“Where would you rather be than right here, right now?”
“No One Circles the Wagons Like the Buffalo Bills.”
I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to root for a 1-8 team. Elation is a good word to describe Sunday’s first win of the season over the Detroit Lions. Relief is probably a much better descriptive word to use. So the Buffalo Bills won’t go 0-16 after all. We can end that unruly chatter once and for all.
Every dog has its day and it was finally the Bills’ turn. They finally stopped the run. The defense finally helped seal a victory rather than a defeat. And finally the streak is over. The Bills will gladly avoid joining the 2008 Lions and the 1976 Buccaneers as the only winless teams since the merger in 1970.
It felt like 1970 was the last time we saw the Bills win. And this one sure wasn’t pretty or easy. The rain made for some sloppy playing conditions, not to mention when you have a game that features two annual losing teams in the NFL, sloppy is to be expected.
There were no style points. And the Lions sure didn’t roll over and hand this one to the Bills. It came down to the final seconds. It took the biggest defensive stand of the season on a two-point converstion attempt with :14 seconds left in the game. Detroit drove nearly the length of the field, 88 yards, in the final 3 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter. The Lions converted three fourth down attempts during the drive that resulted in an easy 20-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill to Calvin Johnson. The Lions got the match up they wanted, a mismatch in fact, with Johnson on Paul Posluszny.
With the Lions on the verge of dashing the Bills’ chances of leaving Ralph Wilson Stadium with their first win, Detroit lined up for the game-tying two-point conversion tie. Everyone in the stadium, the parking lot and anyone lurking on the street corners knew the ball was headed back in the direction of Johnson. This time, however, the Bills read the formation like a book, jamming Johnson off the snap.
Johnson never got off the line cleanly and he never got into his route. Hill’s second option, running back Jahvid Best, was blanketed out of the backfield by Reggie Torbor. Hill’s last desperation attempt was in the direction of tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Pettigrew was surrounded by three Buffalo defenders and Hill’s pass sailed high and out of the endzone.
On the ensuing onside kick attempt, Bills safety George Wilson recovered the kick and the party began. Realization firmly set in: the Bills would get their first victory of the 2010 season and the Lions stand alone on the wrong side of history as the only franchise to lose 25 consecutive road games.
It was a game the Bills won on the ground, both offensively and defensively. There was Fred Jackson, the forgotten running back who had such a magnificent season a year ago in which the former Coe College back rushed for over 1.000 yards. With the arrival of C.J. Spiller via the draft and Marshawn Lynch emerging as the starter earlier this season, things have gone vastly different a year later in Buffalo for Jackson.
But Sunday, Jackson reminded everyone who is the heart and soul of the Bills, rushing for season high 133 yards on 31 carries and two touchdowns. It also happens that on the same afternoon Jackson turns in his best rushing performance of the season, the Bills’ run defense did the same. Buffalo limited Detroit to just 76 yards rushing, keeping a tight lid on rookie speedster Jahvid Best. The Bills held Best to one of his worst days as a rookie, totaling just 35 rushing yards on 17 attempts.
For the past three weeks, they’ve been close. Three straight losses all by three points. A few plays here and there, fewer mistakes and some better luck and perhaps the Bills could be riding a winning streak.
But for now, I’ll just take a win. For the first Sunday in 10 weeks, the Bills will make Mondays manageable, dare I say somewhat enjoyable.