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Sunday's game will be on local TV

The Bills' game against New England sold out in time to beat the local television blackout deadline today, thanks to restaurateur Russell Salvatore, who purchased the remaining tickets.

Sunday's 1 p.m. game will air on Channel 4.

Salvatore plans to distribute the tickets to various military and local youth groups, according to a press release from the Bills.

"This is a Christmas present to the community, and I wish everyone in Buffalo a happy holidays," said Salvatore, the owner of Russell's Steaks, Chops & More in Williamsville.

Josh Reed on the brain

Patriots coach Bill Belichick goes into his best Lou Holtz mode whenever he gets on a conference call with Buffalo media. Holtz was one of the masters at talking up his opponents, no matter how poor the Little Sisters of the Poor team that Holtz was facing was looking.

Likewise, Belichick frequently makes a reference to the Bills' 31-0 drubbing of the Pats in 2003, no matter how far removed we get from that game or no matter how many blowout-paybacks the Pats deliver to the Bills. For several years in a row, Belichick made a reference to how well Josh Reed played against the Pats ... and harkened back to the time Reed "ran through" the entire Pats defense. Never mind that the score by Reed (a 51-yarder in 2005) came at the end of a 35-7 Pats rout in Orchard Park.

So it didn't go unnoticed by reporters on Wednesday that Reed's name actually crept into one of Belichick's answers about the Bills' offense. Reed, of course, left the Bills after last season and isn't playing football this season.

Answering a question about the success of smaller recievers in general, Belichick said: "The Bills have several different types of guys, Johnson or Reed or Nelson, all the different guys that have played for them this year, they’re not all the same. But they’re all effective and they all have their own way of getting open, catching the ball and running with it after the catch. They run different routes, but if they can be effective in getting open and giving the quarterback a target, then he’ll throw it to them."

Belichick does a phenomenal job of preaching the "respect the opponent" mantra to his players. You almost never hear any Patriots trash talking in the media or saying anything disrespectful before a game. That's probably one reason why the Patriots almost always beat the teams they're supposed to beat.

---Mark Gaughan

How many straight Ls to Pats?

Bills players said today coach Chan Gailey did not say the words "14 straight losses" in any team meetings so far.

Gailey, of course, only has been around for one loss to the Pats. Brian Moorman, Chris Kelsay and Terrence McGee have been around for all 14.

Asked what breaking the losing streak would mean, Gailey said: "To be honest with you, I don’t get into that stuff. I really don’t. I understand people that have been around the program and the Bills for a long time, I understand how it would bother them but I just don’t think that you can ... if you start to focus on that, then you lose focus on the game and what it takes to win the game and what you have to do to get better. You can’t focus on those things that are good stories for you all but really are irrelevant to winning or losing this ball game. They’re a good football team, we’re going to have go out and play very well to win the ball game."

---Mark Gaughan


Kick away from Connolly!

For the rest of Dan Connolly's football career, the Patriots guard is going to be able to say the opposition was "kicking away from him." Connolly, a wedge blocker on the Pats' kickoff return team, had a 71-yard rumblin, stumblin return against the Packers on Sunday night. If you haven't seen it, you've either been out of the country or you're not much of a sports fan.

Anyway, the return was the subject of jokes on Wednesday as the Bills and Pats prepared to meet Sunday at The Ralph.

Bills coach Chan Gailey, asked if he was going to kick away from Connolly, paused then smiled and said: "That was a good one."

Pats coach Bill Belichick, asked if he was going to get Connolly more involved in the return game, said: "Ha, ha, yeah. We’re going to work on his open-field running a little bit and maybe put him back there as the deep guy to see if anybody wants to kick away from him."

On Pats' return man Brandon Tate: "Well, he’s second on our team in average per return."

The NFL couldn't resist getting some more mileage out of the play. Connolly was named AFC Special teams player of the week.

Boston media asked Belichick about the award. His response: "Congratulations to him. It was an excellent run on his part. He got some great blocking along the way. It’s a play that we’ve never seen before, but it was timely and he did a good job with the opportunity. One thing about Dan is we’ve worked on that play a lot in practice; we squib kick every week and I’d say he probably handles the ball, if not every week, I’d say at least every other week. Sometimes they go to Alge [Crumpler], sometimes they go to Rob [Gronkowski] or whoever’s back there, but we work on that on a regular basis. Dan’s always well prepared. He has been throughout his career. He was on the practice squad. He was released by a couple of teams, but he kept working, kept getting better. He’s developed a role for himself and has been a very productive player for us this year, even though he was playing a lot on offense, he’s still took a lot of pride in the kickoff return. We’ve had a lot of production on our kickoff return unit with him being a key part of it as the middle guy there – the call end on the wedge – and his opportunity came up to handle the ball and he did a nice job with it. He found some open space, picked up a couple blocks and turned it into a big play. That’s preparation meets opportunity; he delivered. Is that enough for you on him?"

Bills linebacker and former Pats player Pierre Woods, thinking about the Pats' deep threats, said: "Hey kick it to him, that’s what I would say."

The Pats have a great return game without Connolly. Tate has a 26.1-yard average on kickoff returns and has two returns for TDs. New England ranks fifth in the NFL in average drive start after kickoffs - their 30-yard line. The Bills rank 17th in average drive start, their 26.6.

---Mark Gaughan


Bills' sounds of the season

     What the Buffalo Bills want on the Second Day of Christmas is to break their losing streak to the New England Patriots.

     What they give their fans as a pre-Christmas gift is a vocal version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" as  it's never been heard before.

    Once you get to the Bills page, look for the link on the breaking news carousel.


Pats Week Question

New England comes to Buffalo on Sunday. The Bills have lost 14 straight to New England and 19 of the last 20 to the Patriots. We kick off the pre-game hype with a simple question: Do you - Bills fans - hate the Patriots? 

---Mark Gaughan

Hangartner likely out vs. New England

---Bills coach Chan Gailey didn’t sound optimistic on Monday that center Geoff Hangartner, pictured left, would return to the lineup for Sunday’s game against New England.

Hangartner has missed the Bills last two games with a knee injury and second-year guard Eric Wood has started in his place at center.

“If we were out of linemen, Geoff might be able to get ready to play by Sunday, but we’re not pushed into that,’’ Gailey said. “I’m thinking that if we can let him get healthy one more week, that wouldn’t hurt anything. I don’t want to push him back too quick this time of the season.’’

---Rodney McKissic


Bills Replay Live Chat

Begin comments here.


Check out Bills Live at noon

Well, the Sabres were a disappointment in the first half of a big Buffalo sports weekend down in sunny Florida.

We'll see Sunday afternoon if the Bills can change that whey they face the Dolphins. Come talk to Jerry Sullivan and I about it on Bills Live. The fun starts at noon and will continue until at least 6 p.m. You can find the link for the chat by clicking here.

Hope to talk to you tomorrow.

---Jay Skurski 

Bills in Pro Bowl voting

Bills players aren't getting much love in the Pro Bowl fan voting.

Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is fifth among AFC quarterbacks behind, in order, New England's Tom Brady, Indianapolis' Peyton Manning, San Diego's Philip Rivers and Jacksonville's David Garrard. Some Bills fans might scoff at Garrard being ahead of Fitzpatrick, but Garrard does have the Jaguars in first place in the AFC South.

The only other Bill in the top five at their position is rookie C.J. Spiller, who is third among AFC kick returners but a distant third behind Josh Cribbs of Cleveland and Brandon Tate of New England.

Nose tackle Kyle Williams, wide receiver Stevie Johnson and running back Fred Jackson are well behind the top vote-getters at their positions.

None of these results are a surprise given the Bills' 3-10 record and limited national following. Fans account for one-third of the final Pro Bowl voting, while players and coaches get the other two-thirds.

Fan voting isn't a true barometer of whether a player gets invited to the Pro Bowl. The players and coaches have a bigger say in who goes, as it should be. But the Bills are still a long shot to have someone get their ticket to Hawaii punched.

Brady, Manning and Rivers are locks as the Pro Bowl quarterbacks. Cribbs will go again as the return man even if his numbers this season aren't up to his usual standards.

Williams is an interesting case. Without a doubt, he is having the best year of his career and a lot of teams the Bills have faced were effusive in their praise of his play. But it's hard to see a guy on the worst run defense in the NFL going to the Pro Bowl, even if he's one of its few bright spots. Williams also is at a strong position with Baltimore's Haloti Ngata, New England's Vince Wilfork, Oakland's Richard Seymour and Pittsburgh's Casey Hampton having good seasons and already have Pro Bowl appearances on their resumes.

Johnson is having a break-out season, but it probably won't be enough to breakthrough the receiver logjam that includes Houston's Andre Johnson, Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne, Baltimore's Anquan Boldin and New England's Wes Welker. Even Cincinnati's Terrell Owens will get his share of votes from his peers.

Houston's Arian Foster and Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew are sure to go at running back, so Jackson would have to get more votes than Tennessee's Chris Johnson and Cleveland's Peyton Hillis. That's not likely to happen.

Fan voting concludes on Monday.

---Allen Wilson


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