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Beware of the big, bad Patriots Gillette Stadium has been a House of Horrors for Buffalo. And with Tom Brady Back, things aren't looking easier for T.O. and the Bills. But are the underdogs overdue?

Many Buffalo Bills had the same reaction the past week when confronted with the gory details of the Bills-Patriots series.

They knew there was a losing streak. But they didn't realize it was 11 straight losses; 16 defeats in 17 tries.

"I didn't know that," said linebacker Keith Ellison. "All I know is it's zero-zero right now."

Hence the question: Are the Bills unwittingly marching to their doom in tonight's season opener against mighty New England?

Hope usually springs eternal in the season opener. But even though receiver Terrell Owens makes his much-anticipated Buffalo debut tonight, there's a sense of anxiety among Bills fans in advance of the nationally televised game at Gillette Stadium.

Will it be ugly?

New England has whipped the Bills by an average score of 29.1 to 8.7 during the last 11 meetings. The Patriots will be revved up for the return of star quarterback Tom Brady from a season-long knee injury. The Bills changed offensive coordinators 10 days ago and will have three offensive linemen making their NFL debuts.

"Any given day, anybody in the National Football League can be beaten, and it just takes us to go out there and execute, play our game and just put our best foot forward," said Bills safety Donte Whitner. "And that's what we plan to do."

"I think they've been the archenemy for the entire league for this past decade," said linebacker Kawika Mitchell. "It seems like they're so simple but they're so smart at what they do and they do just enough to win games. That's what their formula is. They want to win regardless of what it takes."

"We know in order to win the AFC East you've got to go through New England," said defensive end Chris Kelsay. "Despite everything that happened last year, they ended up 11-5. They have been the dominant team in our division. We're geared up for it. Prime time. Monday Night Football. It's going to be a fun way to open the season."

One Bill who is oblivious to the Pats' domination of Buffalo is Owens, who spent the past 13 seasons in the NFC.

Asked about the 11 straight losses, Owens said:

"I live in the present."

Asked if he has brought a swagger to the Buffalo locker room, Owens said:

"Well, if I haven't, I'll bring it Monday."

"No. 1, I believe in myself," Owens said. "[I have] the confidence that I can help and what I can bring to this team. And also, I hope it's contagious. Obviously, I have a lot of confidence in the guys. They have confidence in me."

Owens has had plenty of big games on Monday nights. He had four TD catches in four MNF games with Dallas the past three seasons.

"Monday night is pretty much a motivator for everybody, for every player," he said. "Everybody's looking to play their best. Everybody has their uncles, grandmas, aunts and uncles watching, and for the ones that are in the stadium, they try to make it extra special so I'm no different from those guys. Obviously, my family will be watching. I'm pretty sure the people in Dallas will be watching.

"Never would I be thinking that I had anything to prove once that ball's kicked off. I'm already in football mode, I'm already preparing, been preparing, weeks ago for this game. I'm looking forward to that."

Adding more intrigue to the game is the Bills' bold strategic plan to use the no-huddle offense.

Hence another foreboding question: Are the Bills going to hasten their own demise by playing a racehorse style against one of the most prolific offensive teams in NFL history? Will it be the equivalent of pouring gasoline on themselves and handing Pats coach Bill Belichick a book of matches?

Bills coach Dick Jauron said he long has been an admirer of a no-huddle style.

"It was the direction I wanted to go when I got here and, for one reason or another, we never got to it," Jauron said. "We certainly practiced it, we just never got to it. So I do think you need certain personnel to fit it. I think our personnel does fit it and I'm excited about it."

All indications are the Bills will try to run their offense at a brisk pace.

The benefit of running the no-huddle fast is it's hard for the defense to change personnel, it gives the defense less time to try to confuse the offense with confusing alignments and the defense could get tired out.

Of course, the defense only gets tired out if the opposing offense can stay on the field.
"We're moving a lot faster with the no-huddle," said running back Fred Jackson of the approach by new coordinator Alex Van Pelt. "I think we're getting plays off seven, eight seconds faster than we were before, and I think a lot of the guys are buying into it."

For what it's worth, the Bills have bought into the idea that their history with the Pats is old news.

"All that doesn't matter," Ellison said. "It's a new game. All that happened in the past is the past. That's something we can't focus on, we can't even think about. We have to focus on beating this year's team."

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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