Beating the Chiefs was one thing. Defeating the Raiders at home was another. But beating the Patriots means the Buffalo Bills have arrived and it's time to start taking them seriously.
After 11 years of misery, the Buffalo Bills are finally giving their loyal but win-starved fan base something that they haven’t had since the turn of the millennium: a reason to show up. These Bills are resilient, they’re tough, and they’re fun to watch. When’s the last time you could say that about this sad-sack franchise that had become emblematic of America’s decaying rust belt?
Let’s run down this startling list of accomplishments coming out of yesterday’s 34–31 win over the Patriots:
• The Bills became the only team in modern NFL history to win consecutive games in which they trailed by 18 points or more. Against the Genius (Bill Belichick) and the Golden Boy (Tom Brady), the Bills erased a 21–0 first-half deficit.
• Against the Buffalo defense, Brady threw as many interceptions (four) as he did for the entire 2010 season. That interception total matched Brady’s career-worst for a single game.
• The Bills snapped a 15-game losing streak against the AFC East kingpins, and they snapped New England’s 10-game regular-season winning streak.
• For the first time since 1992 and the heyday of Jim Kelly’s fast-break offense, the Bills have opened a season scoring 30 or more points in their first three games.
“It’s the biggest win of my career. I can’t think of any bigger,” said linebacker Chris Kelsay, who has suffered along with Bills Nation for the duration of a career that began in 2003. “To beat these guys at home, in front of our fans, with the way they’re behind us despite being down early, it's huge. I'll never forget it.”
Budding folk hero Ryan Fitzpatrick outdueled Brady, completing 27-of-40 passes for 369 yards and two scores and posting a higher passer rating (92.6 to 86.0). After the Patriots had tied the score at 31, Fitzpatrick briskly led the Bills into scoring position, as the team took advantage of an overturned Fred Jackson touchdown to kill the remaining clock and kick the winning field goal from the 1-yard line.
Another long-term sufferer with the franchise, kicker Rian LIndell, supplied the winning chip shot. “That’s the loudest I've ever heard it in here,” Lindell said. “Certainly they’ve been the team to beat. It’s definitely a step in the right direction.”
In a shocking role reversal, Brady sounded like a guy whose team had missed an opportunity to take down the division favorite. “We played a good football team and made too many mistakes," said Brady. “It’s never easy. ... We had too many turnovers, too many penalties that allowed them to get some easy plays. ... I just wish we would have made a few less mistakes.”
If it’s any consolation, Brady continues to pile up yards at a historic pace. He has 1,326 yards passing through three games, breaking the record of 1,257 set in 2006 by New Orleans QB Drew Brees.
• The Detroit Lions are an equally shocking 3–0 for the first time since 1980 after picking up a key division win in overtime against the Vikings. Like the Bills, they erased a huge deficit, digging out of a 20–0 halftime hole in the greatest second-half comeback in franchise history. Unlike the Bills, they did it on the road. Not to overstate things, but Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson could become the most dynamic pass-catch combo of their generation.
• The Niners and Bengals anesthetized an announced crowd of 43,363 in a 13–8 snoozer. Andy Dalton finally looked like a rookie, throwing two fourth-quarter picks after going the season’s first 11 quarters without one.
• The Dream Team’s 1–2. The Eagles lost to the Giants 29–16, and Michael Vick’s ticked off after getting battered — he has a broken right hand — in a chippy divisional game. “I felt I got hit late. No flag,” Vick said of a shot from Chris Canty. “At some point something catastrophic is gonna happen. Not to blame the refs, but more precautions should be taken. I’m on the ground all the time in the pocket.” His concern is no doubt shared by Philly fans; judging from Mike Kafka’s performance in relief and Vince Young’s nagging hammy, Vick is indispensable.
• On a day of shootouts, none was better than Saints-Texans. Drew Brees put 23 points on the board in the fourth quarter alone as New Orleans erased a 26–17 fourth-quarter deficit. Everyone eager to anoint the Texans as the class of the AFC South had better take notice. This is what the Texans do.