"That was really embarrassing," Fitzpatrick said candidly. "We got a lot of pride in this locker room, and right now we got our tails between our legs."
The long faces in Buffalo's locker room were a mixture of shame and bewilderment. Buffalo, after revamping its roster, could not fathom losing in the fashion that it did. The Bills planned their entire offseason around beating the Patriots -- or at least closing the gap between the teams. If the Bills were ready for their big moment, this was the perfect time to show it with New England reeling and Buffalo at home.
Instead, the new-look Bills looked like same-old Buffalo. The Bills (2-2) had one of their biggest duds in recent memory, giving up 35 unanswered points in the second half and losing 52-28.
"The only reaction I have is that was pathetic in the second half," Bills defensive lineman Kyle Williams said.
The numbers in this game were staggering.
The Patriots (2-2) scored 45 points on seven straight possessions (six touchdowns, one field goal) in the second half. New England's defense also forced six Buffalo turnovers.
The Bills went long stretches during which they couldn't tackle, run the ball or cover anyone. The second-half performance was as ugly as you will see from an NFL team. The Bills were outscored 45-14 in the third and fourth quarters, and that has to eat at the pride and resolve in the locker room.
"Each and every man has to look themselves in the mirror," Bills safety George Wilson said. "But if I know the guys in this locker room, I would like to think and I know they would play every play, regardless of how the game is going."
Either the Bills were completely outclassed or the effort was lacking during their epic collapse. Perhaps it was a mixture of both.
According to Bills receiver Steve Johnson, the Patriots "worked harder" than Buffalo. Asked to clarify, Johnson's frustrations grew.
“I don't know, dog,” Johnson said. "They came out and scored more points than we did. They played harder. What do you want me to say?"
Buffalo's defense deserves the lion's share of the blame. The Bills allowed two 100-yard rushers and two 100-yard receivers. For the entire second half, the Patriots did whatever they wanted and the Bills looked embarrassingly helpless.
Patriots tailbacks Stevan Ridley (106 yards, two touchdowns) and previously unknown Brandon Bolden (137 yards, one touchdown) sliced Buffalo's defense on the ground. When New England wasn’t running, receiver Wes Welker (nine catches, 129 yards) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (five catches, 104 yards) were flying by Buffalo’s secondary.
The Bills entered the game with a predictable strategy. Due to offseason upgrades on the defense line, Buffalo rushed four linemen, played nickel and dropped everyone else in coverage the majority of the time. The Patriots picked up on this and began pounding the football, especially in the second half.
The Patriots didn’t do anything fancy up front, other than be more physical and take what the defense gave them. Buffalo never adjusted in the second half, and the blame there falls on head coach Chan Gailey and his staff.
Perhaps the most disheartening part for Buffalo is New England gained 200 of its 247 yards in between the tackles, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
"I don’t know what was going on and I don’t know which way [the back] was hitting," Bills Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams said. "But I felt like it was the same blocking and the same play. ... Obviously they were getting yards on it."
With a big contract comes big expectations. So far, Williams is not living up to the $100 million deal he received this offseason.
Williams was signed specifically for big games like this, to put Pats quarterback Tom Brady on his back. Williams had just two tackles with zero sacks or quarterback pressures. He has only 1.5 sacks in four games this season. Last year in Houston, Williams had four sacks in his first four games.
As Williams goes, so does Buffalo’s defense. Williams has been up and down so far and appeared to be playing better in Buffalo’s back-to-back wins in Week 2 and Week 3. But the Bills have allowed 100 points in two AFC East games against the Patriots and Jets -- and Williams disappeared in both.
“Well, if we don’t stop the run, there’s no putting anyone on their backs,” said Williams, who also called this game a “reality check.”
The Bills blew a golden opportunity. Not only could they have improved to 3-1, but they could have buried the Patriots in a 1-3 hole. That would have been a daunting, early deficit for New England to overcome in the AFC East. Instead, the Patriots are back to even and about to speed by the Bills and the New York Jets, who lost 34-0 to San Francisco in the first game without Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis.
The Patriots, Bills and Jets all have identical records. But they are not close to being identical teams. New England is still the king of the AFC East until proven otherwise.
The Bills had their shot Sunday and came up lame. Very lame.