January 03, 2009
'Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing'
By:  Stan Jaksina
PatsFans.com Fan Columnist

Looking at this game, all Patriot fans were quite positive about it despite whatever conditions would be taking place on that day. Snow, rain cold, even wind. I think the Pats were all prepared and ready. They were on a mission irregardless of the weather. Having played in rain an dsnow and conquorerd both with big wins, it did not seem to matter what teh conditions would be.

There was more looking at the weather than worrying about the Bills. There was mention of a possible storm, but with the lake effect, even if there was no storm in sight, there was always a possibility of snow and cold and horrible conditions on the field.

On the injury front, Bruschi was out and later in the week, both Yates and Ventrone were also scratched, Yates with a hand injury and Ventrone with some kind of a jaw problem. It was also noted that if the Pats won, that most likely, Bubba would be on the IR and another player from the Practice Squad added.

The big concern was the moving of the Jets/Dolphins game to later in the afternoon. I hated the notion of it and even though the Jets would have a reason to play with the Ravens/Jags game being moved as well, it felt wrong. If all were played at the same time, that would been the fairest and made the most sense. Pushing games later, it was in fact, manipulating the situation. It was another typical BadL move. And Patriot fans were not at all happy wit this. There were many that shrugged their shoulders and said it wasn't a big deal, but when teams are close and small dynamics come into play ANY change like that would have an effect and however minor it might be, it does change things.

It was typical of a BadL ploy of moving another game to cover his bad intentions and naked unfairness. But the Jets did have something to play for, if the Ravens lost and? To me, it showed more he knew what he was doing and the so called 'integrity' was jeopardized/ If he had only moved the Jets/Dolphins game, I think most would have seen that as unfair and easily so. But adding a game where the outcome was quite one sided really didn't change things.

But the league tilts tables all the time in quiet ways and this was just another obstacle. The Patriots had to take care of business first.

I think a lot of people were happy with the higher temps in Buffalo and were glad that the snow was not hitting. What was the factor was wind and I don't think many ever envisioned a game like what was being played.

The Inactives were announced and there were no surprises at all as five had been ruled out of the game in the previous days before the game.

New England won the toss and took the wind, kicking off to the Bills. Gostkowski's kick was deep and bounced through the endzone for a touchback. It was on these first few plays that one could see this was a game a lot different than most. It woud be played primarily on the ground and a pass would be rare, because the wind was incredibly strong. Jackson hit low and gained 4 for a first down, but on the next play, was stopped and reversed left, past a diving Colvin and Meriwether. He was finally knocked out of bounds by Mayo after 6. The Buffalo bench was all upset because JSanders had hit him a bit out of bounds and they thought a flag should have been thrown. Jackson ran into a wall of Wilfork and Green, gaining 0 and on 3rd down, Omon went left and hit a similar one in Seau and Green, again for 0. Moorman's punt was into the wind and it hit a gust, looping to the side after not gaining any height. The 13 yard punt gave the Pats great position at their own 49.

Morris ran up inside for 7 and after he gained 2 up the middle, it was Jordan's turn. He went to the right, but bumped hard into Kaczur, enough so that Denney could tackle him from behind. He lost a yard and on 3rd and 2, at the Bills 43, they decided to go for it. The only problem was that Kaczur moved and was called on a False Start and they were forced to put. Hansen got the punt down to McKelvin, but he called for the fair catch and it bounced off his hand and rolled back. Slater was there quick and dove for it at the goal line, but it went of his hand as well. Running back Jackson finally got the ball, deep and was tackled by Izzo and Thomas. It was ruled a touchback and the ball was at the 20.

For the Bills, it was 3 and out as Jackson would not get good yardage on three attempts. Moorman's punt was better, 36 yards and out of bounds left at the Pats 37.

On the second play, Cassel found Evans open a few yard down on the right side and he caught it and stormed up the field for 19 to the Bills 44. It took a few to knock him out of bounds and it showed great effort. After Morris swept left for 7, he took it inside for 4 and a 1st down at the 33. It was again an open Evans on the right for 12 to the 21 as Simpson tripped him up this time. Morris went to the left for 6, carrying Ellison for a bit as Simpson came in to help out, but then no gain as he hit a wall and was pulled back hard. On 3rd down, Cassel threw it over the middle to Welker, who had it and McKelvin was on him to help him drop it. Gostkowski's 33 yard field goal with the wind was straight through the middle and the Pats were on top, 3-0.

It was a short line drive kick taken by linebacker Johnson who ran up the right side for 19 to the 40; a good position to start a drive. On 3rd down and 8, Buffalo called a draw and found a large opening on the left for Jackson. He ran through the hole for 13 until JSanders brought him down. After a Walker False Start, Jackson ran right and Seau knocked him down for no gain. As the second quarter started, it was a pass to Evans for 13 on the right. On 3rd and 2, Jackson looked like he was stopped on the left in a pile of Patriots, but all of a sudden, he shot out the other side with great second effort and a big 7 yard gain. It was 1st and 10 at the Pats 31. After a Schouman False Start penalty, Edward scrambled for 5. Jackson ran into the line for a yard as Wlifork and company stopped him and Omon only got 2. Lindell tried a 44 yard field goal with the wind, but even though he aimed it to the left, the ball arched quickly to the right. It was wide to that side. It was an eerie sight to see a ball curve as much as that one did.

With the ball at their own 37, the Pats started their drive into the tough wind. Jordan ran right outside, left inside, a right sweep and up the middle for gains of 7,4,4 and 8 yards. The ball was at the Bills 40 and Morris gained 1 and lost 2 as the Buffalo defense was keying into the Pats run game. On 3rd down, Cassel rolled to the right and out of bounds, hurdling the bench. It was a gain of 6 and now it was 4th and 5 at the Bills 35 yard line. Cassel went back and stepped up as Mitchell and Scott rushed in from each side. He angled right and was one on one with rookie cornerback Corner. Cassel went at him and spun off the hit, struggling to get the first down. The gain of 5 was a big one and it was a big effort by Cassel. It was 1st down at the 27. Jordan ran twice for 8 and 6 yards as the Pats offensive line made big holes. But with a 1st and 10 at the 14, the drive stalled. Jordan went right for 2 as Scott stopped him and then Morris went left for 2 as Scott got a hold of his legs. After a Bills time out, Morris took the ball again, but was hit quicl;y by Kelsay. The grounds crew took a few minutes to align the goal posts as the wind was wrecking havoc with them. Gostkowski's 26 yarder veered off to the right, no good.

There was 4:16 left in the half and Buffalo had the wind and a large opportunity. With a 3rd and 4, it was Edwards who scrambled tight for the 1st down at the 31 yard line. After a pass to Fine for no gain, it was the two minute warning and then Jackson exploded for a big run of 32 yards. He went into a pile on the left and seemed to be stopped, but he cut outside on the right and found a large hole and only few Patriot defenders. He ran outside and was knocked out of bounds by Wilhite at the Patriot 37 yard line. After a short pass on the left to Reed, the Bills took their 2nd timeout, with 69 ticks of the clock left. Jackson ran right for 13 yards as he carried Wilhite and Hobbs for more yardage and then quickly, he ran again for 2 to the 15 yard line. Buffalo called their last time out as there were 29 seconds left. There was a pass on the right to Schouman for 3. He ran out of bounds with 22 seconds left and then confusion hit the Bills. As the play clock was winding down, they barely got the play off and Jackson went into the line for 3. Some of the Bills players were downfield after the play tussling with Patriot players. Jackson had the ball and was coming off the field.with it. Meanwhile the whistles blew as they saw the players going at it, but not stop the clock. Buffalo's lineman Prescott was one who didn't go back to the huddle and was arguing with the Pats players as the gun sounded ending the half.

Going against the wind, the Pats got the ball in the 3rd quarter and with two Morris runs, could gain only 3 yards. To make it worse, Cassel was sacked on 3rd down by KWilliams. Again, the Bills were confused with many players on the field and Cassel immediately went into a surprise shotgun on 4th down. It forced a Bill time out. Hansen got a big kick off into the wind and with the roll, it was 46 yards.

Jackson found a big hole on the left for a big 9 yards and after being crunched for no gain was stopped on 3rd down, only to come out of the pile with a great second, third effort and a 3 yard run. Two plays later, Edwards went back to pass and Green came around from the blind side and knocked the ball out of his hand, Vrabel falling on it for the turnover.

New England had the ball at the Bills 43. Morris found a hole left for 9 and then gained 1 as Kelsay tackled him. He gained another on 1st down and Jordan came in for 8, moving from left to right, with an opening there, On 3rd and 1 at the Buffalo 24, he ran right but ran into a solid wall of Mitchell and Posluszny and lost a yard. After a time out as the play clock was running out, Caseel rolled right and found a big opening in the seam, running and for 6. It was 1st down at the 19 yard line. Jordan ran for 2 and then no gain as Scott and Denney hemmed him inside. On 3rd down, he bounced off Scott, but still got 3 as Denney helped on the tackle. It was 4th and 5 at the 14 and the Pats went for it. Cassel went back and fired a pass in the left flat to Welker, who was wide open. He took off down the sideline and McGee knocked him out at the 2. Jordan ran into the endzone untouched through the right line and the Pats were up 9. Gostkowski's extra point was good, but it was an adventure with the winds blowing hard.

A pass over the middle to Fine got 8, but Buffalo was slow getting plays off, as their time with the wind was dwindling. Jackson lost 2 as Colvin and Vrabel got penetration quickly. On 3rd down, Edwards's pass to Evans was wide, so with 3:13 left in the quarter, the Pats had the ball at their 15.

The Bills defense was tough as Morris gained 0 and 3 on his two runs. Smartly, Buffalo called time out to possibly get the ball back with the wind. On 3rd and 7, Cassel threw it to Faulk, who ran up between Mitchell and McKelvin for 8 and a big 1st down. After a gain of 4, Morris slipped to the outside and found a hole for 10, to their 40. On the next play, the last in the quarter, Morris slammed into Whitner who was near the line of scrimmage and headed outside for 16 yards into Buffalo territory. Two plays later, a pass to Moss on the right gained 13 and on a 3rd and at the 23, Cassel fired a bullet over the middle to Welker who caught it for 14 yards to the 9 yard line. Morris ran for 2 on a left sweep and 3 more on a run through the right side of the line. On 3rd down, the pass into the endzone faded to the right incomplete and Gostkowski nailed the short field goal.

McKelvin fumbled the kickoff and big Vince Redd was in on him, downing him at the 17. Evans caught a pass on the left for 14 and 3 plays later, Edwards rolled to the right, almost sacked by Wilfork and chased by Green. He threw it downfield to Royal who made the catch on a ball thrown low. A flag for what some thought was holding was picked up and the gain was 18 on the pass to the Patriot 48. On 2nd down Green sacked Edwards for a loss of 7 and on the next play, a pass to Reed was a yard shy of the marker as Meriwether was tight on coverage. On 4th down and 1, at the NE39, Edwards threw a pass right for Reed and the wind blew it to the side. The Pats took over on downs at the 39.

Jordan gained a yard apiece on two runs an don 3rd down, Cassel was back in the shotgun, but instead of throwing it, he got the ball and quick kicked it down the field. The ball hit at the 20 and rolled, with the wind taking it all the way down to the 2 yard line where Morris, amongst a committee of Patriot players downed it. The 57 yard kick was a surprise that pinned the Bills all the way back.

The wind had lessened some and Edwards hit Evans on the left for 16. After a scramble by Edwards of 9, it took Omon for a 3rd down run of 2 to get the first down. Green pressured Edwards and he got the pass off to Evans. Hobbs grabbed his jersey and finally pulled him down after 13 yards to the Buffalo 41. Another 3rd down pass to Evans got 8 and on 4th, he was sacked by Smith. Unfortunately, Mayo was called for Illegal Contact and the Bills had a first down at the 46. After a pass to Royals for 12, a pass went wide as Colvin was in quick. Another was way overthrown, caught in the wind, while another was almost picked off by Hobbs. On 4th down, Mayo chaed Edwards and he gained only a yard.

The Pats took over, but punted on 3rd down, Jackson getting the bounding punt and running up and through a lot of special teamers. Luckily Slater caught him and knocked him out of bounds after 30 yards at the Buffalo 49. Incomplete passes, a Holding penalty and quickly, the game was history.

I was really glad when the game ended as it was one of the oddest games I have seen. With extreme weather games, where the elements are king as in this case, anything can happen. A few weird plays can through momentum in one direction or the other and trying to get a handle on it is like grabbing Jello. I remember two games that were similar to this one. One was the famous Snowplow game in 1982 where the snow conditions were close to a whiteout and with the aid of a snowplow late in the game, John Smith was able to kick the winning field goal. The other was opening day in 1975 where the weather was that of a pouring windy rain. Under these conditions, the only points came off a fumble return by Houston's Willie Germany. There had been hope for this season as the 74 team started hot, but with injuries and little depth, finished 7-7. It was a horrible way to start the year and the Patriots tumbled to a three win season.

There was an odd continuity and feel for the game, with so little passing and really, until the last quarter, a real adventure throwing against the wind.

The Patriots played their hearts out and did what they needed to do. The offense was tough and Cassel threw the ball brilliantly when he had to. He ran the ball a few times and showed guts and determination. The defense plated adequately and got a big turnover when needed. They could have slowed the Bills running attack some as the two headed beast had been cut in half with Lynch's injury, but they did what it takes. The kickers did an incredible jon, Hansen taking the Special Teams Player of the Week award. He kicked three times for a 45 yard average, including a booming 46 yard boot against the wind in the third quarter. Gostkowski also did a top notch job kicking two field goals.

BillB did a great job coaching and showed why he's one of the best. Cassel's quick kick was one of the best calls he's made and McDanials again showed why he will some day be a head coach in the NFL. The D had a shutout and while they could have played better, showed some character and poise in brutal conditions.

But as soon as the game ended, all of Patriot Nation turned to the Meadowlands and the Dolphin/Jet game, for it would be here that the fate of the Patriot team would be decided. I was mildly optimistic, but I also remembered 02 and the same optimism and how that vanished so quickly. And that was a game where the mighty Packers were favored, although in a game that meant little to them.

It started slow with neither the Jets nor Dolphins making much of their first possessions. The Jets moved the ball with the help of penalties into Fin territory, but a 3rd down pass wide of Keller gave way to a Hodges punt and the pinning of the Fins inside the 5. Miami got a 1st down, but had to punt from their 21. Meanwhile, Flacco made a key throw and the Ravens were on top, 3-0.

With the ball at midfield, on the second play, Favre threw downfield to Washington and it was picked off by Goodman. Stover missed a field goal in Baltimore so that game was still only a three point one. On 3rd down, Martin made a big catch over the middle, injured as Bowens and Mosley sandwiched him. It was looked at as a possible review as the ball was free, but Mangini did not throw the bean bag. The Miami drive continued with first downs on a Brown run for 7 out of the Wildcat and a Pennington to Cobbs pass of 5. On a trick play out of the Wildcat, Pennington ended up with the ball back on a pitch out and Williams dropped the ball at the 15. He was wide open on the right and would have had a score easily. False Starts by Alleman and Ndukwe pushed the ball back to the 50 and Pennington's short pass to Brown was broken up by Lowery; the Fins had to punt.

Just as the second quarter was starting, the Jags went on top with a Pearman reception and more optimism flowed. The Jets though were 3 and out as Bell's safety blitz thwarted a third down pass. Miami moved the ball again as Fasano caught a pass of 11 and Law was penalized on an Illegal Contact play that negated a Rhodes interception. The Ravens went back ahead as McClain ran for a short touchdown. Pennington was sacked by Thomas and Trusnik recovered the fumble. It was the break and I hoped the Jets would capitalize on it.

There were two crucial third down plays as Favre hit Cotchery for 26 and Washington on a shovel pass that just for 8 that just gave them a first. Two plays later it was Coles who caught a short pass over the middle at the 12, cut by Crowder and outran Bell, into the endzone foe a 13 yard touchdown. New York was on top, but the extra point was botched and it was only a 6-0 lead.

There was a dropped interception by Barton, which was a big break for Miami, but New York could not advance the ball either on their series. Meanwhile, the Ravens, with a McGahee run, advanced to a 17-7 lead. Even though the Jets were ahead, I had a very poor feeling about it all.

Fasano came up with a big third down grab and the Fins went no huddle with two passes to Bess. Pennington found Ginn open and got the pass over Lowery to him and quickly the Dolphins were on top, 7-0. On the first play after the kickoff, Favre threw it on the right, only to have Merling pick it off and easily run the 25 yards into the endzone for another score. It was if the Jets saw that the Ravens were pounding the Jags and the air went out of their balloon and they didn't care. It was a dumb pass and I screamed out in disgust. Mangini's face said it all.

Old man Favre who had injured his arm in a dive to save the TD got the Jets in gear in the last two minutes of the game.On 3rd down, it was a pass to Coles up the left seam for 27 and two plays later to Keller for 15, to the 18 yard line of the Fins. Although they had an Illegal Formation penalty when Favre was spiking the ball, they still had 22 seconds left. The pass was to Stuckey for 13. After a spike, he threw low to Keller in the endzone. Feely added the field goal and at the half, it was 14-9.

Miami got the ball in the third and after Williams took the Wildcat snap for 11 to their own 49, they ran into trouble. Haynos caught one for 3, but as Pace hit him, he fumnled the ball, but it bounced back to him. The 3rd down pass was to Ginn and ruled out of bounds, incomplete. On the punt, center Denney hiked it up over the head of Fields and he was lucky to recover it at their own 28.

The Jets ran into trouble as Jones lost for, Holliday breaking in for the big play. On 3rd and 14, Favre threaded the needle to Cothcery on the left. He fumbled and recovered in a pile, but it was a 1st down at the 17 yard line of Miami. Washington swept for 7 than ran inside for 10 and a go ahead touchdown run. Favre threw it to Cotchery on the right on the two point conversion and The Jets were on top, 17-14. I was yelling and screaming with glee.

It was a short lived happiness as on the first play, it was a flea flicker with Pennington throwing it deep to Ginn. There he was with Rhodes and Law there, doing nothing to prevent the reception. It was a 44 yard bomb to the Jets 36. On a 3rd and 5, Pennington threw it ahead to London, who made a nifty fingertip grab for 10 and a 1st down at the 21. Two plays layer Pennington rached it into the right corner. Fasano made a quick adjustment and snared the ball and the 20 yard reception gave Miami the lead again, 21-17.

And then neither team could move the ball. Baker dropped a short pass, but on 3rd down, Favre hit Coles for 16. On the next 3rd down play, Crowder was on him, so his pass over the middle was way short. Miami also ran into trouble. Williams gained 9 on a sweep and Polite 5 and a 1st down. Bess gained 8 on a short pass, but a 3rd down flare pass to Polite lost yardage as Rhodes was tackling him immediately in the backfield for a loss of 2.

The Jets took over and got a first down on a pass to Baker. The third quarter ended and on a 3rd and 2, the Jets ran one of the Patriot's favorite trick plays, the fake high snap to the QB and the running back getting the snap and running with the ball. With Favre and Washington, this worked great as the running back gained 8, to the NYJ49. On 3rd down and 2, they were going to try their version of the Wildcat, with Smith, but had to take a time out as there would have been a penalty on the formation. Favre threw it to Keller, but Bell knocked the ball down. Instead of pinning Miami back, Hodges had his punt blocked by CAnderson, recovered by Cobbs and stopped at the Jets 49 yard line. I was disgusted and quite unhappy by the poor play and the shift in momentum.

There was a flare pass on the left for Cobbs of 9 and after Williams got 6, Alleman was called for a False Start. Williams gained 9 back and on 3rd down and 6, Pennington floated it to Bess on the left. Lowery was in coverage and the pass was incomplete. Carpenter's 48 yard field goal was good and with 9:20 to go, the Fins were up 7. I was not at all feeling good about it as the Ravens were way ahead and the Patriot chances rode with the Jets and Favre's ability to make a comeback. Realistically, I thought they could do it, but I also remembered how the Pats were kept out of the playoffs in 02.

Things started poorly as on the second play, offensive lineman Ferguson was called for a Face Mask penalty. Immediately, Favre hit Stuckey over the middle and he got by Hill for a gain of 26 to the 39. It was a passes to Stuckey on the right for 7 and 4 over the middle. Favre was moving the Jets down the field. A pass to Baker was for 1 and another on a screen to Washington lost a yard as Crowder was in on the play. On 3rd and 10, Favre hit Coles on the left for 21 to the Miami 29. Favre was running down the field as the Fins seemed disorganized. It was actually the Jets that were as Favre rushed the play and threw it over Stuckeys's head, right into the waiting hands of Goodman for the pick. It was pitiful and I screamed in anger, totally disappointed that with that interception, the game was over, as well as the Patriot chances.

The D actually stopped the Dolphins on a 3rd and a few inches, but Pennington went up the middle and put it away. It was a tough last few minutes of watching in despair, seeing the Patriots out of the playoffs, so similar to the way they went down in 2002.

One hundred and ninety minutes after walking off the field in Buffalo, Favre rushed a play and threw the ball into Goodman's hands, effectively ending the Patriot's chances of post season play. For all the sound and fury of the Patriots big December push for the playoffs, in the end, it meant nothing at all.

My spirit sunk low Sunday night and into Monday as coaches were fired left and right. Romeo, Ratfink Mangini, Marinelli. For me the end of the season means the creation of a new spreadsheet roster for 09 and that I did quietly late Monday, in many ways closing the book on the 08 season. There was still the game to view closer and this article, but in many ways the look was forward not back.

There were so many concerns for this team, from Brady's injury and the possibility that a staph infection might hamper his 09 season, to the possible departures of Pioli and McDaniels. And there was the whole Cassel situation. Simply put, I was not at all in worry mode about any of these. I really have a lot of faith in the Patriots organization, that they will know what to do and do the best for the team. I think it's that simple.

As for Pioli leaving the Patriots, I think that is a possibility, but I do not think Cleveland is the best place for him to go to. There's just too much owner interference there and a culture that is strange and an obstacle to real success. A more likely place in Kansas City, although the love of Herm Edwards there could be a small road block. Maybe he'll interview and decide to stay. That is always an option.

Josh McDaniels will be a coach in the NFL one day, but I don't know whether this will be the year or not. There are opportunities, so if the situation is positive, it could happen. Worst case for him is he's back in Foxboro, learning more and helping build a better 09 Patriot team.

One thing is certain and that is that if either or both leave, there are plans for replacements that I am sure have already been looked at and in the wings ready bloom.

Congrats to rookie Jerod Mayo for being the Defensive Rookie of the Year and to Chris Price for becoming assistant editor at WEEI.com.

 Stan Jaksina
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