Sunday, October 18, 2009

Finally, a Bills game where their worst fears weren't realized

Admit it Bills fans: Like me, you were expecting the worst. When Rian Lindell’s potential game-winning field goal attempt from 46 yards at the end of regulation sailed wide right (Is it just me, or are all the Bills misses in that direction?) and the Jets won the coin flip to receive the ball in overtime, you thought, “Un-Bill-lievable. Here they go again. Ready to lose another freaking game they should have won.”

But in a turn of events oh, so rare in recent years, the Bills gutted this one out. And Lindell, one of the NFL’s best-ever long-range kickers, redeemed himself. With just under three minutes remaining in the extra session of a game neither team seemed intent on winning, Lindell kicked one from 47 yards (yes, yes, the same distance as Scott Norwood’s infamous miss) and Buffalo beat the Jets, 16-13, to record its first victory against an AFC East opponent in 22 months.

And, good thing, too, because losing a game after intercepting six passes and limiting hot-shot New York rookie Mark Sanchez to just 10 completions in 29 attempts for a whopping 119 yards would have been hard to swallow a week after losing a game to the Cleveland Browns after allowing Derek Anderson just two completions in 17 tries.

Not only did the J-E-T-S, JETS! JETS! JETS! throw six picks, they also committed 14 penalties.

Still, they almost won in spite of their many errors, thanks to a magnificent run game propelled by Thomas Jones and Leon Washington. Jones stunned the Bills defense with dashes of 64 and 71 yards and finished with a club-record 210 yards on just 22 carries. (My math’s not great, but I think that’s an average of a first-down nearly every carry.) And his backup, Leon Washington, was almost as dangerous, with 99 yards on 15 attempts.

It’s not too many times a team rushes for 318 yards as the Jets did, and winds up losing the game.

And it’s not too many times a team is pounded for 318 yards as the Bills were, and winds up winning.

“It was ugly out there at times,’’ said Ryan Fitzpatrick, who was forced into action after Bills starting quarterback Trent Edwards was knocked out of the game in the second quarter with a concussion. “But there’s never an ugly win.’’

No there’s not. Especially not during this decadent decade when the Bills have experienced but one winning season.

Fitzpatrick showed his rust out there, completing just 10-of-25 for 116 yards and one score – a bullet to Lee Evans on a slant that was good for a 37-yard touchdown. But he also showed some moxie. And he seemed to find his rhythm after misfiring on his first three passes and connecting on just two of his first nine throws. It was a decent performance, considering almost of his practice snaps since July have been with the scout team.

The Bills baby-faced offensive line did an OK job, allowing only one sack and opening some holes for Fred Jackson and Marshawn Lynch. Of course, it needs to be noted they received a big break when mountainous Jets nose tackle Kris Jenkins left the game for good with a leg injury in the first half.

Although the Bills were not good against the run, they were excellent against the shaky Sanchez, who entered the game with five interceptions in five contests and left it with a total of 10. He clearly was adversely affected by not having two of his regular wideouts in the lineup because of injuries, but he also seemed to be as intimidated by the cold and windy conditions of Giants Stadium as he was by the Bills defenders. (I’m thinking the former SoCal QB better get used to challenging weather in a hurry because it’s not going to get any warmer when the schedule moves into November and December. And as far as I know the new stadium they're playing in next year isn't going to have a roof, so the winds will continue to blow off the Jersey swamplands.)

Sanchez made some atrocious throws and the Bills made him pay. Rookie defensive back Jarius Byrd picked off two passes, but the biggest Buffalo interception was made by linebacker Paul Posluzny at the Buffalo 42 with 6:25 remaining in OT. That set up the final drive, and this time Lindell had enough hook on his kick to bend it just inside the right upright.

Unfortunately, for the 2-4 Bills, this game was not without another spate of injuries. Besides Edwards, the infirmary list included safety Donte Whitner, who reinjured the ankle that sidelined him for several games; tackle Kyle Williams (shoulder), tight end Shane Nelson (concussion) and cornerback Terrence McGee (bruised chest).

Although no victory is ugly, this one needs to be kept in perspective. The Jets may not be as good as their vocal coach Rex Ryan and the New York media hype machine would have people believe. And the Bills still have many issues – porous run defense, erratic, mistake-riddled special teams, offensive line growing pains, a sputtering passing game and a head coach with just one winning season in nine seasons.

That said, you might as well savor this win, because you’ve been conditioned to expect the worst. And for a change, the worst didn’t happen.


waylandbill said...

You make it seem like Edwards going down makes the teams offense less potent. It may seem harsh, but I don't think so. He might fit in with a west-coast offense, but they don't run one.

Unknown said...
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Unknown said...

Almost a perfect column, Scott, except for your "Although no victory is ugly...". You must not have seen Cleveland's win in Buffalo last week. That win was UGLY.