It might not be easy for the Buffalo Bills or their fans to admit, but on Sunday they will end the season against the team that has long established itself as what the Bills – along with many other NFL clubs – aspire to become.
The New England Patriots are the gold standard of the league, as they have been for the better part of the last 14 seasons.
Not only are the Pats the team the Bills have beaten only once in their last 22 games, but they’re an organization that a team such as the Bills – who have the NFL’s longest active streak of non-playoff seasons with 15 – can’t help but envy.
The Patriots have done practically everything right on the way to winning three Super Bowls and being a consistent top contender since capturing their last NFL crown after the 2004 season. Besides having one of the league’s best quarterbacks in Tom Brady and its best coach in Bill Belichick, they also have continually found the right pieces to maintain their lofty status.
“They’ve done it a lot of different ways with a lot of different pieces, outside of the quarterback,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said. “I have a great appreciation for the way that they play. They play extremely hard on every single play. They get off blocks, they do things that good teams need to do to be consistent and play all the time. To say that you want your team to look like that, I think that’s difficult to try to emulate. What you want is the production and the efficiency that they have.”
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who has been part of only one victory against the Patriots, echoed Marrone’s admiration.
“It’s no secret that that’s what everybody works for and works to attain – that level of consistency, where it’s a championship-or-nothing type of attitude,” Williams said. “Obviously, they have set the gold standard, not just for the AFC but for the NFL for almost the last two decades.
“There’s different ways to get there. I think you see different teams in the league are elite or championship-caliber teams every year, but you have to recognize” the Patriots’ “success and how they’ve done it and say, ‘How can we get to where they are?’”
The Bills returned to practice Friday after having Thursday off for Christmas.
Unlike a normal abbreviated session on Friday, the team held a full-scale workout as would have been the case on Thursday before a Sunday game.
Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus (knee) and cornerback Stephon Gilmore (concussion) are listed as doubtful for Sunday.
Kicker Dan Carpenter (groin) and safety Aaron Williams (hip) are probable.