FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Perhaps it was appropriate that the Buffalo Bills' season finale was played in a steady rain, because any momentum built by back-to-back wins was washed away with a 34-20 loss Sunday to the New England Patriots.
Coming off their first consecutive victories this season, the Bills had a chance to make it three straight and start their offseason on the right foot. That didn't happen.
"I think it would have been much different if we ended on a three-game winning streak," coach Doug Marrone said. "I think this game kind of burst that bubble."
More accurately, it was Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount who sent the soggy Bills back to Buffalo on a losing note. Blount set a Patriots franchise record with 334 all-purpose yards, slopping through the wet turf for 189 rushing yards, including a pair of long touchdown runs.
Otherwise, the Patriots were not as sharp as they could have been. Quarterback Tom Brady finished with a 68.4 quarterback rating, throwing a fourth-quarter interception that gave the Bills life late in the game -- until they were forced to settle for a field goal.
It was the kind of game that exemplified the Bills' season. Just when things were starting to go right, something immediately went wrong. There may have been no better example than late in the third quarter, when T.J. Graham caught 12-yard touchdown pass -- only for Blount to return the ensuing kickoff 83 yards to set up a Patriots touchdown.
"Right now I'm pissed," Marrone said after the game. "I am upset. ... I mean, I'm mad. I have to smile because that's what I have to do. [That's] the media training."
The Patriots were heavily favored in this game. The Bills were starting their backup quarterback, Thad Lewis, in a venue where the team has never won, against a coach and quarterback -- Bill Belichick and Brady -- who have walked over their division rivals time and time again.
Still, Marrone liked his chances.
"I actually had in mind coming in here and winning the game. I really did. I felt really good about coming in and winning this football game," he said. "I felt that we had good plans. I felt that we had a good formula for what we needed to do to win."
That's not unusual -- find a head coach who enters a game planning to lose it -- but Marrone had a point. The Patriots have looked susceptible all season and Sunday was no different. Consider that C.J. Spiller rushed for more than 100 yards and Lewis completed five passes of 20 yards or more, and the gap between the AFC East's best and worst team doesn't look so wide.
"Do I feel that, you know, we can beat them? Yes, I do," Marrone said. "But today we didn't. And the first time we played them, we didn't."
The teams' first meeting, the season opener, was decided on a Patriots game-winning drive and field goal late in the fourth quarter. Sunday's loss wasn't quite that close, and in both cases, the Bills walked away with a defeat.
To Marrone, nothing else needs to be said.
"You've got to go out there and do it at the end of the day, and we haven't done that," he said. "To say that you are closer or anything like that, until you win, you really don't have a leg to stand on."