FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- This wasn't the Buffalo Bills' Super Bowl and it wasn't against Tom Brady, but it's fair to say that Rex Ryan achieved his most important victory to date in his career as the Bills' coach by shutting out the New England Patriots 16-0 on Sunday.
Think about what was on the line. With a 4-11 record against Patriots coach Bill Belichick, including the playoffs, Ryan's track record against his AFC East foe and his everything-goes style of coaching was in question -- even by Patriots president Jonathan Kraft in a pregame radio appearance Sunday.
Ryan proved that he could have some fun by crashing a conference call with an opposing player or impersonating Belichick in a news conference and still win a game. He also avoided the embarrassment of having his defensive reputation questioned by a loss to rookie quarterback Jacoby Brissett.
Time will tell whether Ryan can validate his approach to coaching over the long term, but for at least one day, he successfully led his team to a win over a divisional opponent that is universally considered a contender for the Super Bowl.
Talk about a good day at the office for Walt Patulski or, um, Ryan.
The stakes were also high for Ryan's team, which improved to 2-2 with the win. Beating the Arizona Cardinals last week was big, but dropping to 1-3 with a loss on Sunday would have renewed questions about Ryan's job security and the Bills' playoff hopes this season. With a cross-country trip to Los Angeles next on the schedule, pressure would continue to mount.
There's also the issue of the Patriots. The Bills have been dominated by their divisional opponent since Belichick became head coach in 2000, losing 28 of their past 32 games entering Sunday. Buffalo also entered Sunday's game with a 1-13 record at Gillette Stadium.
Does this mean the Bills are suddenly capable of overtaking the Patriots in the AFC East? No. At 3-1, the Patriots are still in the driver's seat in the division and will have Brady returning next weekend in Cleveland. If the Bills want the NFL to believe there can be a changing of the guard, they'll have to beat Brady later this month at New Era Field.
But that won't take the sweet taste of this game out of Ryan's mouth. If anything, it will only embolden the Bills' coach in the days leading up to that Oct. 30 game.
Which raises the question: What will Rex do or say next?