Important dates in Bills history presented by M&T bank helps fans understand what's important. In the NFL, it doesn't get much more important than divisional wins. For the Bills, there has always been a special imperative to beat the division rival New England Patriots.
While the Patriots were not a playoff contender in 1981, the Bills were in the middle of a dog fight for the AFC's final playoff spot, and their November 22, Week 12 matchup with the then 2-8 Patriots was a game they needed to win to keep pace with the rest of the league's Wild Card contenders.
The Bills came into the contest at Ralph Wilson stadium with a 6-5 record. After falling behind 7-3 in the first quarter, the home team scored 10 unanswered points in the second frame, including seven on the first of two touchdown passes from quarterback Joe Ferguson to running back Roland Hooks. The first touchdown, an 11-yard pitch-and-catch, was significantly tamer than the second.
In the third quarter and early fourth quarter, the Patriots reclaimed the lead, 17-13, and appeared ready to claim an upset victory against the homestanding Bills. But Ferguson led the Buffalo's offense to the Patriots 36-yard line on the final drive with time to run one more play. A Hail Mary pass.
Ferguson unloaded a deep pass toward Hooks, and the running back hauled in the biggest touchdown of the Bills season, scoring the game-winning points on the game's final play in front of 72,000 screaming fans.
The win against the Patriots kick-started a five-game winning streak for the Bills, which propelled them into the playoffs, where they beat the New York Jets on the road in the Wild Card Round. But that winning streak and that playoff win may never have happened if not for one heroic pass and outstanding catch against the Patriots at Ralph Wilson Stadium on November 22, 1981.