- James Walker, ESPN Staff Writer
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" blasted throughout Ralph Wilson Stadium in the final minutes of the Bills' 31-24 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. The song was a fitting tribute to Buffalo's surprising start to the 2011 season.
The no-name Bills are 4-1 and first in the AFC East. The uber-talented and high-powered "Dream Team" Eagles are 1-4 and have a slim chance to make the postseason.
Who would have thought?
"We were a home [under]dog today at 3-1 against a 1-3 team," Bills center Eric Wood said. "You don't put a lot of stock into it. But you know it, you talk about it, and it ticks you off. But keep picking us to lose. We like it. It helps keep the chip on our shoulder. We don't need to be the media darling that we were two weeks ago before we lost."
Memo to NFL media and fans: It's time to take these Bills seriously.
Stop punishing Buffalo for past mistakes. Forget about last year's 0-8 start and 4-12 season. This season's Bills are young, scrappy, fearless and fun to watch. Most importantly, this season's Bills have staying power and are a legitimate threat for the playoffs in the AFC.
Buffalo still has a long way to go to become elite. For starters, it must improve a porous defense that has allowed 450-plus yards in each of the past four games. But you can lump the Bills in with the "very good" of the NFL. And in this topsy-turvy league, that's a position a lot of teams wish they were in after five games -- including the desperate Eagles.
"We got talent, too," Bills safety George Wilson (11 tackles, one interception) said defiantly. "We don't back down from any challenge."
Buffalo didn’t go Frank Gore on the Eagles. But the Bills’ offensive players were not shy to admit that they believed they would have their way with Philadelphia’s struggling defense. The Eagles were ranked No. 30 against the run entering Week 5.
The Bills were correct. Buffalo running back Fred Jackson shredded Philadelphia’s soft front seven for 111 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. The Eagles were blown off the ball and their tackling was horrendous. According to ESPN’s Stats and Information, 59 of Jackson’s 111 yards came after contact. Buffalo ran the ball 35 times and passed 27 times, the second time Buffalo’s offense has run more than it has passed this season.
“We knew that with the running game we’d be able to move the ball,” said Jackson, who also had 85 receiving yards. “We felt like we were bigger and more physical at the line. So we felt like we’d be able to move them off the ball.”
Buffalo’s early success on offense put a lot of pressure on the Eagles, and Philadelphia cracked by making poor decisions. The Eagles tried (and failed) at an onside kick to start the second half. Vick forced the ball into tight spots and threw a career-worst four interceptions. The mistakes added up and, by the start of the fourth quarter, Buffalo held a 31-14 lead.
Philadelphia went into full desperation mode and tried to orchestrate a comeback. But Buffalo, which blew a 14-point second-half lead in Week 4 against the Bengals, learned from last week’s mistakes and held on. After that loss, Buffalo heard all week about how it was a fluke team and couldn’t bounce back against the talented Eagles.
“If we had Tom Brady or a big-name guy, we wouldn’t be so easy to write off,” Wood said. “But we got some talented players and we got a great quarterback to go behind now. We like our chances.”
How far can these no-name Bills go this season? If they play like they did Sunday, Buffalo will make the playoffs.
"This is a different season, a different era and a different team," Nelson said. "We know how to win games and we're continuing to come out and surprising people. But we're not surprising ourselves."
3dField Yates and Rich Cimini