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MONDAY BILLBOARD

Big Picture: - Did someone say this would be a battle for first place in the AFC East? It turned out to be the Bills' battle for survival. They didn't. New England is solidly at the top of the division and the Bills are just another face in the AFC crowd of .500 teams.

Play of the Game: - It came on the fourth play of the Bills' second series. No Buffalo blocker picked up Tedy Bruschi, a blitzing Patriot linebacker. Bruschi creamed Todd Collins, the Bills' quarterback and Collins didn't get up. He had to leave the game with a left shoulder injury, diagnosed as a "strain of the rotator cuff." The Bills were dead when he went out of the game.

Player of the Game: - Adam Vinatieri, the Patriots' field goal kicker who never misses. He connected four times, including a 52-yarder, running his consecutive streak to 20.

Hit of the Day: - Derrick Cullors, a New England coverage commando, blasted Eric Moulds after he returned the opening kickoff just 15 yards.

Unsung Hero: - He played on the losing side, but Marlon Kerner was all over the place, substituting for the injured Jeff Burris.

Quote of the Day: - "The final score would have been 33-9." -- Marv Levy, when asked what impact Steve Christie's missed 34-yard field goal attempt in the last two minutes of the first half had on the outcome of the game.

Zebra Report: - More like a Zebra stampede. It was as one-sided as the score. The Bills were penalized 11 times for 88 yards and the Pats just once. The striped shirts blew one call when they charged Kerner with pass interference on a play from the Buffalo 9 just before New England's last touchdown.

Pass Rushers: - Drew Bledsoe had plenty of time in the New England pocket. Bruce Smith sacked him once, but most of the time he went unmolested.

First miss: - Christie's 34-yard field- goal attempt that went wide left was his first miss in nine tries this season. The game also snapped a streak of 60 straight in which Christie scored, dating to Nov. 21, 1993.

Third-Down Blues: - This statistic tells it all: 14 third-down opportunities, one conversion for 7 percent. That's not the Seven Percent Solution. The Bills also failed twice on third-and-1, running their season record to a dismal 2 for 9.

Grass Stains: - This was the Bills' seventh consecutive loss while playing on grass. Four of their last five road games are on grass. Ahhh-choooo!

Best Sign: - "Without Jim Kelly, Your Offense is Smelly." OK, it's not such a good year for signs.

Patriot fever: - It was New England's 36th straight sellout at Foxboro, including preseason and playoff games, dating to the '94 opener. The Pats have won nine straight in division. Coming Attractions: - The Bills get an extra day of preparation since their next game is a Monday nighter against the Colts in Indianapolis. The Colts lost on the road to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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