looked like it could get ugly.

Nothing eventful happened early in the third quarter, but the Bills were keeping the Steelers off the score board. Then with 3:45 remaining, Fitzpatrick connected with running back Fred Jackson that went 65 yards for a touchdown. The score was 13-7, and Buffalo had new life.

By the fourth quarter, I believed Buffalo was in the game. Rian Lindell hit two field goals early in the fourth to tie the game before Shaun Suisham and the Steelers came back to take a 16-13 lead on a 50-yard field goal.

Buffalo received the ball with less than a minute remaining on their own 46-yard line. Fitzpatrick made two completions and Lindell hit a 49-yard field goal with two seconds remaining to send the game to overtime.

Headed to overtime for the third time in four weeks, the Bills had to receive some good karma after losing to the Ravens and Chiefs. They just had to.

It looked that way with 12 minutes remaining in overtime. Fitzpatrick hit Fred Jackson for a 13-yard pass, then on the next play, Jackson ran the ball up the middle for 13 more yards. Buffalo had momentum and the Steelers were on the ropes.

Fitzpatrick took the snap with 10:38 remaining in overtime and looked to be handing the ball off to Jackson. The Steelers bit on the play-action pass and Fitzpatrick was able to look downfield. Stevie Johnson looked like he was going inside and Ike Taylor let up knowing he had safety help.

Instead, Johnson broke back outside and was wide open. Fitzpatrick threw a perfect pass to Johnson. It was going to be vindication for Johnson, who had four drops leading up to the play, to catch the game-winning touchdown.

Instead, the ball hit Johnson in the hands and #BecauseItsBuffalo, fell to the ground. Five dropped passes. The image of Johnson sitting on the turf staring at the ball was ingrained in my memory that day.

Following the incompletion, the Bills’ drive stalled at Pittsburgh’s 39-yard line. Instead of attempting a field goal, Buffalo punted. Moorman’s kick went into the endzone. After a 13-play, 58-yard Steelers drive, Suisham hit a 41-yard field goal with 2:19 remaining in overtime to give the Bills their third overtime loss in four weeks.

3. Buffalo Bills at New England PatriotsWeek 1, 2009 Season: Patriots 25, Bills 24

I hate season openers. I hate Monday Night Football. I hate the New England Patriots. Okay, now that is off of my chest.

The Bills and Patriots were squaring off in Week 1 and the storyline was strong. Tom Brady was returning from injury after missing the 2008 season with torn knee ligaments. Buffalo was unveiling their newest wide receiver, Terrell Owens, who signed a $6.5 million deal that offseason. Throw in the fact that it was a division game and Monday Night Football to start the season? I was ready.

So were the Bills at the start.

Buffalo was on the scoreboard first with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Trent Edwards to Shawn Nelson. In the second quarter, New England and Buffalo exchanged touchdowns. Fred Taylor got New England on the board with a one-yard run. Aaron Schobel gave Buffalo the lead back when he intercepted Brady for a 26-yard touchdown. Stephen Gostkowski’s 20-yard field goal as time expired at the half gave Buffalo a 14-10 advantage.

The third quarter saw a Rian Lindell 40-yard field goal. The Bills led the Patriots 17-10 after three quarters.

In the fourth quarter, Gostkowski chipped in a 28-yard kick, but the Bills answered with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Edwards to Fred Jackson to extend their lead to 24-13.

With 2:06 remaining, Brady found tight end Benjamin Watson for an 18-yard touchdown pass, but a two-point conversion pass to Watson failed. Buffalo continued to lead, 24-19.

As the Bills looked out for an onside kick, Gostkowski kicked it away and Leodis McKelvin took it out of the endzone. It was a nice return as McKelvin made it past the 20, then the 25 and finally the 30. But as the Patriots swarmed him, McKelvin tried to carry the Patriots players downfield.

Big mistake, and #BecauseItsBuffalo McKelvin fumbled the ball. Gostkowski recovered the fumble at Buffalo’s 31-yard line with less than two minutes remaining, but it only took Brady three plays to once again connect with Watson for a 16-yard touchdown. The Patriots two-point conversion failed, but the Patriots now held a 25-24 lead. Buffalo’s attempt to get into field goal range with 45 seconds remaining on the clock was futile.

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Tags: #BecauseItsBuffalo, 21st century, Buffalo Bills, Heartbreaking Losses, Just One Before I Die

8 Responses to “#BecauseItsBuffalo: Counting Down the Bills’ Most Heartbreaking Losses of the 21st Century”

  1. Joe Marino says:

    2004 Week 1 against Jacksonville. On a 4rth and 7, last play of the game, Byron Leftwich connects with Ernest Wilford for a TD pass and the Bills loose 13-10. That one sucked bad.

    • Ryan Talbot says:

      Yep. I had a lot of trouble keeping that game off of my list. We’ve lost some devastating games in the first week of the season.

    • Jeff Schlagenhauf @we4bills says:

      And if I recall, it’s one of the plays that would not be a touchdown today. And was a questionable force out call by the officials.

  2. John says:

    Steelers game was in Buffalo not Pittsburgh

    • Ryan Talbot says:

      Correct. Both of the games say Buffalo Bills vs. Pittsburgh Steelers not @ the Steelers. Did I write something in the games that said otherwise? If so, my apologies.

      • Ryan Talbot says:

        Ah, see where it says “Heading into Pittsburgh.” I think it originally said, “Heading into the Pittsburgh game.” When it went through the editing process, they probably assumed I meant heading into the city of Pittsburgh. Good catch John.

  3. Jeff Schlagenhauf @we4bills says:

    Nice article Ryan. But this past season by itself was a #BecauseItsBuffalo depressing scene. 6-10 vs. 10-6

    #BecauseItsBuffalo 1. Top let down Home vs. New England Bills leading 14-7 when CJ Spiller fumble inside the Patriots 5. Then Bills go up 21-7 on D Jones catch and run. And then the last 26 minutes … I can’t remember a bigger swing of emotions ever watching a Bills regular season game.

    #BecauseItsBuffalo 2. The “Chan really is incompetent” game.
    Bills take a 3rd quarter lead than puts them up 5. Gailey doesn’t go for 2, so Bills only lead by 6. Defense holds on 4th and 5 at Bills 36 with 5 minutes left. On 3rd and 7 with just over three minutes left, Fitzpatick under throws Jones for an interception. This time the defense doesn’t hold. Bills get the ball back at 20 with a minute left and our first two plays are passes of 4 and 2 yards. This is a game the Bills should have won.

    #BecauseItsBuffalo 3. St. Louis – Where to start? The holding call nullifying the Gilmore pick 6? George Wilson’s failure — twice to catch interceptions that would have put the game away? Or the fact that CJ Spiller had only 8 touches in this game.

    #BecauseItsBuffalo 4. Week 10@NE. Fitzpatrick misses Chandler for winning touchdown and then throws interception with under 30 seconds left. Truly a #BecauseItsBuffalo moment.

    #BecauseItsBuffalo 5. Indianapolis. The PI call on Gilmore that would have forced the Colts to punt was truly a #BecauseItsBuffalo moment as well.

    At least three if not four games this past season should have been won by the Bills, but weren’t. That’s why there’s hope this year. I believe this year’s team is better than last. Make a few key plays and call the right plays and the Bills may surprise this year.

    • MattDean says:

      I hear ya Jeff…though I’m not sure 2013′s team is BETTER than 2012′s. Unproven QB’s, LB’s, DB’s, WR’s, OL, new coaching, new front office…blah blah. It all provides hope to us die-hard Bills fans, a false hope (as we’ve all become accustomed to).

      Unfortunately, I fear it may be ugly. WHY you ask???


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