First Game The Bills Got Robbed Against the Patriots; Was Just Before Tom Brady
The Buffalo Bills really didn't have a hot-blooded rivalry with the New England Patriots before Tom Brady and Bill Belichick arrived in Boston.
The Patriots hired Belichick in 2000, after he first agreed to coach the New York Jets, but that fell through and the Jets hired Al Groh.
Brady was drafted that same year, but sat his rookie season. He didn't get a chance to start until Drew Bledsoe was injured by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis, and the rest is history.
Brady went on to win six Super Bowls in New England, all with Belichick and the Bills ironically missed the playoffs nearly that entire span as well (2001-2017). The Patriots won the division all but one year (2008).
Brady won another Super Bowl last season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and after a disappointing 2020 season, Belichick is 9-4 with this current Patriots squad, led by one of the best defenses in the league.
Bills fans have been used to Brady and the Patriots having calls go their way for some time, and it's also become a signature with the rest of the league as well -- everyone just assumes Brady and/or New England will get the breaks. Whether that's fair or not is up for debate, but did you know that the Bills were first hosed by the officials against New England "just" before Brady and Belichick got there?
The game was in 1998. Doug Flutie was the Bills quarterback and the Bills would go on to finish with an 10-6 record. They would have to travel on the road in the 1998 Wild Card round to Miami, losing 24-17 to the Dolphins.
The game in question was November 29th, 1998 at the New England Patriots. The Patriots were down 21-17 and driving to try and win the game. On fourth down from the Bills 37-yard-line. That's when then Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe threw a sideline pass to wide receiver Shawn Jefferson.
Jefferson tried to tap is toes down while catching the ball, but as replays showed, he was out of bounds. However, as documented in the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, Bills Hall of Fame wide receiver Andre Reed and fellow Bills wide receiver Quinn Early were both right there, since it happened along the Bills sideline.
According to Reed, the officials didn't get a clear view and had "no idea what to call."
Reed and Early claim the official said to the other, "give it to him; just give it to him."
Reed was visibly upset after the game, and went on to say:
“Crap like that is uncalled for. I don’t know if it was the side judge or the line judge, but he didn’t know what happened. He waited for the guy to come all the way over from Boston to make the call. That one took the case. They looked at me like, ‘Is he in, is he in?’ What am I supposed to say? ‘Oh no, he’s not in.’ Get your (stuff) together.”
The NFL did not have replay review like they do now and the Patriots were allowed to keep the drive alive. After a failed Hail Mary attempt, Bills safety Henry Jones was then called for pass interference with no time left.
That allowed Bledsoe to complete a one-yard touchdown pass to tight end Ben Coates, and the Bills lost 25-21 to the Patriots on the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
Because of that loss, the Bills had to travel to Miami in the playoffs. That game would have been at home since the Bills would have been 11-5, if the Shawn Jefferson "just give it to him" catch had never took place. Or, if it was just called correctly in the first place.
So, the Bills have been getting robbed against the Patriots for 23 years, actually.
You can watch the play below.