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It has been a theme for the last several seasons for the Patriots to enter their season as a Super Bowl favorite. For the Buffalo Bills expectations are to enter its season just hoping not to finish last in the division.
Two weeks into this season the Buffalo Bills have shown signs of improvement, but against this high-powered Patriot team, they are still underdogs. To find a time when the Bills were the team with momentum and the Patriots the team surrounded by question marks, you have to go back to the start of the 2003 season.
The Patriots were coming off a disappointing 2002 season in which they missed the playoffs and finished 9-7. Tom Brady had performed well tossing 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, but going into his third year people didn’t know what to expect from him.
The Patriots were viewed as a team that won with their defense, and after failing to negotiate a new contract with star safety Lawyer Milloy, they released him just five days before the season. The Patriots were already expected to have some trouble on defense against their opening day opponent the Buffalo Bills, even before cutting Milloy.
Drew Bledsoe was coming off his first pro-bowl season in five years, and was surrounded by talented players on offense, including Travis Henry, Eric Moulds and Peerless Price. They had finished 8-8, but were expected to improve on this record if they could upgrade their defense.
The Bills accomplished this during the offseason by adding Sam Adams and Takeo Spikes. And then, to put the proverbial cherry on top, less than a week before the Patriots came to town Milloy signed with Buffalo.
From the start of the game until the end, the Buffalo Bills dominated.
The first two drives of the game, the Bills drove 80 yards and 90 yards, respectively to go up 14-0. On the other side of the ball, Brady had one of the worst games of his career — throwing four interceptions and no touchdowns.
The most crushing of these was the pick six from the mammoth defensive lineman Adams before the half, to put the Bills up 21-0.
All three defensive newcomers for the Bills had big games for the Bills, with Spikes recording two interceptions, and Milloy sacking Brady and causing an interception by batting a pass right into the hands of teammate Nate Clements.
Fittingly, the Patriots ended the game with Antowain Smith getting stuffed at the 1-yard line to preserve the 31-0 shutout by the Bills.
The irony of this game is that it set the completely opposite tone for how the season would turn out for these two teams. The Bills won their next game easily, and then proceeded to lose 10 out of their last 14 games to finish at 6-10.
The Patriots won two, lost again, and then rattled off a record-breaking 21 straight wins, including their second Super Bowl victory, this time over the Carolina Panthers. And in a storybook ending, the Patriots finished their 14-2 regular season by beating the Bills by the same score, 31-0.