After Jeff Hunter masterfully delved into the history of Buffalo’s three-game winning streaks and managed not to jinx anything, we figured we’d go back to the well for some more information on streaking. Among those three game streaks Jeff discussed, there were 4 streaks of 4 consecutive victories, meaning that Buffalo managed to continue their winning ways in 57% of their streaks. I know, I know...small sample size, but hey, a fifth time in eight tries could be the result after Sunday’s game against the San Francisco 49ers. Let’s revisit those streaks with a focus on Buffalo’s fourth game in the streak. For the purposes of this article, only streaks that occurred within the same season will be examined.
Streak One: 10/29/2000 to 11/19/2000 (4 games)
A fairly consistent theme will emerge throughout this article, beginning with this first streak. The Bills defeated the 9-7 Jets, 5-11 Patriots (ah, the good old days...), and 5-11 Bears to win three in a row. To be fair, the Jets were 6-1 coming into their meeting with Buffalo, but New England was 2-6, and the Bears were 2-7. The Bills then traveled to Arrowhead to face the 5-5 Chiefs. Buffalo trailed 17-14 when they began what would be the game-winning drive. Going 67 yards in just under 5 minutes, the Bills scored on a 12-yard touchdown run by Rob Johnson (initially, it was ruled an 11 yard run, but a replay challenge led to an overturned call and a touchdown) to give the Bills a 21-17 lead. After an Elvis Grbac interception and a quick three and out, Kansas City had one more chance to score, beginning their final drive at their own 45 yard line. A Marcellus Wiley strip-sack allowed plenty of time to run off the clock, and although Grbac completed a huge pass on 4th and 19 to extend the game, a Hail Mary attempt was deflected in the end zone by Eric Moulds to preserve the Bills’ victory. The Chiefs would go on to finish the season 7-9.
After feasting on four teams that were league-average or below, Buffalo ran into the 10-6 Bucs and 10-6 Colts on the road, and coupled with a home loss to the 11-5 Dolphins, the Bills were all but cooked. Even if Buffalo had managed to defeat the lowly Patriots, they’d have missed the playoffs with the same 9-7 record as the Jets. They needed to find a way to win against at least one of those three playoff teams, and they were unable to do so.
Streak 2: 10/13/2002 to 10/27/2002 (3 games)
Buffalo padded its record against the 1-3 Texans (who finished 4-12 in their first year of existence), the 5-1 Dolphins (a big division win against the only team Buffalo would defeat within the division that year), and the 2-4 Lions (who finished 3-13). They then played host to the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots, who thoroughly dominated the Bills in the midst of Tom Brady’s worst season (by record) as a starter. Brady was magnificent, throwing nearly as many touchdown passes (3) as incomplete passes (4) on the day. The real star, though, was former Buffalo Bill Antowain Smith, who ran for 111 yards and a touchdown while also compiling 51 yards receiving and 2 more touchdowns. A Drew Bledsoe touchdown at the end of the first half cut the deficit to 17-7, but after Buffalo’s first drive of the third quarter stalled, the Patriots went 83 yards in 4 minutes (capped off by a 45-yard TD run by Kevin Falk) to make it a 24-7 game. After a Bills three-and-out, the Pats went 76 yards in 5 minutes to seal the deal.
After feasting on an expansion team, an awful team, and the only divisional rival Buffalo could manage to defeat in 2002, they were unable to find a groove the rest of the way. a 5-3 start mirrored a 3-5 finish, with the only victories coming against Miami, the 8-8 Chargers, and the 2-14 Bengals. Again, the Bills needed to find a way to beat some teams that were .500 or better, and could not do it.
Streak 3: 11/21/2004 to 12/26/2004 (6 games)
Whenever Bills fans reference the “one that got away” during the streak, this is the one. Six straight wins. A ball-hawking defense. A terrifying running game. A date against the 14-1 Steelers’ backups and third stringers in Week 17. A playoff berth was all but assured. Except it wasn’t. The Bills blew an entirely winnable game against Pittsburgh (at home, no less), extended the streak, and cleared the way for the JP Losman era (error?) to begin. The fourth game of the streak, though, was a great one. Coming off wins against the 5-4 Rams (8-8 finish), the 6-4 Seahawks (on the road; Seattle would finish 9-7), and the 2-9 Dolphins (4-12 finish), the Bills hosted the 3-9 Browns. They showed no mercy, pummeling their Lake Erie neighbors 37-7. Drew Bledsoe was atrocious (12-27, 100 yards, 1TD, 1INT), but the running game was fantastic. Willis McGahee was in full savior mode, running for 105 and 2 TDs, and Shaud Williams added 10 carries for 42 yards and a touchdown of his own. Lee Evans even joined the rushing party, going for 48 yards on an end-around in the third quarter. Cleveland lost 3 fumbles, threw 2 interceptions, and allowed 7 sacks on the day. They netted -3 passing yards on the day. Yikes.
The Browns would finish the season at 4-12, and after the Bills beat the 6-7 Bengals (finished 8-8) and the 2-12 49ers (finished 2-14), they played host to the Steelers on that fateful day in January 2005. The Bills turned their season around by pummeling a weak schedule, but were unable to finish the job against a team that would go on to lose to the eventual champs in the conference championship game.
Streak 4: 10/21/2007 to 11/11/2007 (4 games)
The Bills began this streak at 1-4, beating the 4-2 Ravens (which started a downward spiral for them, as Baltimore would finish that season 5-11), the 1-6 Jets (finished 4-12), and the 2-5 Bengals (finished 7-9). This put Buffalo at 4-4 in the fourth game of the streak, a road game at the 0-8 Miami Dolphins. In a real barn burner, the Bills trailed 3-0 at halftime. A Chris Kelsay 2-run homer, er, safety pulled the Bills to within 1 in the 3rd quarter. Miami’s Cleo Lemon, who may have offered free tarot readings in his spare time, ran for a five yard touchdown at the end of the third quarter to give Miami a 10-2 lead. A Marshawn Lynch touchdown run and subsequent two point conversion run gave the Bills a tie, and a 40 yard Roscoe Parrish punt return put Buffalo at the fifty with 4:37 to go. JP Losman led the team to Miami’s 16 yard line, and Rian Lindell’s 34 yard field goal gave the Bills a victory.
This streak ended on the following Sunday night, when the undefeated Patriots dismantled the Bills for the second time that season. In total, the Pats outscored the Bills 94-17, with Tom Brady throwing for 684 and 9 touchdowns in the two games. Yikes. Buffalo’s only victory against a team with a winning record was that game against the Ravens, and only the Redskins finished with a plus-.500 record among all of the team’s Buffalo beat.
Streak 5: 9/7/2008 to 9/28/2008 (4 games)
Man, the fall of 2008 was a great time for me. I had my first teaching job, the White Sox (my baseball team since forever) were in the thick of a pennant race, and the Bills took the league by storm with a 4-0 start. Trent Edwards was even gaining attention as a possible MVP candidate. The Bills beat the Seahawks (finished 4-12) on open day, then the 0-1 Jaguars (finished 5-11), the 1-1 Raiders (finished 5-11), and the 0-3 Rams (finished 2-14). That fourth game was an interesting one, as Buffalo went on the road and trailed 14-6 at halftime. Then, Fred Jackson ripped off a 22-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, and Jabari Greer intercepted and returned a Trent Green pass 33 yards for a touchdown to give the Bills a 20-14 lead. A 39-yard Trent Edwards touchdown pass to Lee Evans and a Rian Lindell field goal closed the scoring, giving the Bills a 31-14 victory on the road.
This streak ended the following week with the Trent Edwards concussion game against the Cardinals, who finished 2008 9-7 and lost in the Super Bowl against Pittsburgh. Of Buffalo’s seven wins, two (Chargers and Broncos) came against teams that would finish at exactly .500. The other five teams they defeated combined to win 18 games.
Streak 6: 9/11/2011 to 9/25/2011 (3 games)
Quite possibly, the 2011 Bills’ three-game winning streak was the least likely of the bunch. After demolishing the Chiefs, who would finish 7-9, on opening day, the Bills beat the 1-0 Raiders (8-8 finish) on a last-second touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to David Nelson. That set the stage for the 2-0 Bills to play the 2-0 Patriots. After falling behind 21-0, the Bills outscored New England 34-10 in the final 32 minutes of the game to come out with a 34-31 victory. The Bills scored 113 points in the first three games of the season. In the fourth game, they played a 1-2 Cincinnati team on the road. The stadium was half-full, and the Bills led 20-13 with 11 minutes to go. They allowed an Andy Dalton touchdown run, then quickly went three-and-out before the final drive for the Bengals. A long run by Brian Leonard set up the game winning field goal, a 43 yarder by Mike Nugent. The Bengals went on to finish 9-7 and sneaked into the playoffs as the sixth seed. The Bills finished 6-10 after a 5-1 start.
The 2011 squad lost two tight games on late field goals; otherwise, they’d have started 7-0 (that Giants game was painful for me—I was there, and I’ll never forget the pick that Fitz threw on a ball intended for Stevie Johnson up the sideline). They then played a series of winnable games against a series of mediocre teams. After beating the 3-3 Redskins (5-11 finish), they lost to the 4-3 Jets (8-8), the 4-4 Cowboys (8-8), the 2-7 Dolphins (6-10), the 5-5 Jets, the 6-5 Titans (9-7), the 5-7 Chargers (8-8), and the 4-9 Dolphins before finally beating someone...the Tim Tebow-led Broncos, who were 8-6 and on their way to winning the AFC West at 8-8. Had that team just split...hell, if they went 4-6 to close the year...they finish at 9-7, and might have pushed Cincinnati out of the sixth seed. Instead, it was just another of a long list of disappointing seasons.
Streak 7: 9/25/2016 to Present (3 games)
Here we stand, on a three game high, hoping to extend the streak to four games. After dismantling one preseason Super Bowl favorite (the 1-1 Cardinals) and then shutting out another (3-0 Patriots, sans Tom Brady), the Bills won their first game on the west coast since that 2004 streak by defeating the 3-1 Los Angeles Rams. This week, they take on a 49ers team that would appear to be in disarray, rebuilding mode, or both. They’ve benched their starting quarterback, have a losing record, and are in search of their second win on the season. Of all of Buffalo’s three=game winning streaks, they only failed to extend it to four against a sub-.500 team once—the 2011 game against the Bengals.
A victory in this one would be huge. 4-2 is obviously much better than 3-3, especially with two consecutive division games (@ Miami and vs. New England) on the horizon. Add to those games a trip to Seattle in the following week, and it becomes almost imperative that this three-game winning streak extends to five. One week at a time, though. Rex Ryan stated that they can’t overlook San Fran, and he’s right. If they take care of business on Sunday, maybe we can write about the fifth game after four-game winning streaks. And if they take care of business there, maybe we can write about the sixth game after five game winning streaks. And then...
...maybe we can start writing about a different streak’s demise.