Kelvin Sheppard embarrassed himself last week when suggesting the Bills were playing “lights out’’ on defense, but he unwittingly made a good point. Statistics really don’t tell the entire story about the season. If they did, the Bills wouldn’t be two games behind the Patriots. They would be trailing by six.
Anyone who understands football would agree, right Kelvin?
The Bills (3-5) are miles behind the Pats (5-3) no matter what their records indicate. The Bill Parcells Rule doesn’t apply. Neither team is what their record shows. The Bills have three wins against teams with a combined 7-19 record. The Patriots’ three losses have come by a total of four points, against teams with a 15-11 record.
Anyone can twist the numbers, but there’s no disguising Buffalo’s 4-12 record in its last 16 games. Seven losses were by 20 points or more, five by 27 points or more. The Bills have a 5-16 road record under Chan Gailey, surrendering 34 points per game in the losses. They’ve allowed at least 35 points four times this year.
But who’s counting? Nobody cares about stats ... unless it’s contract time.
In fact, the stats-are-for-losers mentality is misguided. Actually, stats aren’t for losers. You never see lousy teams sending out press releases alerting the media to ghastly amounts of yards allowed or bragging about how few points it scored after a loss. Losers ignore stats to minimize their flaws.
It’s a defense mechanism.
Speaking of defense, the Bills improved to 31st in the NFL in rushing yards allowed. They’re also second-last in points allowed and total yards allowed.
In honor of Sheppard, with the Bills preparing (bracing?) for their game Sunday against the Patriots, we bring you more frightening facts and figures. The numbers outline the one-sided rivalry since Nov. 5, 2000, when the World Trade Center stood and Americans moaned about gasoline costs at $1.75 per gallon.
It was last time Buffalo beat New England on the road.
But how would Kelvin know? The linebacker was 12 years old when the Bills last won in Foxborough. Steve Christie kicked three field goals. Drew Bledsoe played quarterback for New England. The game was played in Foxborough Stadium. It was so long ago that Ralph Wilson was in his 80s.
Look, if stats weren’t important, the NFL wouldn’t keep them. WARNING: If you’re a Bills’ fan, the following facts could be hazardous to your health:
• New England had a 16-0 record in the past two years during the second half of the season. Since Tom Brady became the starting quarterback, the Patriots have won their final eight games four times. In two other seasons, they were 7-1 over their final eight games.
• The Bills are 0-12 in the second meeting against the Pats since they last won in Foxborough. Then again, Buffalo’s record (2-10) against New England in the first meeting isn’t exactly sparkling, either. In between the two victories were 15 consecutive losses.
• New England has won nine AFC East titles and three Super Bowls since Buffalo last beat the Pats on the road. Their regular-season record is 139-45, including this year. They didn’t lose more than six games in any season. Buffalo has one winning season en route to a 74-118 record. Playoffs?
• The Bills have used eight starting quarterbacks against the Patriots, five more than New England has used against Buffalo, over that span. Bledsoe started one game against Buffalo in 2000 before he was traded to the Bills. Matt Cassel started both games in 2008, when Brady was injured. Brady started the other 21 games.
• Brady has a 19-2 record against Buffalo with 49 touchdown passes and seven 300-yard games. He has been more productive in all three categories against Buffalo than against any other team. He has a 51-12 career record against the AFC East.
• Buffalo has had six head coaches, including interim Perry Fewell, since 2000. The Pats have had one, Bill Belichick.
• In their last 24 meetings, Buffalo scored 36 touchdowns against New England while giving up 81. The Bills scored two TDs or fewer 18 times while the Pats have scored three or more 15 times. The Bills did not score more than four TDs against New England in any game. Randy Moss had four by himself Nov. 18, 2007, when he had three in the second quarter.
• Since its last win in New England, Buffalo has had just one 100-yard rusher against the Pats. Willis McGahee gained 136 yards in 2005. Seven weeks later, the Pats held him to 3 yards on eight carries. Buffalo lost both games.
• Since signing his current contract, Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has 25 touchdown passes and 24 interceptions. In the past two seasons, he has thrown 18 touchdowns and 17 interceptions on the road. Over the same stretch, Brady has thrown for 35 TDs and eight INTs in road games.
• The Bills led at halftime six times but won only once in that situation. The Pats had the halftime lead 16 times and lost only once. New England beat the Bills by seven points or more 17 times in the past 24 meetings.
• New England became the first team since 1950 to have a 300-yard passer, two 100-yard rushers and two 100-yard receivers in one game. It happened Sept. 30 against Buffalo, a week before San Francisco made history against the Bills as the first NFL team to pass for 300 yards and rush for 300 yards in the same game.
Sheppard should remember, but you probably don’t remember him. He started at linebacker and had two solo tackles in the two games.
The numbers mean nothing, but they did outline the one statistic that does matter: the score.