Stum-Bills at it again

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 6:50 AM ET

Just call them the fumbling, stumbling, bumbling Buffalo Bills.

Add a few expletives and you may be getting within range of what this once-competitive NFL franchise is fast becoming to its frustrated fans.

A team that seems to find a new way to lose each week made it especially creative yesterday before a sellout crowd of its faithful suckers at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The beneficiaries this day where the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots, a team the NFL record book shows really doesn't need the help.

They weren't about to turn down a gift though, and gladly left Orchard Park, N.Y. with a 31-17 win, their 18th in a row, to claim a share of the NFL mark for consecutive victories.

The Patriots are everything the Bills are not. They win when they appear vulnerable. They are poise under pressure. And in quarterback Tom Brady, they have a guy who makes big plays seemingly on demand.

But back to the bumbling and stumbling home side.

The wildest of a wild game filled with odd plays and bizarre bounces came in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.

Trailing 24-17 with just 3:24 left, the driving Bills faced third and two on the Patriots' 16-yard line. The logical play was to hand the ball to Travis Henry and the call looked even better when a generous hole opened up on the right side.

Then came the stumble. Henry tripped on the carpet and lost a yard.

After calling a timeout to come up with something ingenious for fourth and three, some in the Bills huddle seemed to forget the play call -- a fake run in which quarterback Drew Bledsoe was supposed to roll out. That was the bumble.

The fumble came when Pats linebacker Tedy Bruschi stormed through unblocked and crashed Bledsoe to the carpet.

The ball popped loose and Patriots lineman Richard Seymour scooped it and rumbled 68 yards for a back-breaking score.

"I think it was a running play," Henry said. "I don't know what happened and why (Bruschi) came up the middle like that. It was miscommunication somewhere."

Duh. As well as the Bills have played at times, they can't keep from self-destructing. Another winnable game and another inexcusable loss adds up a team quickly losing touch with the leaders in the AFC East.

"That's the difference between a 3-0 team and an 0-3 team," Bills receiver Eric Moulds said comparing records. "They make their own breaks. We shoot ourselves in the foot."

Even though they were still in it, the Bills botched up long before that final drive. There were the 11 penalties for 94 yards. There was an interception where Moulds and Bledsoe got their signals crossed. There were countless Brady escapes from third and long. And there was an offside penalty that turned a Patriots field-goal attempt into a touchdown a few plays later.

The Bills stubbornly claim not to be as bad as their record and that may be true. But that song is also getting old.

Just ask the 72,698 at the Ralph yesterday. Ask them as well how anxious they will be to come back for late-season thrillers against the Bengals, Cardinals and 49ers.

The Bills actually gave their fans something to cling to yesterday. Like Terrence McGee's 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and Moulds' 41-yard catch for another. Rookie Lee Evans showed he may have a bright future, catching four passes for 93 yards.

But what does that get the Bills, their rookie head coach Mike Mularkey and their frustrated fans this morning?

"Take it for what it's worth," Bills linebacker Takeo Spikes said, "we're not the team we want to be right now."


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