Bucky Gleason: Bills enjoy win over Chiefs, quickly turn attention toward Pats - The Buffalo News

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Bucky Gleason: Bills enjoy win over Chiefs, quickly turn attention toward Pats

First, my apologies for not adhering to the 24-hours rule that allows for a full day to celebrate victory or agonize in defeat in the NFL. The Bills improved their playoff chances with a critical win on the road Sunday, which hasn't happened often over the years in this long-suffering town.

For even the most ardent Bills loyalists, basking in the glow of beating a reeling Chiefs team in Arrowhead Stadium is a pointless exercise with the Patriots next on the schedule. New England has a sobering effect on Buffalo, forcing the Bills to wake up after a great party and realize their house was trashed.

While the Bills were slipping past the struggling Chiefs, the Patriots were clinching their 17th consecutive winning season with a win over the Dolphins. It's the longest such streak in the NFL since 1970, surpassing the great Dallas teams from the 1970s and '80s and San Francisco in the 1980s and '90s.

I'm guessing you heard the Bills haven't made the playoffs for 17 straight seasons, the longest active streak in major professional team sports. Buffalo's drought began the year before Tom Brady became a full-time starter and started leading New England to 15 division championships and five Super Bowls titles.

The Pats, who come to town Sunday with a 9-2 record, are on their way to their ninth consecutive AFC East title. Brady has been spectacular again this year while completing 68 percent of his passes for 3,374 yards, 26 touchdowns and only three interceptions.

At age 40, he has shown no signs of slowing down.

Isn't this fun?

Sean McDermott has coached against Brady three times but only once as a defensive coordinator, when he was with the Panthers in a win over the Pats in 2013. The other two games came when McDermott was a young assistant with the Eagles. He hasn't endured the terror that comes with Brady twice a season.

"It's a headache," McDermott said. "A lot of long hours, a lot of communication between coaches and coaches and coaches and players and players and players. They challenge you from a preparation standpoint. They challenge you off the field. They challenge you on the field."

If you're pining for a nice, juicy migraine, Brady has a 26-3 career record with 66 touchdown passes against the Bills, by far his best record and most TDs against one team. Only the Jets have allowed more yards passing to Brady, who played in two more games against New York than he did against Buffalo.

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New England is riding a seven-game winning streak, which also is nothing new. The Pats have won at least seven straight in four consecutive seasons and seven of the past eight years overall. They have won seven straight games or more 10 times in this century, including twice in 2007 while finishing 16-0.

The numbers are staggering, the reality humbling. The Bills haven't won seven straight games since 1990, the first year they reached the Super Bowl. They won eight straight games that season, beating the Patriots twice on their way to a 13-3 finish. The Pats have won 13 games or more six times since 2003.

While seven-game winning streaks are the norm in New England, seven wins in a season is about average in Buffalo. The Bills won 112 games, or about 6 and a half per season, during the drought. They won seven or fewer 12 times. Over the previous 16 years in which the Pats had a winning record, the Bills finished above .500 twice.

"I'm aware, overall, of the Patriots' success, of late in particular, in the league," McDermott said. "Their record speaks for themselves. They're the defending world champions. Until someone beats them and becomes world champions, they are the world champions. That's from a respect place. They do things the right way."

If they somehow beat the Patriots in a game that mattered Sunday, the Bills would improve to 7-5 for only the second time since 2000. Buffalo had a 7-4 record that season before losing four in a row, the last an overtime defeat to New England, and finishing 8-8. Thus began the 17-year playoff absence that started when Rob Gronkowski was in sixth grade and brings us to today.

The Bills are coming off a victory over a Chiefs team in crisis, but it was an important win nonetheless. Of their six victories this season, only two came against teams that currently have a winning record: Atlanta has won three straight to improve to 7-4 while Kansas City has lost three straight to fall to 6-5.

So if something felt different after the big win over Kansas City, little has actually changed. Buffalo was 6-5 last season before losing four of its last five games to finish 7-9. The Bills have only 22 players on the roster from a year ago but remain in basically the same place.

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The Bills were 7-5 in 2014 before losing two of their final four games, along with head coach Doug Marrone, who has a 7-4 record in his first season in Jacksonville. The Jaguars are tied for the division lead with the Titans, who are coached by Mike Mularkey. Mularkey coached the Bills the last time they won six straight.

Certainly, you remember 2004.

The Bills were 3-6 after losing to — who else? — the Patriots before rattling off six straight wins. Buffalo needed a win over Pittsburgh at home for the final playoff spot. The Steelers, having clinched home-field advantage, started Tommy Maddox and watched reserve Willie Parker run wild in a 29-24 victory.

No team has injected feelings of doom more than the Patriots. Of course, it helps having the same quarterback and coach performing at an elite level over a long period. Brady is the best quarterback in NFL history. Bill Belichick could be the best coach ever. They allowed the Pats to turn over the roster numerous times in 17 years.

The Patriots have started five different quarterbacks since 1999, starting with Drew Bledsoe. The others were Matt Cassel when Brady was injured in 2008 and Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett when Brady was suspended last year. The Bills have had 17 different starters under 10 different coaches over the same period.

Brady has played more than two extra seasons' worth of playoff games. In 34 postseason contests, he has a 25-9 record with 63 touchdown passes and 31 interceptions. Brady has thrown more than 30 touchdown passes six times. The Bills have had one in their history, Jim Kelly with 33 in 1991.

Although it's not all about the quarterback, the Pats' success starts with Brady. He has enabled the Patriots to succeed while playing with average receivers. His ability to extend drives has kept their defense off the field. He has never been the highest-paid passer in the league, helping them keep their payroll in order.

The Bills have been searching for a franchise quarterback since Belichick traded Bledsoe, knowing he was good enough to help Buffalo beat other teams but not good enough to beat the Pats on a consistent basis. The Bills are stuck with Tyrod Taylor until further notice, knowing he's not the long-term answer.

Taylor has completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,025 yards, 12 touchdowns and only three interceptions this season. He's averaging more than 104 yards fewer per game than Brady, more than the length of a football field. Add a touchdown against the Panthers and Bengals, and the Bills are 8-3 rather than 6-5.

If that were the case, maybe people would be going into the game Sunday thinking the Bills had a chance to beat … aw, let's not kid anyone. The Patriots are still the Patriots, and the Bills are still the Bills, until proven otherwise. My advice: Take two aspirin and wait for Brady to retire.

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