I won’t lie. As Jay Feely lined up to kick a 38-yard field goal as time expired that would send the Buffalo Bills to a third consecutive loss–essentially putting their playoff hopes on life support just six weeks into the season, I had the following Tweet typed out and ready to hit send.
“The Bills are the all-time pioneers of finding ways to lose. Their season is over, done. They’ll never be able to recover from this.”
Fortunately for Bills fans who undoubtedly were bracing for the worst, you’ll never have to know if that unsent Tweet carried validity.
The Bills somehow were able to snatch a critical road victory against an Arizona Cardinals team with a 4-1 record, despite doing almost everything imaginable to squander it away. In the game’s final few minutes the Bills managed to throw an interception out of the wildcat formation on a hideous play call, defensively have a linebacker covering arguably cover the game’s best wide receiver, witness Feely boom a career-best 61 yard field goal, see Buffalo’s rookie punter completely shank a kick with less than a minute left and then have Terrence McGee blow a coverage to set up what seemed to be an easy game-winning kick.
It’s not like the Bills haven’t seen this before.
But a funny thing happened on the way to yet another improbable Buffalo loss. Feely hit the left upright on his 38-yard field goal attempt and the ball bounced back in the field of play—no good.
The game would go into overtime and Jairus Byrd’s second interception of the game set up Rian Lindell’s chip shot 25-yard field goal to give Buffalo the 19-16 win.
As ugly as the Bills last two losses have been, the victory moved them to 3-3 and amazingly, in a four-way tie for the AFC East lead with New England, New York and Miami.
Buffalo has an excellent chance to move to 4-3 next week when they host Tennessee. They better take full advantage with road dates in Houston and New England to follow.
The story of this game for Buffalo without question was the defense. After surrendering 1,201 total yards over their past two games, the most allowed in the NFL in 72 years, the Bills were stout for much of the game in taking advantage of a weak Arizona offensive line.
Mario Williams finally had the breakout game everyone’s been waiting for; recording two sacks, four additional quarterback pressures and drawing two holding penalties. Linebacker Nick Barnett also had two sacks while Kelsay had that resulted in points.
The game began ominously for Buffalo after Fred Jackson fumbled on the game’s first offensive play. Arizona recovered and converted it into a field goal.
Kelsay got two of the points back in the first quarter when he sacked Kevin Kolb in the end zone for a safety.
Buffalo took their first least of the game late in the first quarter when C.J. Spiller ran 10 yards for a touchdown to put the Bills up, 9-3.
Spiller finished with 88 rushing yards on 12 carries and caught four balls for 22 yards.
Kolb connected with Larry Fitzgerald on a nine-yard score to give Arizona a 10-9 lead they’d take into halftime.
Buffalo has folded in the second half of losses to New England and San Francisco over the past two games and were outscored 73-14 in the process, but that wasn’t the case today. The Cards did open a 13-9 lead in the third quarter on Feely’s second 49 yard field goal of the game, but a nice five play, 80-yard Buffalo drive culminated in a one-yard Jackson run to put Buffalo up after three, 16-13.
The Bills had the ball on the Arizona 36 with under 3:20 left to play and appeared poised to put the game away, but inexplicably head coach Chan Gailey called a play that had Brad Smith throw from the wildcat. The long pass intended for Donald Jones was picked off by Patrick Peterson in the end zone and Arizona had new life.
Arizona drove 10 plays over the final 3:07 before Feely connected from 61 yards on fourth and 10 with 1:07 left.
The Bills got the ball back but a Ryan Fitzpatrick sack and two failed rush attempts resulted in a punt by Shawn Powell. The ball went off the side of the rookie’s foot and Arizona took over at their own 48 with 46 seconds left on the clock.
Backup quarterback John Skelton, in after Kolb injured his ribs on a hit by Kelsay a few minutes earlier, connected on a 28-yard pass to Fitzgerald after a blown coverage by McGee that took the ball to Buffalo’s 20. Arizona then let the clock go down to three seconds before spiking the ball and bringing on Feely to kick the winner.
But he missed.
Buffalo got the ball to start overtime but ended up punting after driving to the Arizona 40. To make matters worse the punt resulted in a touch back after Ruvell Martin has a foot in the end zone in downing a punt that could’ve resulted in Arizona being forced to start from their goal line.
Arizona took over on their 20 but on a third and 10, Skelton threw an ill-advised pass down the middle of the field that Byrd made a diving interception on. He immediately got up and returned the ball 29 yards to set up Lindell’s winning kick.
The victory snapped Arizona’s eight game home winning streak.
It’s a good thing the defense decided today was a swell time to step up because Fitzpatrick was lousy. The oft-maligned quarterback did nothing to silence his critics in completing 18-of-32 passes for just 153 yards and was noticeably off on several open receivers throughout the game.
We’ll have a much more thorough breakdown of this wild affair over the next few days. It wasn’t the prettiest victory in franchise history, but it was one sorely needed and perhaps will jumpstart the team over the next several weeks.