Fred Jackson scored two touchdowns on Sunday, leading the Buffalo Bills to their first win of the 2010 season, as they defeated the Detroit Lions 14-12. The Lions scored a touchdown in the final minute of the game, but their two-point conversion attempt to send the game into overtime failed, and the Bills held on for their first win. The loss continued the Lions consecutive losing streak of road games to 25 straight, which set a new NFL record.
For the Bills, this win was vindication for the prior three close losses and served as a testament to all the hard work and not tossing in the towel after opening up the year with eight straight defeats.
Too bad that only 56,721 fans turned out, because for those who braved the downpour that cascaded over Ralph Wilson Stadium during the second half, they were treated to an inspired effort by the Bills defense for most of the day.
Fred Jackson did it all Sunday. He ran the ball, he caught passes, he scored touchdowns, he picked up blitzing defenders, he broke tackles all day, he got hurt and came back dinged up, he fumbled and he did the Lambeau Leap, albeit it in Buffalo.
For the record, Fred Jackson became the first Buffalo Bills player to score a rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown in the same game since Travis Henry did it in 2003. For the day, Jackson rushed 25 times for 133 yards and caught six passes for 37 yards. His 170 yards in total offense was his best production for the year, and it couldn't have come at a better time.
Jackson was frequently breaking tackles all day, and I am sure he left the Lions defenders muttering to themselves, as to how hard it is to bring Fred down. Several times during the game, it appeared that the referees had blown the whistle prematurely, assuming that Fred would go down, but his legs continued to churn and drive the pile forward.
On one play he appeared to break something like eight or nine tackles. He only got three or four yards on the play, but if he had managed to stay on his feet, he would have been gone. As it was, Fred had two long runs and showed some deft moves in taking a shuttle pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick in stride and making the remaining Lions defenders look foolish in trying to tackle him.
His fumble was really his only blemish for the day, but that was the result of trying to fight for extra yardage when he was straining to make a first down. Fred left everything out on the field today.
Chris Kelsay had his best game of the season, making tackles and drawing two holding penalties. There were highlights all over the defensive unit, as the Bills limited the Lions talented offense to one touchdown and two field goals for the entire game.
George Edwards used more blitzing, especially from his secondary, than we have witnessed all year, and it paid off handsomely—not in that many sacks, because the Bills only had one, (off a blitz by Bryan Scott by the way) but they resulted in QB Shawn Hill hurrying many throws and forcing key incompletions.
Not only that, but the Bills porous run defense allowed about 100 yards lower than their average rushing totals, which spoke to the strong tackling, pursuit and gang tackling they employed all day. This was by far the most pumped up we have seen the Bills defense play all year, so hopefully this is a sign of things to come. Who needs Shawne Merriman, anyway? We do, just joking.
This slide is from a play in the first quarter, when Donte Whitner and Jairus Byrd blitzed together and came at Shawn Hill from the same side. They leaped up in the air just before Hill threw and literally collided with each other mid-air.
Other blitzes in the game came from Reggie Corner, Bryan Scott and the Whitner/Byrd duo. It was a refreshing change of pace to see the Bills actually attacking on defense. Not that it entirely stopped the Lions passing attack, as Shawn Hill was able to pass for 323 yards on the day, but only came up with one touchdown pass, and that was in the final minute of the game.
The Bills were laying the lumber to the Lions all day. It was a physical contest, as the Lions really laid into Ryan Fitzpatrick in the first few drives of the game, and it appeared to me he was not his usual self as a result.
The linebackers, Paul Posluszny, Akin Ayodele, Reggie Torbor and Chris Kelsay were all active and making more plays as a collective unit than we have witnessed all year. Donte Whitner was really popping Lions receivers, and the Bills defensive line did a great job of shutting down the Lions running game, which features the rookie Jahvid Best.
Kyle Williams was spotted flexing his muscles during the game Sunday—and for good reason. Williams continues his excellent level of play and is a Pro-Bowl worthy defensive lineman.
To demonstrate his strength, on one play Williams reached out and grabbed two Lions linemen, (one with each hand), and then simultaneously threw both of them down to the ground. The camera caught it briefly but too bad the announcers didn't replay it, because it was an amazing feat. Unfortunately, Williams was flagged for defensive holding on the play, but I really don't have a problem with that, based on the level and grit of his play.
Sprinting down the sideline, Lee Evans (see picture) extended his hands and arms as far out as he possibly could and caught a long pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick that set up a Fred Jackson touchdown.
Evans couldn't have possibly strained any further than he did to make that catch, but thankfully he did. It just goes to show how this truly can be a game of inches.
For the day, Evans led the Bills with 52 yards in receptions, as the Bills focused more on the ground game than they did in the passing attack.
After Donte Whitner deflected a Shawn Hill pass up in to the air, an alert Dwan Edwards swooped over and plucked the ball out of the air and did his best Fred Jackson interpretation (see picture) as he rambled with the ball up the field. The turnover was a welcome sight, and the Bills were able to score a touchdown off of the ensuing drive.
Later on in the game, there was a similar type of play when Arthur Moats got his hands on a pass and batted the ball high in the air. It came down with three Bills defenders surrounding the ball. All three decided to jump up for it, so Marcus Stroud, Spencer Johnson and Paul Posluszny managed to cancel each other out on the play. This is akin to two teammates going after the same rebound and neither one gets it.
So, you can be sure that Edwards is letting everyone in the locker room know that he is tied for the team lead in interceptions with one. For the record, the Bills secondary has now gone all nine games without an interception, and since Shawn Hill put it up there 50 times today, and in the rain, that is still somewhat mind boggling.
When Roscoe Parrish went down for the rest of the year with his dislocated wrist, someone had to step up. Everyone wondered how that would affect the receiver corps but didn't think much about the punt return chores.
C.J. Spiller took over and had a nice return in the first quarter. Unfortunately, C.J. came up with a hamstring issue, so Leodis McKelvin was forced into doing some double duty. The Bills starting cornerback looked right at home returning punts and kicks, and now that Spiller is hurt, it appears that Leodis will continue doing it next week as well.
McKelvin did have a beautiful punt return for a touchdown, but the play was called back due to a holding penalty on Jon Corto. McKelvin displayed a great burst on the play, so we can only hope he will duplicate it again.
In his postgame press conference, Chan Gailey admitted that they had put some new things in for C.J. Spiller for this game, but the best laid plans went awry as Spiller came up lame due to a hamstring injury he suffered in the first half. He never returned to the game, and Gailey felt that Spiller would probably miss the Bengals game as a result.
Spencer Johnson also hurt his hamstring in the contest, but it is too soon to know if he will miss next week or not.
Don't be surprised if the Bills decide to add another running back to the mix for next Sunday, especially since Fred Jackson went down for awhile in the second half as well.
Ryan Fitzpatrick did not have a spectacular game on Sunday. For the contest, he went 12-of-24 for 146 yards, one touchdown, but the key was no interceptions. Fitzpatrick has now thrown a touchdown pass in nine straight starts, which ties Drew Bledsoe.
Fitzpatrick took some big shots from the Lions in the first quarter as he was attempting to throw, and the cumulative effect of those hits might have had something to do with his less than normal numbers. He didn't scramble much with the ball but did have some drops occur by Steve Johnson and Donald Jones.
He was also sacked once in the game, as Mansfield Wrotto was beaten around the end.
This game demonstrated that the Bills are capable of winning a game where Fitzpatrick does not have to throw 50 passes for the team to be successful. They handed the ball off to Fred Jackson, and that formula worked just fine.
Interestingly enough, Fitzpatrick didn't target David Nelson or his tight ends. Since Shawn Nelson had his overtime fumble against the Ravens, he has become a ghost on the team. I don't believe he has had a single catch since then.
Today's win does several things for the Bills. It eliminates the pressure of being the only team without a win. It takes the 300 pound gorilla out of the room. It also means that the Bills are now tied with Carolina for the worst record, so the Bills are no longer in the driver seat for the first overall draft pick.
If you ask the Bills, they could care less about the draft order. They want to show that they are a good team and would like nothing better than to go on a winning streak. That just might be possible, since next week's opponent, Terrell Owens and the Cincinnati Bengals, have only won two games this season.
Besides the Bengals, the Cowboys and the Lions are the other teams with two wins, so now we can start paying attention to what all five teams do down the stretch as they jockey for position and fight for respectability.
Don't pass off this win against the Lions as a lark. This same team just took the Jets to overtime the week before. They have the second highest point total in the fourth quarter in the NFL, but the Bills defense sucked it up and limited them to six points. Now if you want to discuss why they had Paul Posluszny on Calvin Johnson with less than a minute to go, that will be a whole different story.
For now, we can savor our first win and try to make it two straight. For Bills fans everywhere, including Ashley and Eric from Hamburg and Amherst, today was a good day. It's not the playoffs, but it is a start.