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FOXBOROUGH — When the Patriots host the Bills Sunday at Gillette Stadium, it will mark the 106th meeting (and second this season) between the teams. The last matchup, at Buffalo Sept. 30, produced a wild finish, with the Patriots rallying from a 21-7 deficit to score six second-half touchdowns for a 52-28 victory.
It was in keeping with some of the wild swings in the last three games between the division foes.
After recording 15 consecutive wins over the Bills, the Patriots had their streak snapped with a 34-31 loss at Buffalo Sept. 25, 2011. Then in last year’s regular-season finale on Jan. 1, 2012, the Patriots avenged that loss by overcoming a 21-0 deficit in the first quarter with 49 unanswered points for a 49-21 win.
“It’s a team that we’ve played a bunch of times and there have been some different types of games against this team,’ said Tom Brady, who in 21 games against the Bills has been intercepted 17 times and sacked 39 times, both the most any NFL team has had against him.
“Like last year, we were down, 21-0, here and then I don’t know how many points we scored, 45 — or I don’t know what the final was — unanswered or something,’’ Brady recalled. “It was the same thing down, 21-7, at the beginning of this year. In our first game last year, we were up 21 points and they came back and won.
“There have been some kind of wild swings, and I think that shows the inconsistency that we’ve played [with] against them. Hopefully, we can go out there and play consistently for 60 minutes.’’
Patriots coach Bill Belichick had his own theory as to why his team has been subject to such wild affairs against the Bills.
“I think one of the explosive parts of Buffalo’s game is that they’re able to go on runs,’’ Belichick said. “We’ve seen it before where it’s been 14-7 and they’d go for 21 points. They go on a run. Of course, that comes with big plays on offense, big plays in the kicking game, turnovers on defense.
“You just can’t relax against this team, because they’re so explosive, they can take the ball away from you and they can score in the kicking game and they’re pretty much capable of scoring from anywhere on the field, offensively.
“If you’re not alert and sloppy with them, they’ll make you pay.”
The Patriot sought refuge from the nor’easter that struck the region Wednesday by conducting practice in shorts and shells at their indoor facility, the Dana-Farber Field House. “I think we’ve had plenty of wind and a decent amount of rain this season,’’ Belichick said. “So we’ll try to get some timing in playing conditions that will be more game-like.” Three players were absent from the media-access portion of the workout: running back Brandon Bolden (knee), linebacker Tracy White (foot), and defensive end Trevor Scott (hamstring). Safety Steven Gregory, who has been inactive the last four games because of a nagging hip injury, expressed guarded optimism about returning to action. “Yeah, I’m out there practicing right now, trying to get back into the swing of things,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes.’’
Tall task, again
Defensive end Mario Williams, the high-priced free agent Buffalo acquired from Houston during the offseason, was a nonfactor in the first meeting with the Patriots, held to a pair of tackles. That was in large measure due to the job done by Patriots right tackle Sebastian Vollmer, who has fought his way through back and knee injuries to make all eight starts this season. Vollmer will start the second half by renewing acquaintances with Williams, who had seven tackles (five solo) and one sack in the loss at Houston. “You just look at him and, obviously, he’s a physical guy,’’ Vollmer said. “He’s almost as tall as me and he’s rock solid. He’s a great athlete. He’s an imposing figure.’’ . . . While the Patriots and Texans project to be two of the best teams in the AFC, Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson — who was held out of practice Wednesday after suffering a thigh injury against the Texans — gives New England the nod. “I’d have to say the Patriots,’’ said Johnson, when asked which team was better. “I played the game against the Patriots pretty much with no injury, and they still put a whuppin’ on us, so I’m going to have to give the nod to the New England Patriots.’’
Brady was at the Aerosmith festivities Monday on Commonwealth Avenue, but said, “I didn’t stay for the concert.’’ Brady, who was wearing what could be described as a rock-star ensemble, was asked if he dressed himself or had help from Steven Tyler. “I have no response to that,’’ Brady said with a laugh. Was Aerosmith on his pregame playlist? Did their music get him pumped up for games? “They have some songs that I like, yes,’’ Brady said . . . As a father of two, Brady offered his congratulations to tight end Aaron Hernandez, who celebrated his 23d birthday Tuesday by being at his wife’s side for the birth of their daughter, Avielle. Hernandez returned to practice Wednesday. “Yeah, I saw him in the locker room, so I was very excited to hear,’’ Brady said. “He’s a great friend of mine and he’s going to be a great dad.’’
Michael Vega can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.