ORCHARD PARK — It became a ritual for the decade of the ‘70s ... recounting the futility of the Bills against the Dolphins.
From 1970-79, Buffalo lost 20 straight games to Miami, one of the NFL’s most glaring records for futility.
But before the Bills and Patriots meet on Sunday afternoon at “The Ralph,” you’ll be hearing plenty about New England’s recent domination of Buffalo.
Since Gregg Williams’ crew stunned Bill Belichick’s team, 31-0, in the 2003 season opener, the Pats have won 15 straight over the Bills.
That streak started in the ‘03 finale when New England exactly reversed the score of the first meeting that year, and rode that victory to the first of two consecutive Super Bowl titles.
SINCE then it’s been all Patriots ... with a twist.
Buffalo has saved its worst efforts for the home crowd.
The Bills have lost seven consecutive games at “The Ralph” and New England’s margin of victory has averaged 23 points, three of them by 25 or more, including a 56-10 defeat in 2007, tied for the second-worst loss in franchise history.
By contrast, Buffalo has played considerably better at Gillette Stadium, losing eight games by an average of 14 points in Foxboro, including 1, 2 and 5 pointers, featuring a couple of blown late leads.
But Bills’ quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, off to a gaudy statistical start, isn’t interested in recent history.
“There haven’t been many guys that were here for a majority of those (losses)” he pointed out, knowing that only outside linebacker/defensive end Chris Kelsay, cornerback Terrence McGee, punter Brian Moorman and place-kicker Rian Lindell were on the roster when Buffalo last beat the Patriots. “I guess it’s significant in that we haven’t beaten them in a long time. I’ve been here going on my third year and we haven’t beat them yet (so) it’s important. They’re a division rival.
“They’ve been the team that’s been at the top of our division for a long time. For us to get there we have to beat them ... it’s going into this game with confidence, carrying what we’ve done, the momentum that we have from the first two games and going out there and executing and playing like it was any other game.”
OF COURSE, it’s not.
Kelsay has been there for all 15 losses, including the three heart-breakers.
“We’re expecting to win this game in front of our fans,” he maintained. “You hear a lot about how they’ve had our number, which they’ve had. But we’ve got a lot of confidence with the guys in this room. We’re definitely not going to lay down for anybody. We’re preparing to win this game and when we step on the field Sunday we’re expecting to win.”
But he did admit of the streak, “It’s frustrating obviously. A lot of the younger guys probably don’t grasp it as much as some of the guys who have been around for awhile. I was here the last time we beat them and there are only a handful of us that were.
“We know what they’ve done the last several years to have the team they are year-in and year-out. We know we’ve got our work cut out for us but this locker room isn’t afraid of work.”
Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman will play his first game against the Pats as a Bill, but he knows about the streak.
“We can’t worry too much about the history and things that happened here in the past,” he cautioned, “we have a chance to correct it on Sunday.”
Nose tackle Kyle Williams, who has played in 10 of those losses, agreed.
“Obviously, you play the game to win,” he said. “You come out here and you work, you practice, you lift weights in the off-season to win. It’s not fun losing to anybody.
“But on the 15-game streak, I don’t care anything about that. Obviously it’s a new year and a new team ... they’re a new team. Every year there’s a new reason for hope and excitement. No matter how it goes down, we’re going to give them hell.”
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com)