Despite being perhaps the least interesting matchup in the league on Sunday, Ralph Wilson Stadium was rocking when the Buffalo Bills finally earned their first victory of the season, beating the Detroit Lions 14-12.
In a game that featured a Bills team that hadn’t won in eight attempts this season, and a Detroit Lions team that hadn’t (and hasn’t) won a road game in three years, it’s no surprise that it wasn’t exactly fireworks, but “perseverance” as coach Chan Gailey would say after the game, that earned the Bills their first win.
The offense was mired in a game-long struggle, unable to really get into any kind of rhythm throughout the day. Ryan Fitzpatrick, 12-24 for 146 yards and a TD, was pretty erratic passing the ball. He missed a few open receivers down the field for sure touchdowns, and skipped passes to open receivers on a couple of occasions. The Bills ran the ball with some success, though Fred Jackson’s 25 carry, 133 yard day, was boosted by a couple of runs that gained over 25 yards each. After scoring on a 16 yard shuttle pass early in the third quarter to take a 14-3 lead, the Bills played an ultra-conservative game, trying to not beat themselves. As is usually the case, this almost resulted in the Bills losing the game, as Detroit mustered a rally in the 4th quarter that nearly sent this game into overtime. After seeing Fitzpatrick throw a couple of bad interceptions late in games this season, you wonder if Gailey didn’t totally trust his QB to keep throwing the ball aggressively.
The real heroes for the Bills was the much maligned defensive unit, which for the second week in a row, held an opponent’s running game in check. The Lions managed just 76 yards on 26 carries, a paltry 2.9 average. When the Lions finally abandoned the run in the fourth quarter, they did manage some yardage through the air, but their 314 passing yards came on over 50 dropbacks. Just when it seemed the Bills’ defense was ready to collapse and blow the 11 point lead the Bills had in the fourth quarter, they held strong against the 2 point conversion attempt, and salvaged the victory.
The star of the day for the Bills was clearly Freddy Jackson, who along with his rushing success, also caught six passes for 37 yards and a touchdown. The Bills did also have other players step up, as Donte Whitner and Chris Kelsay, both of whom have been heavily criticized, stepped up and played big games. Chris Kelsay made a stop in the backfield and drew a couple of holding penalties, while Donte Whitner was aggressive defending passes, including one he tipped into the hands of Dwan Edwards for an early interception.
The atmosphere in the stadium was really something to witness, particularly after another lost home game in Toronto. The Bills fans that showed up continued to prove how fiercely loyal this fan base can be. The noise may have contributed to a few Lions’ penalties, and the Bills’ defensive players were clearly enthused by the crowd response they received. The jubilation that was exulted when the Bills were able to stop the Lions’ two point attempt really signified what kind of fans this franchise has, whether they deserve them or not at this point.
While there will be plenty of time throughout the rest of the season to pick at the Bills’ flaws, to plan ahead for the draft, and to discuss miscues and mistakes that has cost this team victories, it’s nice, if for just one game, to be able to celebrate a win.