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Their devil wore a hoodie and a mask, and you don’t cancel an exorcism because of the threat of frostbite when you believe you and the team you love can unite as one to make life hell for Bill Belichick.
Especially after all those years when he made life hell for you and your team.
“In terms of like a hated, there is not a love lost with Bills fans and the Patriots, just to have been under their thumb for so long,” Bills Mafia cofounder Del Reid said.
Reid, his wife, Chrissy, and their daughter were in Section 224, Row 18 at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park on Saturday night, all bundled up and huddled up in the bitter cold and fired up for an AFC wild-card game that had all of western New York frozen in passion and prayer.
“I can only tell you my story,” Reid said. “I remember telling my friend going into a game, this is probably ’05, ’06. We’re going into the game, and I said, ‘You know what? I can’t hate them, they’re good, I can’t be mad at them for being good.’ And then the entire game, behind me, somebody had sold their tickets to a Patriots fan. So for 3 ¹/₂ hours, I had to listen to this guy with this Boston accent go on and on about how the Bills are terrible and how the Patriots are the best.
“So we walked out of that stadium, and I said, ‘I hate the Patriots,’ ” Reid said with a laugh.
“The frustration with Belichick goes all the way back to the Bills’ first Super Bowl [XXV] when he was the defensive coordinator with the Giants,” Reid added. “Any Bills fan who knows their history knows that his game plan was a huge part of the reason why the Bills didn’t win the Super Bowl. And so he has always been there just to steal the joy from Bills fans.”
Belichick, a humbled 47-17 loser Saturday, was in the wrong place at the wrong time this time — against the wrong quarterback and the wrong team. A quarterback and a team seemingly on a vengeful crusade to plunge a dagger into Belichick and the Patriots for past injustices.
Second-worst loss in the Belichick Era.
There will be no Belichick versus Tom Brady Super Bowl.
“We just couldn’t keep up with them tonight,” a somber Belichick said.
The famous Anchor Bar in Buffalo, known for its chicken wings, could have been serving GOAT wings following this game.
During his two-decade reign of terror with Brady as his partner in crime, Belichick had conquered the likes of Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning and Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers and Patrick Mahomes … and Josh Allen — who went off Saturday with 21-for-25 passing, 308 yards, five TDs and 66 yards rushing — didn’t care about any of that.
Belichick was standing in his way, standing in his team’s way, standing in all of Buffalo’s way with the franchise’s elusive first Super Bowl victory clear In the distance.
Buffalo, all of western New York, had waited for so long their next Jim Kelly, and they have him now.
When Allen wasn’t putting his hands inside the comfort of his white pouch in between plays, he was putting Belichick inside there as well.
Asked about Allen, Belichick said: “I said we couldn’t keep up with them. They were great tonight.”
When Allen hit Gabriel Davis with a 19-yard TD pass early in the fourth quarter, it meant: six drives, six TDs.
And then, showing Belichick no mercy, giving him a taste of his own old medicine, a 1-yard flip on a tackle eligible to Tommy Doyle meant: an unprecedented seven drives, seven TDs.
“They deserved to win,” Belichick said.
When Allen wasn’t gashing the Patriots defense as if he were a rampaging 240-pound buffalo, he was whistling accurate missiles through the frigid air against tentative players who looked as if they would rather have been sipping hot chocolate and eating marshmallows.
By midway through the second quarter (and kudos to offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, by the way), Allen had thrown a pair of TD passes to tight end Dawson Knox and had rushed four times for 54 yards. It was Bills 27, Belichick 3 by intermission … the largest halftime deficit in Patriots playoff history. Allen’s 34-yard TD bomb to Emmanuel Sanders early in the third quarter was the final nail in the coffin.
“We were ready to play,” Allen said.
Allen’s cold-blooded swagger spread like wildfire through Leslie Frazier’s No. 1 Bills defense. Safety Micah Hyde made a diving interception in the end zone to steal from Nelson Agholor what would have been the tying touchdown in the first quarter.
It was asking too much even of a precocious rookie quarterback like Mac Jones (two TDs, two INTs) to deal with this bunch and this night.
“There’s nothing to feel sorry about,” Jones said. “It’s just a learning experience to get better for next year.”
These Bills of Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott have been built step by step, brick by brick for moments like this, and you know they were embarrassed in front of their loyal, diehard fans when the Patriots steamrolled them with a 222-yard rushing assault on a windy Week 13 night when Jones needed to throw just three times.
Bully for them.
Allen and the Bills delivered a loud, emphatic message heard ’round the NFL, and especially in Foxborough: We are the champions of the AFC East, last year and this year. Not Bill Belichick and the Patriots. Us. The Buffalo Bills.
“These are the best fans in the world,” Allen said. “They deserve it.”