This is part of our countdown of the 25 worst moments in Buffalo Bills History. Check out the complete list, as well as the 25 best moments in team history, right here.
So far, each of the worst moments have involved a divisional opponent, and this is no exception. In 1998, the 7-4 Buffalo Bills were playing the 6-5 New England Patriots for the second time in three weeks. After beating the Patriots 13-10 at home, the second game of the series was just as close and hotly contested. Tempers were flaring and the refs weren't helping.
The Patriots jumped out to a 14-0, lead but two Steve Christie kicks closed the gap to 14-6 at the half. An 84-yard Eric Moulds touchdown reception brought the Bills closer, but the team's two-point conversion failed. After trading field goals, Andre Reed caught Doug Flutie's second touchdown pass of the day, but the Bills again failed to convert on the two-point attempt. At that point the Bills were up 21-17 with 6:14 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Patriots' final drive began at their own 10-yard lone with 1:52 on the clock. Drew Bledsoe completed his first four pass attempts for 40 yards as the Patriots moved to the Buffalo 37. The Patriots were only able to gain one yard over their next three plays, setting up a crucial 4th-and-9 with only 11 second left. Bledsoe fired a 10-yard pass to Shawn Jefferson, who caught the ball at the sideline. The Bills disputed that the receiver had first down yardage and was in bounds, but the officials ruled a Patriot first down. In postgame interviews, both Reed and Flutie claimed they overheard the refs say, "just give it to them."
The next play began with only six seconds on the clock and the Patriots on the Bills' 26. Bledsoe heaved a pass into the end zone with the ball bouncing out of receiver Terry Glenn's hands. But a pass interference call on Bills safety Henry Jones gave the Patriots a free play with no time left on the clock.
"I don't know what he was watching," said Jones. "We all just jumped. I've never seen anything like that in my life. We was robbed, plain and simple."
On the final play of the game, Bledsoe found tight end Ben Coates in the back of the end zone for the score on a play action pass. Foxboro Stadium erupted in cheers and the Bills' entire sideline went to the locker room before the extra point. Kicker Adam Vinatieri took the snap and ran in for an uncontested two points, making the final score 25-21.
"I don't know how these officials are allowed to make those calls," said Bills coach Wade Phillips after the game. "You have one play in which the receiver was clearly out of bounds right in front of me, and another play where just a bunch of guys are jumping up in the air. I don't understand it."
The Bills came into the game tied for first place in the AFC East at 7-4 with the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets. New England was a game behind. The loss knocked Buffalo to a game behind the Jets and Dolphins, who each won, and a Week 16 loss to the Jets clinched the division for New York. Buffalo finished the year 10-6 and made the playoffs as a wild card team. They lost in the Wild Card round to the Dolphins in Miami, but the game would have been played in Buffalo had the Bills beaten the Patriots in their Week 13 match-up.