ORCHARD PARK — Talk about letting the air out of a stadium.
No sooner than had the Bills teased their fans with the possibility of being alone atop the AFC East standings, the Patriots issued a loud reminder that the division title still goes through Foxboro as it has for the past decade.
When it was over on Sunday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium, some 70,684 witnesses — though many left early — saw New England trample on, and throw over Buffalo’s renovated defense, 52-28.
The Patriots rushed for 247 yards — 137 by rookie Brandon Bolden and 109 by Stevan Ridley.
But that wasn’t all.
Quarterback Tom Brady was unaffected by the presence of the Bills’ expensive free-agent defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.
He was sacked only once — shared by tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus — and was rarely touched completing 22-of-36 passes for 340 yards with touchdown passes to Brandon Lloyd, running back Danny Woodhead and tight end Rob Gronkowski and no interceptions.
In all, the Patriots totaled a numbing 580 yards total offense and the four rushing touchdowns — two by Ridley, one each by Bolden and Brady — tied a franchise record.
But what was particularly galling for the Bills was that they actually led 21-7 four minutes into the third quarter and had wasted another potential touchdown when running back C.J. Spiller fumbled at the Patriots’ 1-yard line just before intermission.
Instead, after Buffalo took that two TD lead, the Patriots scored six touchdowns on as many possessions in a span of 19:08 that created an unexpectedly early traffic jam in the stadium parking lots.
Suddenly, the Pats, Jets and Bills are tied atop the division at 2-2, but after being blown out by both already this season, Buffalo is clearly third on that list.
Afterward, defensive tackle Kyle Williams admitted, “The only reaction I have is that it was pathetic in the second half.
“The most discouraging thing about it is that they literally ran three running plays. They ran the same thing over and over and over. (New England) will take what you give them. They’ve been that way ever since I’ve been here. If it sets up for them where they can run the football, they’ll run the football ... and they did today.”
Defensive end Mario Williams, the $100 million free agent, who had only two tackles, agreed, “It got kind of methodical. It felt like it was the same block, same thing, same play and I just felt like I really wasn’t at the point of attack.
“Both (of their running backs) were over 100 yards rushing ... ugly, not good. It was pick your poison at that point. If we don’t stop the run, it’s hard to win.”
And linebacker Bryan Scott conceded, “One of our goals was to stop the run. Obviously it was an epic failure when it came to that.
“We knew they were going to (use the no-huddle), we prepared for that all week. Obviously, it did not show, but we knew that was their game plan. They didn’t show us anything that we didn’t prepare for. That’s why it hurts.”
But the Bills’ offense wasn’t without blame.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick neatly offset his four touchdown passes (two to tight end Scott Chandler, one each to Stevie Johnson and Donald Jones) with four interceptions, two in fourth quarter as the Bills vainly tried to get back in the game.
And the running attack wasn’t much with Spiller and Fred Jackson combining for 62 yards on 21 carries with each also losing a fumble.
“That was really embarrassing,” Fitzpatrick admitted of the blowout loss. “We have a lot of pride in this locker room and right now we have our tails between our legs in terms of we got our butts kicked.”
And coach Chan Gailey added of the setback, “The things we did to win Week 2 and 3, we obviously did not do today. You cannot turn it over and you can’t (not) stop the run ... you’re not going to win football games.”
He added, “ It looks like we’re either feast or famine. We either play pretty good or we play really bad. We have to get out of that.
“You (media) kicked dirt on us almost after the first game (48-28 loss to the Jets), everybody was getting high after two (straight wins) and everybody will kick dirt on us after this week.”
Buffalo is now 0-2 in the division, and Jackson conceded, “We’re all disappointed in this, (it) was an opportunity for us and we didn’t take advantage of it.”
To which Spiller added, “It does not sit well, especially if you want to get to the postseason. You have to be able to win these types of games. Everybody is going to say how terrible we are.”
And Nick Barnett understands that assessment.
“It’s definitely disappointing,” he admitted. “Bottom line, it hurts and we’ve got to get better and do better than that. That was nowhere near where we want to be and nowhere near what we expect out of ourselves.”
As Fitzpatrick concluded of the Bills’ failed bid to join the AFC East elite, “Obviously (this loss) showed us that we’re not there yet.”