ORCHARD PARK, NY -- When the Bills went down 10-0 to New England in the first quarter of Sunday's game, you had to wonder if a collective sigh escaped Buffalo, Here we go again.
Running back C.J. Spiller denies it.
"[We're] not the same team," he insisted. "We've just lost the game. We have a lot of new faces on this team. We had a chance to win it, but turnovers killed us."
He's not wrong about that last point. There were three Bills fumbles and 10 accepted penalties squeezed into New England's narrow 23-21 victory. Buffalo actually stole a 21-20 lead with more than 11 minutes left in the third quarter and held it for all but the final five seconds of regulation.
Of course, those last precious seconds are the only ones that matter.
"Just because all of you said we were going to get beat by 50 and we get beat by three doesn't make me feel any better," defensive tackle Kyle Williams admitted to reporters.
"I'm here to win. I've been around a long time. I just want to win and we have to find a way to make the plays at the end of the game."
This season is Williams' eighth in the NFL, all of them played with the Bills. In his tenure alone, New England has beaten Buffalo 14 times in 15 opportunities.
But despite the result, Spiller's initial point was also correct: This is a different team. Head coach Chan Gailey was fired after the 2012 season and Doug Marrone was hired in January to replace him. With the new coach came new coordinators: Mike Pettine for defense and Nathaniel Hackett for offense. Veteran Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick was released in March.
It was a total overhaul.
Marrone, who had been working in upstate New York as the coach at Syracuse University, understands the history he's inherited. Hell, a quick Google search can tell you the Bills have only had one winning season since the new Millennium.
"You talk about sense of disappointment… it's devastating. It's hard. It's hard because, like I said before, and I mean this, there is a greater calling," Marrone lamented Sunday night.
"Granted, we put in a lot of work and we're going to get better, but we know what the people want and we know what the region wants. When we go out there and we have opportunities and you can't win that game, I'm letting them down, we are all letting people down. We'll continue to fight and I promise you that we'll get better."
How much hope can Bills fans place in new promises? Perhaps a lot, if they look hard at Buffalo's Week 1 effort. Their rookie quarterback, E.J. Manuel, completed 18 of 27 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns. He also had three rushes for 23 yards. The offensive line kept Manuel upright for the duration.
"A lot of things that happened to us were kind of self-inflicted," running back Fred Jackson explained. "Not to take anything from [the Patriots]; they made plays when they had the opportunity, but we left a lot out there."
It will be interesting to see how the new-look Bills mature over the next 16 weeks. How fitting they meet New England again for the season finale?