McKelvin recalls fumble in Bills' last Monday night meltdown
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — At the risk of having someone deface his lawn once again, Leodis McKelvin refuses to second-guess himself for what happened the last time Buffalo played a prime-time game at New England.
If he had a chance to do it all over six years later, the Bills defensive back insists he would still return Stephen Gostkowski's kickoff from 2 yards deep into the end zone rather than take a knee in the final minutes.
This time, however, McKelvin vows he would do a better job securing the ball.
"I still feel the same how I felt then. I won't take nothing back from it," McKelvin said, recalling Buffalo's 2009 season-opening 25-24 loss. "The only thing I can say is what I said then, just hold on to the ball. No matter how many yards I get, just get down."
McKelvin's fumble at Buffalo's 31 led to the Patriots scoring their second touchdown in a span of 76 seconds, and capped a rally in which they overcame an 11-point deficit in the final 2:06.
It was a painful memory McKelvin was asked to relive this past week with Buffalo (5-4) traveling to play New England (9-0) in the Bills' first Monday night appearance since that meltdown.
What made it worse for McKelvin is that he took the brunt of the blame immediately following the loss. Upon returning home the next morning, McKelvin discovered that someone spray-painted in white the score and an image of a male body part on his front lawn.
Two teens were arrested, but avoided criminal charges after McKelvin told investigators he did not want the boys to be prosecuted.
Though the paint has long washed away, McKelvin can't help but wonder how much a win Monday would ease his mind. McKelvin is also disappointed he didn't have an opportunity to make up for the fumble when Buffalo next played the Patriots three months later; he was sidelined with a broken leg.
"Everything, that would just erase it," he said. "I never got a chance that year to ever redeem myself from that. It crushed me."
The Bills losing to their AFC East rival Patriots has become a common occurrence. Buffalo is 3-26 against New England since 2001, including a 40-32 loss at Orchard Park in September. And the Bills have been particularly consistent in finding ways to lose at Foxborough, Massachusetts, since Gillette Stadium opened in 2002.
Buffalo lost its first 12 games at Gillette before a 17-9 season-ending win last season in a game the eventual Super Bowl champion Patriots rested most of their starters in the second half.
Otherwise, the Bills have been blown out and blown leads, and sometimes endured both in the same game. In 2011, the Patriots spotted the Bills a 21-0 lead before rolling to a 49-21 win. There have been a few nail-biters, with four games decided by six points or less.
Turnovers have been a problem. In his first trip back to New England after being acquired by Buffalo in a trade, Drew Bledsoe threw four interceptions in a 27-17 loss in 2002. The Patriots have not trailed in six of their 12 wins at Foxborough. And Tom Brady has thrown 26 touchdowns and just three interceptions at home against the Bills.
Buffalo isn't alone in struggling at New England. Since 2009, the Patriots are 39-1 at home against AFC opponents, with the lone loss coming to Buffalo in that 2014 wrap-up.
At 3-11, the New York Jets have the most victories at Gillette, and only three other teams — Denver (2-4), Indianapolis (2-4) and Miami (2-12) — have won more than once there, according to STATS.
The Patriots have been so dominant Bills coach Rex Ryan even suggested last week there's little chance Buffalo can catch them in the standings even with a win Monday.
"They're going to win the division. I don't see them losing four games," Ryan said. "I hope I'm wrong, but I don't see it happening."
Bills center Eric Wood isn't conceding anything yet, while also appreciating how difficult it is to win at New England. His first NFL game was the 2009 season-opening loss to the Patriots.
"I thought we had it. I'm thinking, 'New era. We're starting to flip the tide.' And unfortunately, that didn't happen," Wood said. "It was a heart-breaker."
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