ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Sammy Watkins leaped, stretched both arms to the ball, and nearly snatched it. Instead, it fell to a diving Patriot Logan Ryan, who intercepted it and ended Sunday's game, save for Tom Brady kneeling down. Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor had had a clean pocket, a rarity in a game in which he was sacked eight times.
The pregame fireworks, smoke, and cheering, which fans paid the Guinness Book of World Records $9,000 to measure, matched the hype and midweek trash talk. But the Bills' play didn't for nearly 45 minutes of the Patriots' 40-32 triumph.
Brady improved his record against the Bills to 24-3 and New England kept Taylor scrambling from the pocket with its rush and picked him off three times. The Bills didn't help themselves with 14 penalties for 140 yards, but nearly overcame their discipline issues with a late-game comeback.
"I don't think the officiating allowed us to get in a rhythm. You know how you'll be playing a PlayStation game or Xbox and the game will keep skipping?" Bills running back Anthony Dixon said. "It kind of felt like that. It was so frustrating."
As the Bills hurt themselves with penalties, the Patriots kicked a field goal at the beginning of the third quarter, and Brady then led the Patriots on a nine-play, 83-yard touchdown drive. Wide receiver Julian Edelman finished off the drive, catching a Brady pass and leaping for the left pylon. Bills safety Aaron Williams leaped to make a last-ditch tackle.
Williams slid off to the side and was prone on the field until he was put on a stretcher and taken out of the stadium in an ambulance.
"It doesn't matter if it's an opponent. This is a fraternity of young men, we all play in this league, and you don't want to see a fellow guy go out there, especially with whatever it was, I don't know," Edelman said. "My thoughts and prayers are with him and his family, and hopefully he's going to do well."
Williams's father tweeted that the safety had full movement in his extremities and thanked fans for their prayers. A Bills spokesman said Williams went through a series of tests and was released from the hospital.
The next Bills possession finished with a punt after defensive end Chandler Jones sacked Taylor. Jones, on one knee next to Taylor, pumped his right arm after his play, which capped a three-sack streak of plays.
It was the last time Buffalo would sputter until its last drive. Taylor found Robert Woods with a 32-yard TD pass, ran for a 7-yard touchdown, and threw for a 24-yard score to Watkins, who burned cornerback Bradley Fletcher. Watkins promptly strutted into the corner to be swallowed up by awaiting fans.
And yet, the game ended with a ball Watkins couldn't catch.
As much as the Bills tried to exceed the hype, they never quite got there. They didn't think the trash talk was too much, though.
"I think that the officiating was a little too much," Dixon said. "We played the game how it's supposed to be played, intense, physical, a little chippy. I ain't see no fists flying, so it looked clean to me."
Before the game, Dixon pointed toward the Patriots bench and it appeared as if he was doing some of the Bills' trash talking himself. For the most part, after the Patriots dug a 24-point hole for Buffalo, the talking stopped.
Bills coach Rex Ryan put the onus on himself for the game's result and a bench penalty that made him say the referee had "rabbit ears." Ryan didn't remember what he said.
"No, I don't think [the talking was] ever too much," cornerback Nickell Robey said. "We were ready this week. We did everything we were supposed to do. They just did a little bit better job than us today. We've just got to bounce back and when we see them again, kill 'em."