Buffalo Bills Edge Arizona Cardinals 19-16 in OT; Tied for 1st Place in AFC East
The Bills were clinging to a 16-13 lead with 1:58 left in regulation when Arizona kicker Jay Feeley hit a dramatic 61-yard field goal to tied the score at 16. Feeley later missed a 38-yard field goal at the end of regulation that would have given the Cardinals the win.
Bills safety Jairus Byrd intercepted a pass from quarterback John Skelton in overtime and returned it to the Cardinals 6-yard line. The Bills then set up Rian Lindell for a 25-yard chip shot, and the Bills snapped their two-game losing vault and notched a win in overtime.
All four AFC East teams now have an identical record of 3-3, so just like that, the Bills are now tied for first place in their division. How crazy is that?
Bills' Overall Defense Showed Improvement
The Buffalo Bills defense had allowed two straight games of allowing more than 550 yards of overall offense coming into this Week 6 contest.
Despite a Fred Jackson fumble to open the game, the Bills defense made a statement right from the beginning that they were going to be playing with greater intensity and passion today. They held the Cardinals and forced a field goal by Jay Feeley.
Even though the game went into overtime, the Bills only allowed Arizona 332 yards overall, which is a big improvement. Granted, the Cardinals aren't the greatest offense in the NFL. (They were ranked No. 29 overall in the NFL coming into the game, averaging 273 yards per game.)
Consider that the Bills were reeling after their two humiliating losses, so pride, confidence and self-worth were all at stake.
The Bills only allowed Arizona to convert on five of 16 third-down opportunities. More importantly, they forced two turnovers—both were interceptions by Jairus Byrd—and they came up with five sacks. The timely turnovers and sacks were missing from the Bills defense in the last two weeks.
Mario Williams Turns in His Best Game as a Bills Player
Finally, Mario Williams made a difference in a game this season. The $100 million defense end had been making lots of excuses, but not coming up with many results to show for his big contract. That all changed today, when Williams came up with two sacks against Kevin Kolb.
Williams was credited with three QB hits in the game. Before we get too excited, consider that coming into the game, the two starting Arizona tackles gave up the most sacks in the NFL after five weeks. Bobbie Massie allowed 8.5 sacks, while his opposite, D'Anthony Batiste, allowed seven. They are No. 1 and 2 in the NFL, so those stats were padded by giving up five sacks today.
On one sack, Williams bull rushed the tackle and threw him about five yards off to the side, allowing him to swoop down on Kolb before he had a chance to move. There were a couple other near sacks where Williams had Kolb in the grasp, but the umpire ruled that the pass was thrown prior to the sack.
Marcel Dareus helped create one of Mario's sacks by forcing him into the defensive end with a strong burst up the middle.
Bills fans can only hope that with the monkey off of his back, Mario Williams will now start to get into a groove and turn in more efforts like this one.
Entire Bills Defensive Line Stepped Up
The Bills had lost starting defensive end Mark Anderson to a knee injury in the Week 5 loss to San Francisco. Chris Kelsay was now elevated to take over for Anderson, and he responded with his best game of the year.
Kelsay was tied for second on the Bills with George Wilson, as each defender came up with seven tackles. Kelsay had six solo tackles, two tackles for a loss, one sack and one quarterback hit. Kelsay started off the scoring today with a sack of Kevin Kolb in the end zone in the first quarter.
Alex Carrington came n and put a hit on Kevin Kolb late in the fourth quarter that forced Kolb out of the game. That hit brought in a cold John Skelton off of the bench, who hadn't played since Week 1. Skelton wound up throwing the key interception in overtime, so we can't stress enough the importance of the play Carrington made.
Kyle Williams seemed to be a tad off today. He was a step away from big plays or it looked like he was being held, but wasn't drawing any flags. He has been missing some practice time, so the Bills have been allowing him to nurse some injuries.
Ryan Fitzpatrick Didn't Put Up Big Numbers, but Won in Homecoming
From a statistical standpoint, this wasn't one of Ryan Fitzpatrick's better games. Fitzpatrick completed only 18 of 32 passes for 153 yards. He threw no touchdown passes, but didn't throw any interceptions either. He was sacked twice today and had a QB Passer Rating of 68.9. Fitzpatrick gained an average of just 4.8 yards today on his 32 passes.
While the Bills were able to generate 306 yards of total offense today, the Bills had another long stretch in the third quarter where they had three straight three-and-out drives. That lack of sustained offense places too much pressure on the defense, and it has to be corrected. The Bills offense wound up going only four for 13 in third-down conversions, which isn't high enough for continued success.
Fitzpatrick is from Arizona, so this was a homecoming game for him. He had plenty of family and friends in attendance, so you know that he wanted to come up with a big game. The fact that he could share the experience of winning a close game with all of those people that were close to him had to mean quite a lot.
Bills Patched Up Offensive Line Did Their Job
The Bills were without starting left tackle Cordy Glenn and starting right guard Kraig Urbik. So, the Bills offensive line was Chris Hairston at left tackle, Andy Levitre at left guard, Eric Wood at center, Chad Rinehart at right guard and Erik Pears at right tackle. Rinehart was playing with a calf injury, so that would then press Sam Young into right guard duty if Rinehart went down.
The depth of the offensive line was stretched very thin, as the Bills had called up G/C David Snow from the practice squad and signed free agent Reggie Wells to beef up the depth chart. In corresponding moves, the Bills released RB Johnny White and S Delano Howell to make room for the newcomers.
With the changes on the offensive line, what were the results? Well, the Bills gained 165 yards on the ground over 33 carries, good for an average of 5.0 yards per rush. The Bills also had two rushing touchdowns on the day. Fitzpatrick had more time to throw than Kevin Kolb did all day, so there really wasn't any comparison. The Bills had the better offensive line of the two teams.
Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller Each Score a Touchdown
The Buffalo Bills generated two rushing touchdowns today, one by C.J. Spiller in the first quarter and the other by Fred Jackson in the third quarter.
Jackson had a costly fumble on the Bills' first possession of the game that put the Bills in an early hole. Jackson responded by gaining 53 yards on 16 carries. That comes out to 3.3 yards per carry. Jackson ditched his knee brace for this game, but he still doesn't seem to be running with the same confidence or drive that he did last year.
Spiller looked like the fresher back today. He picked up 88 yards on just 12 carries, averaging 7.3 yards per rush. Spiller made some strong spin moves in close quarters today, and it seems like he deserves to be the starting running back based on today's game.
Both packs did a good job in picking up blitzers and were effective in the passing game. Jackson caught five passes for 30 yards and Spiller caught four passes for 22 yards.
The Bills will continue to employ the split backfield arrangement regardless of who is starting. As long as both guys are producing, they will each get meaningful snaps.
Jairus Byrd Was the Bills Player That Stepped Up Big Today
Somebody needed to step up today and make a big play for the Buffalo Bills to win on the road today. That player turned out to be safety Jairus Byrd.
Byrd made four solo tackles, including one for a loss, and defended two passes today. He made one key interception off of Kevin Kolb with less than six minutes left in regulation to allow the Bills to retain their lead.
But his best play was the interception and subsequent return he made in overtime that set up the game-winning kick by Lindell. It was a difficult interception to make, but Byrd has very good hands for a safety. He immediately got up after the catch and started racing up the field.
After Byrd had gained 15-20 yards, he started swerving in and out trying to pick up additional blockers. Bills fans were probably screaming for him to go down for fear that somebody would come up and try to strip the ball away. But Byrd picked his way down the field, finally being tackled at the Cardinals six-yard line.
Byrd tied for the NFL lead in interceptions as a rookie in 2009 with nine picks. Today's haul gives him three for the year. Byrd deserves more national recognition, and this game is a step in making that happen.
Chan Gailey Was Conservative but Still Came out on Top
The Bills had the ball first in overtime and wound up driving the ball down into Cardinals territory, where the drive stalled out. Buffalo could attempt to try for a 52-yard field goal, easily within Rian Lindell's range, but Gailey weighed his options and opted to punt the ball then, rather than go for the win.
Had Lindell missed the kick, Arizona gets great field position, and who knows how the game would have turned out then?
The people at the sports bar were yelling at Gailey to go for the kick, and I am sure the thought crossed many Bills fans minds as well. But Gailey decided to play it conservative and felt that special teams could pin the Cardinals back deep. The decision almost worked to perfection, as Ruvell Martin came within an inch or two of downing the punt at the 1-yard line.
As it turned out, Skelton throws the pass that Byrd intercepts, and Gailey looks like a genius. There is no doubt that there must have been tremendous pressure on Gailey to make the right decision. He stood by his instincts and came out smelling like a rose.
All Signs Pointed to a Cardinals Win in Overtime
Football can be a very difficult game to figure out.
As the contest winded into overtime, there were a few very ominous stats that the CBS broadcast flashed up on the screen.
Arizona was 5-0 in overtime games since 2011, with all five games being played at home. That was the best overtime record of any NFL team in the last two years.
The Bills, on the other hand, were 0-3 in overtime games since 2008.
Arizona had eight comeback wins in the fourth quarter or in overtime, the most of any NFL team since 2011.
Buffalo had only attempted two field goals in the entire 2011 season prior to overtime, which tied it for the fewest in the league with Carolina.
Could CBS have possibly painted any more of a bleak picture for the Bills faithful? Regardless of all the mumbo-jumbo, the Bills prevailed and emerged with a badly-needed victory.
How Can the Bills Be in First Place?
So heading into the Week 7 contest at home against the Tennessee Titans, the Bills are now 3-3, along with New England, the New York Jets and Miami. With the AFC East division being so tight, every game now is going to have a little more emphasis on it, and every remaining AFC East contest will be huge.
The Bills have their bye week coming up after the game against the Titans, so they hopefully emerged healthy from this game and will have their starting offensive linemen back after the bye week.
Buffalo will have a killer schedule coming up right after the bye week, as it faces Houston and New England on the road before hosting Miami on Thursday Night Football in Week 11.
This 2012 season has already seen a number of highs and lows, so despite how the team plays, your faith will be repeatedly be tested by this team. You either stick with them or you don't. Your choice.
Thanks for checking out the presentation.