In the AFC wild-card playoff round, the New England Patriots will see a familiar opponent in the Buffalo Bills. The AFC East foes have clashed 124 times over the past six decades, but Saturday’s matchup will be just their second postseason meeting.
December’s contest in Buffalo was marred by harsh winds and cold weather. The Patriots ran for 222 yards and two touchdowns en route to a 14-10 win on Monday Night Football. New England’s rookie quarterback Mac Jones only threw the ball three times for 19 yards.
As these teams prepare to do battle for the 125th time, let’s revisit some of the rivalry’s most memorable moments, as selected by NFL Nation reporters Mike Reiss and Alaina Getzenberg.
Sept. 16, 1973: O.J. Simpson’s record day
Pro Football Hall of Fame running back O.J. Simpson began his fifth NFL season with a historic outing against the Patriots. The then-26-year-old back ran for 250 yards on 29 carries, setting an NFL single-game record for rushing yards. His two touchdowns helped Buffalo rout New England 31-13.
The star back ran for 219 more yards and a score in his second meeting with the Pats on Dec. 9, as the Bills won again, 37-13.
Simpson’s 1973 season, when he rushed for 2,003 yards, was one for the history books. It was the first time a player ever hit the 2,000-yard rushing mark, making it a single-season record at the time.
Dec. 18, 1994: Patriots score 38 straight on the Bills
Bills quarterback Frank Reich (now coach of the Indianapolis Colts) led one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history, rallying his team from a 35-3 deficit to victory against the Houston Oilers in the 1992 AFC wild-card round. He also played a part in an epic collapse his team suffered against the Pats two years later.
Reich and the Bills built a 17-3 lead over New England by the second quarter, but the Pats eventually woke up. They scored 38 unanswered points behind a three-touchdown day from signal-caller Drew Bledsoe and forced the Bills into five turnovers. What started as a 17-3 lead for Buffalo ended in a 41-17 defeat.
Sept. 7, 2003: The “Lawyer Milloy Game”
The 2003 season opener between these teams will forever be known as the “Lawyer Milloy Game.” Five days before this contest, the Patriots released the veteran safety for salary-cap reasons. Former Patriots QB Bledsoe also was on the Bills’ 2003 roster. After the emergence of Tom Brady, New England traded Bledsoe to Buffalo for a 2003 first-round pick in April 2002.
The Bills signed Malloy after his release and both players played a role in the beatdown their team handed Brady and the Patriots. Bledsoe threw for 230 yards, one touchdown and an interception, helping the Bills mount a 21-0 lead by the second quarter. Milloy finished with a sack and five tackles, and he helped force one of four interceptions on Brady in a 31-0 win.
“It feels good,” Milloy said about winning the game. “But it feels good in a positive way, not in a personal vendetta way. I could be sitting up here and throwing out names and sticking it to them, but they know.”
Nov. 18, 2007: Brady goes off
In Week 10 of the 2007 season, the 9-0 Pats showed no mercy on the 5-4 Bills.
Brady scorched Buffalo’s secondary, completing 31 of 39 passes for 373 yards and five touchdowns. Four of them went to Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss, who had 10 receptions for 128 yards. The Pats’ offense scored on its first seven offensive drives. The Bills’ offense turned the ball over twice, including one that was returned for a touchdown.
The 56-10 thrashing of Buffalo gave New England a perfect 10-0 start, the 10th team to begin the season with such a record. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t end that way, as the Pats, who completed the regular season 16-0, lost in the Super Bowl to the New York Giants.
Dec. 28, 2008: Running against the wind
Before last month’s windy duel between these two squads, 2008’s regular-season finale at Buffalo was a more blustery affair.
Winds reported up to 75 mph caused damage to the Bills’ practice fieldhouse roof and titled both goalposts before the game. It was so bad that field crew workers tied the goalposts down with ropes to re-center them before kickoff.
Despite the gusts of wind, the game still went on as planned. New England, which was without Brady because of an ACL injury that year, threw the ball eight times in the contest. The Patriots ran it 47 times for 168 yards and a score, implementing a game plan much like their December outing under similar conditions.
New England posted a 13-0 victory, forcing Buffalo into one turnover.
The Patriots missed the playoffs that year despite finishing with an 11-5 record.