FOXBOROUGH — Albert Einstein is credited with saying the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Patriots foil and Buffalo Bills coach Rex Ryan isn't insane, but losing to the Patriots has to be driving him crazy.
Ryan gave it the old college try once again. It didn't matter that the Patriots were without Dion Lewis and Julian Edelman and finished the game with two healthy receivers, after Danny Amendola and Aaron Dobson got hurt. It didn't matter that they scored a season-low 20 points, or that Ryan's attack-dog defense held Brady to 20-of-39 passing for 277 yards with one touchdown and one interception and tossed him around like a rag doll.
Ryan's Sisyphean quest to best Bill Belichick and Tom Brady saw the rock come rolling down the hill per usual, his team on the short end of a 20-13 defeat at Gillette Stadium in a Monday night game that felt like it was played in a meat locker.
With his team losing on a frigid evening, Ryan uncharacteristically kept his cool after the game. It was yet another aspect of this dud of a game that was disappointing. There was no belligerence or bombast or defiance, only humility, resignation, and circumspection. Even Vociferous Rex can see the writing on the wall.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game. That's an outstanding football team we played. They proved it again tonight," said Ryan. "We knew we were a better football team. We just weren't good enough. We're not quite there."
Ryan said his team would have to play a "zillion" times better to beat the Patriots than they did in a 40-32 loss on Sept. 20. The Bills were markedly better, but the Patriots continued their ineluctable march to 16-0. They secured double-digit wins for the 13th consecutive season.
Yes, Tom Brady used ‘Rex Ryan’ as an audible call
On the Patriots’ third offensive play against the Buffalo Bills, Tom Brady was under center and called an audible.
Ryan got snippy and irascible with the New England media on a conference call on Thursday when his recent record against his self-appointed rival was pointed out to him. Ryan has now lost nine of his last 10 contests against the Patriots.
Ryan is svelte now. But he is still a glutton for punishment at the hands of the Patriots. A coaching masochist, Ryan is now 4-11 against Brady and Belichick.
The Patriots don't get sucked into Ryan's rhetoric off the field, but they do like to rub it in Rex's face on the field. In the first meeting between the teams, Brady and Co. tried to pour it on in the fourth quarter with a 37-19 lead. It nearly backfired.
On Monday night, ESPN's television broadcast picked up Brady using "Rex Ryan" as a pre-snap call on the Patriots' first drive.
When apprised of the call, Ryan said, "He likes me. I know that. I was calling him Brady, too."
This game represented a confluence of animus-eliciting antagonists with the bombastic Ryan and ESPN.
Evil ESPN, the broadcast bane of Patriotologists' existence, was in town to beam this one across the country. The Patriots got their Deflategate report revenge by playing a first half mostly devoid of scoring and full of ennui, perhaps, forcing 11 out of 12 ESPN viewers to turn the channel.
It was 3-3 late in the second quarter, when the Patriots hit the Buffalo Wild Wings button on the Bills.
First, running back LeSean McCoy couldn't come up with a pass in the end zone. Then on the next play, Dan Carpenter pinged a 48-yard field goal off the right upright with 46 seconds left in the half.
You can't make mistakes like that and defeat the Patriots.
It took only 33 seconds for the Patriots to go 62 yards and make Buffalo pay for frittering away points. James White took a swing pass and broke the tackle of Corey Graham to score a 20-yard touchdown, the first of the second-year running back's career.
Ryan slammed his headset to the ground while uttering an expletive after the score.
Ryan was tangentially involved in a bizarre play early in the third quarter.
A scrambling Brady, drifting to his right, on the border of the Buffalo sideline, hit Amendola with a 14-yard pass at the New England 45, and it looked like Amendola was off to the races. However, there was an inadvertent whistle by one of the officials, stopping the play and commencing the confusion.
After a lengthy conference, the officials awarded the Patriots the ball at the 45 and flagged Ryan for sideline interference. The play loomed large because the Patriots' drive petered out, forcing a missed 54-yard field goal attempt from Stephen Gostkowski. He was previously perfect on the season (22 of 22).
Five plays later, McCoy raced around right end for a 27-yard touchdown, as Buffalo tied the game at 10 with 10:29 left in the third quarter.
The Patriots caught Ryan and the Bills snoozing with 5:55 left in the third.
After a 41-yard catch-and-run by Amendola, the Patriots went hyperspeed hurry-up. The Bills got caught trying to substitute. Jerry Hughes was closer to Providence than the line of scrimmage when White rolled in for a 6-yard touchdown.
The Patriots tacked on a 35-yard field goal after Leodis McKelvin fumbled on a punt return.
Brady was piloting a bare-bones offense.
The Patriots finished the game with Brandon LaFell, rookie Chris Harper, and special teams ace Matthew Slater as their available receivers.
Brady finished the game with bumps and bruises. But I bet the pain he felt wasn't half as bad as Ryan's.
"We've come up short many times, being here where you think you've got them [on] the ropes. But at the end of the day, they find ways to win. That's what championship teams do. We're not at that level right now. But I can promise you one thing, we're going to work our tails off to get there."
Famous last words, Rex.
Injury-riddled Patriots get to 10-0, but it doesn’t come easy
Once again it came down to the final minute, and once again the Patriots lost players on offense to injury. The result, however, remained the same: The Patriots won, and remained unbeaten.