Close games and heart stoppers are becoming the norm for the Buffalo Bills. For the fourth consecutive week, it came down to the final minutes of the game. Speaking of fours, the Bills are now 4-1 matching their win total from a year ago and the Philadelphia Eagles have lost four straight following Sunday’s 31-24 victory by the Bills.
Fred Jackson was the workhorse for the Buffalo offense totaling 196 yards from scrimmage and the Bills’ defense forced five Philadelphia turnovers including four interceptions by Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. Bills linebacker Nick Barnett had two of the four picks including a 31-yard intercpetion returned for a touchdown in the second quarter. It’s the third game in a row the Bills have scored a defensive touchdown all coming off of interceptions.
Barnett’s second interception of the game came in a very critical moment late in the fourth quarter. With the Eagles at the Bills’ 25 yard line and knocking on the door to try and tie the game, Barnett was the recipient of a fortnuate bounce off of a Jason Avant stripped fumble. Moments later, with the Bills facing a fourth-and-inches scenario, Ryan Fitzpatrick was able to induce Eagles defensive end Juqua Parker to jump offsides giving Buffalo a first down, a fresh set of downs and the ability to run off the last minute of the game with the Eagles out of timeouts.
Buffalo built up a 21-7 halftime lead with touchdowns from Jackson (five-yard run), a six-yard touchdown reception by David Nelson and Barnett’s 31-yard interception returned for a touchdown. The Bills would race out to a big lead, 28-7 with 9:11 left to play in the third quarter following Brad Smith’s five-yard wildcat touchdown run. Less than two minutes later, LeSean McCoy and the Eagles answered back with McCoy’s 10-yard touchdown run. Six minutes later, the Bills would counterpunch with a 25-yard field goal by Rian Lindell taking a 31-14 lead into the fourth quarter.
But the Eagles didn’t slunk away quietly and the Bills had to endure a gut-wrenching comeback. Philadelphia scored 10 points in the first 5:31 of the fourth quarter and then shot themselves in the foot when it really mattered with Vick’s fourth interception and Parker’s costly offsides penalty that essentially ended the game. Buffalo’s defense allowed 489 total yards to the Eagles’ offense, but the unit rose to the occassion in the final quarter, keeping the Eagles out of the end zone the final nine minutes of the game and came up with a game-saving turnover.
Jackson rushed for 111 yards on 26 carries and caught five passes for 86 yards. He led the Bills in both rushing and receiving. Fitzpatrick completed 21 of 27 passes for 193 yards with a touchdown and an interception. George Wilson led the Bills defense with 11 tackles, three passes defended and an interception.
It was another huge day for Vick and another day of huge mistakes for the Eagles on both sides of the ball. Vick went 26 of 40 for 315 yards and two touchdowns, but threw a career-worst four interceptions. He finished with 90 rushing yards on just five carries. Three of the Eagles’ first four possessions ended with a Vick interception. Despite 24 first downs and nearly 500 yards of total offense, the Eagles’ defense didn’t do their part. They allowed 21 first downs, 331 yards of total offense and allowed Jackson to run loose and often untouched into the secondary and beyond. The Eagles missed too many tackles, made costly mistakes and mental errors, and allowed the Bills to score points on each of their four trips inside the red zone.
For the first time since 2008 the Bills are 4-1 and for the first time since ’08, the Bills have scored 30+ points in four of their first five games. So, the Bills are able to rally the troops, hold off Philly’s late, furious rally and bounce back with a big win after a big letdown a week ago against Cincinnati.
With the win, Buffalo assures themselves, at the worst, a first place tie in AFC East at the end of Week 5. Next Sunday, the Bills will stay in-state and square off against the New York Giants.