AFC East: Raiders-Bills
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- About 15 minutes after the Buffalo Bills staged a second straight fourth-quarter comeback victory, a couple of reporters approached right tackle Langston Walker for his thoughts on how they'd beaten the Oakland Raiders 24-23 on the final play.
Walker playfully tried to pawn us off on backup center/guard Duke Preston, who was toweling off nearby.
"Preston's got a lot of things to say," Walker said.
Oh, really? We turned and waited.
"Five is a beast!" Preston proclaimed. "Write that down!"
No. 5 is Bills QB Trent Edwards, who isn't playing like he has started only a dozen NFL games.
"You certainly don't expect it," wide receiver Lee Evans said the next afternoon, "but you look at what he's done this offseason. I think he's prepared himself to be as good as he could possibly be, and [Sunday] was a clear example of that."
Edwards has matured considerably over the offseason into the role of starting QB.
The second-year pro from Stanford closed last season with three consecutive losses. In those games he completed 42.7 percent of his passes for 418 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions.
Through his first three games this year he has completed 67 percent of his throws for 733 yards, three touchdowns and one interception that was more like a fumble.
And here's the big stat line: In the fourth quarter this year, Edwards is 24 of 32 for 283 yards and two TDs.
"Every time he plays another down, it's a little more experience," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "Other than that, it's all of the same stuff. He's very calm, but he's very competitive. He likes being out there. He likes the challenge, and you can tell he does."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
|Luc Leclerc/US Presswire|
|Buffalo kicker Rian Lindell gave the Bills a 24-23 win over the Oakland Raiders with a field goal as time expired Sunday.|
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- A sacrilegious cheer resounded at Ralph Wilson Stadium sometime in the fourth quarter Sunday.
"A couple guys started chanting that Miami's winning," Bills defensive end Chris Kelsay said. "Towards the end of the fourth quarter we were on the sideline, and I glance up and it's way out of hand. It was obvious Miami was going to win that game."
What also was patently obvious to the Bills was that, on the field in front of them, they were in trouble. The Oakland Raiders were beating them by nine points with 6:23 to play.
"Somebody tapped me and had me look up at the scoreboard," Bills linebacker Kawika Mitchell said. "I really wasn't paying attention, but now that we won, that's definitely nice having those guys lose a game."
What does that mean?
"It means right now we're at the top of the AFC East," Kelsay replied. "So it's kind of ours to lose. But it doesn't [mean anything]. We've got to continue to work hard and take one game at a time and just keep rolling and trust each other."
The Bills are 3-0 for the first time since 1992. The Patriots are 2-1 and out of sole possession of first place for the first time in 50 weeks, dating to Week 4 of 2005.
"A little different," Kelsay remarked of being able to say the Bills are in first place. "I've never been able to say that before. That's a new thing, but it feels good."
Sunday's final play gave the Bills their first lead since the second quarter.
"We hate to put everybody on the edge of their seats, but we just try to make good television out there," Bills tackle Langston Walker said. "We left a lot of things on the field. We were stepping on our own feet. But in the end we pulled it out. The team pulled it out. The game is four quarters for a reason, and we played down to that last little bit."
The Raiders scored what in seasons past would have been a terminal touchdown with 6:23 left in the game.
"That was a painful thing to watch," Bills coach Dick Jauron said.
On a critical third-and-10 play, Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell hit Johnnie Lee Higgins on a quick slant. Bills middle linebacker Paul Posluszny gambled and Higgins broke for an 84-yard romp for a nine-point lead.
"If you fall asleep for one second, those guys can beat you deep," Bills safety Donte Whitner had warned earlier in the week. "That would have sunk us. We believe in everything that we do around here. We always feel we have something in our playbook and that guys are going to go out there and get the job done. In past years we probably would have folded."
But the significance of Sunday's victory wasn't a mere comeback. It was that the Bills played a lousy game for three quarters. Although Marshawn Lynch ran for two touchdowns before Higgins dashed away, the Bills made repeated mistakes, committed three turnovers, missed a field goal.
Their possessions began in bad places mostly because of bad choices. Their first four series of the second half started on their own 22, 1, 12 and 4.
"We didn't play well, and everybody stayed positive," Bills receiver Lee Evans said. Edwards "stayed positive, stayed a leader in the huddle. We just kept plugging away."
They escaped with a victory. Edwards, who had been harassed all day, took advantage of a short-handed Raiders defense.
Raiders strong safety Gibril Wilson was ejected with 7:59 left, leaving the job to rookie Tyvon Branch. Defensive tackle Gerard Warren was out with a neck injury. Defensive end Derrick Burgess missed plays because of a shoulder problem.
On the final two drives, Edwards was 14 of 19 for 183 yards. His 14-yard touchdown toss to Roscoe Parrish pulled them within two points with 4:03 to go.
"Hopefully we get more respect in this division and we will deserve it," Mitchell said. "We've won the first quarter of the season, if you break it up into four games each. That's a nice feeling.
"I know people here aren't really used to that feeling for the last couple years. It's nice to start building that confidence and have everybody believe that we can do it."
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Perhaps he's in denial.
Al Davis could not have been pleased.
Reports out of Oakland had been portending Kiffin's ouster since their abominable loss to the Denver Broncos in Week 1.
Kiffin was asked if he thought he would have a team to coach this week.
"I wasn't thinking that," Kiffin replied. "I don't even think about that because what is that going to do? I'm going to watch the film on the way home, like I always do of the game, and see how we can get better. I can't control the other stuff."
He then was asked if he knew any new information about his status.
"No, I don't," Kiffin said.
The Raiders led by nine points with 6:23 to play, but were done in by discipline and fatigue.
Gibril Wilson was ejected with 7:59 left, leaving the job to rookie Tyvon Branch. Defensive tackle Gerard Warren was out with a neck injury. Derrick Burgess missed plays because of a shoulder problem.
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The buzz that has been building around the Buffalo Bills turned into full-blown rapture.
With the Miami Dolphins obliterating the New England Patriots in Foxborough, Mass., the Bills seized the moment with a dramatic 24-23 comeback victory over the Oakland Raiders to assume sole possession of first place in the AFC East.
The Raiders, with head coach Lane Kiffin seemingly on his way to the gallows, held a nine-point lead with 6:23 left in the game, when Johnnie Lee Higgins streaked through the Bills secondary on an 84-yard catch-and-run. The play came on a third-and-10 situation and looked like a back breaker.
But the Bills were relentless. Bills QB Trent Edwards hit WR Roscoe Parrish for a 14-yard touchdown with 4:03 remaining. The defense forced a three-and-out, and Rian Lindell kicked a 38-yard field goal at the gun.
RB Marshawn Lynch overcame a slow to start, scored two touchdowns and had some clutch runs late.
Buffalo escaped in so many ways. Its offensive line had a particularly bad day. Edwards constantly had defenders in his face. He was sacked three times, fumbled once and threw his first interception of the season. Fullback Darian Barnes and wide receiver Lee Evans also lost fumbles.
Field position was a problem. The Bills started on their own 13- and 11-yard lines in the first quarter. Their starting points in the second half were their own 22, 1, 12, 4 and 32.
My earlier post about the Dolphins slipping below .500 in the post-Shula era looks like a royal jinx.
The Bills are making enough mistakes to be trailing an inferior team 9-7 at halftime. Marshawn Lynch was able to skirt the defense, tiptoe along the left sideline and score a 14-yard touchdown to put them ahead, 7-6.
But the Bills have fumbled three times, including their last two first-half drives. Quarterback Trent Edwards fumbled on the Bills' 40-yard line to set up the go-ahead 32-yard Sebastian Janikowski field goal. Wide receiver Lee Evans coughed it up on the Raiders' 28-yard line with 40 seconds left.
The Raiders lead 6-0 early in the second quarter.
Through four scoreless drives, bruising Bills running back Marshawn Lynch has seven carries for 23 yards, including a long of 8 yards.
Bills quarterback Trent Edwards has completed three of his pass attempts for 31 yards. He has been hurried often and sacked twice.
The 11-time Pro Bowler holds the official NFL sack record with 200 over his 19-year career. He set the Bills season sack record with 19 in 1990. He recorded double-digits in 12 of his 15 seasons with Buffalo.
Smith is the greatest non-QB No. 1 draft pick in NFL history.
And he's not afraid to declare himself the best DE that ever was. Here's the response to the first question at a pregame news conference.
"I've had a considerable amount of time to take a step back and actually think about it. Having studied the game over the last 19 years and from the outside watching in now over the last five years, the one thing that sticks out more and more like a sore thumb is what was accomplished in this 3-4 defensive scheme that I played in for so long. It's unprecedented.
These are facts that the best defensive end and pass rusher that played in this game played for the Buffalo Bills. The reason I'm saying that is the fact that by design, by the scheme a 3-4 defensive end gets double-teamed far more often than a 4-3 defensive end, and that's a fact. These are not hearsays.
The defensive ends in a 3-4 system gets double-teamed by the center-the guard, the guard-the tackle, the tackle-the tight end, the tackle-the running back. So there's so many possible combinations, and there's nowhere to hide. A 4-3 defensive end always lines up on the edge. He only gets a double team typically from slide protection or they may chip with a back."
Smith went on to describe how Reggie White thrived in Buddy Ryan's system, which was designed to eliminate double teams, and with Sean Jones and Clyde Simmons. Smith also noted how Deacon Jones played on the most dominant D-line.
"You can't double-team these two individuals consistently because there are so many other forces on that defensive line that they had to recognize and pay attention to. But in a 3-4 defensive scheme, you cannot hide.
This gives me an opportunity to explain to individuals, students of the game to educate people what has actually taken place, playing in this 3-4 defensive system. I look back upon it now and I realize why I had 11 surgeries because I was taking a beating. I certainly was. But, all in all, having played in front of these fans in this stadium, it's just an incredible feeling to come back and be put on the Wall of Fame with some of my other teammates."
A Bills victory would give them a 3-0 start for the first time since 1992. Head coach Dick Jauron never has been 3-0.
If Bills receiver Lee Evans has 93 yards receiving this afternoon, he will become the fastest player to 4,000 yards in team history. If he does it next week at St. Louis, he would tie Frank Lewis, who did it in 68 games.
Legendary Bills defensive end Bruce Smith will be enshrined on the Wall of Fame at halftime. He'll be the 25th honoree. I just left Smith's pregame news conference and returned to the press box. I'll post some of his comments shortly.
|Bills fans prepared for today's game by grilling on the hood of Ken Johnson's red 1980 Ford Pinto station wago|
Right there, at about 10 a.m. on the hood of Ken Johnson's red 1980 Ford Pinto station wagon, they were frying bacon and eggs. In a nearby file cabinet, they were baking pizzas. Somebody dumped some live coals into a busted up microwave to roast something or other.
The black coating on the hood is accumulated grease. There are 186,000 miles on the odometer.
Johnson is the host of what has to be the greatest tailgate setup I've seen. Johnson spends around $450 a week on food and beverages and doesn't charge a cent for any of the 14 items on the menu.
You want shish kabob's on screw drivers? Stop by and order it up, free of charge. The stir fry in a hubcap looks good to you? Just ask. How about those chicken wings in an army helmet? Help yourself. Want a shot of cherry liqueur out of a bowling ball? Sidle up to the bar.
Johnson has been doing it for 19 years, the past 12 in the same location in Lot 1 near light pole No. 5. He also has attended 232 consecutive Bills games, home and away.
A member of his crew approached me to complain about the Bills being ranked No. 11 in ESPN.com's recent fan ratings. He thought the Bills should be higher on the list. Standing in front of this wonderful monstrosity, I couldn't disagree with him.
The Bills have been comprehensively good. The Raiders will show up at Ralph Wilson Stadium at their sketchy best.
They were blown out by the Denver Broncos in Week 1, prompting heavy speculation head coach Lane Kiffin was as good as fired. The inevitable apparently was delayed by a Week 2 victory over the wretched Kansas City Chiefs.
Kiffin presumably will be on the sideline Sunday. Then again, on the charter flight the Raiders could hand him a parachute and order him to get out somewhere over Paducah, Ky.
|Getty Images, AP Photo|
|Donte Whitner has been impressed with Raiders QB JaMarcus Russell, left, and RB Darren McFadden.|
Despite Oakland's turmoil, Buffalo safety Donte Whitner is preparing for a live opponent.
"We have to guard against those thoughts because Oakland is a better football team than a lot of people think," Whitner told me Friday in the Bills' locker room. "They're 1-1, and they're better than they were last year."
Whitner is looking like a Raider himself these days. Five staples -- yes, staples -- are closing a gash in his left eyebrow after a helmet-less tackle in Sunday's victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"If you look at the film, Oakland has a lot, a lot of speed in all phases of the game," Whitner said. "At any given time, one of those guys can blow past you, and you give up a touchdown. JaMarcus has a great, strong arm. He can get the ball out there.
"We want to keep building on what we have here. We have an opportunity to go 3-0 this weekend, and you better believe we're going to be out there, trying as hard as we can to get the win."
|Nick Laham/Getty Images|
|Bills running back Marshawn Lynch will be playing his hometown team for the first time in his NFL career.|
Lynch still refuses to address his infamous May traffic incident in which he struck a female pedestrian in Buffalo's nightclub district and zoomed away. But the fact he spoke at all is newsworthy around these parts.
The Bills will host the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Lynch has a large "OAKLAND" tattoo across his chest in homage to his hometown.
You're probably excited to play your hometown team.
Marshawn Lynch: Correct.
What will the reaction be back home?
ML: It's special. My first time against my home team. I've been waiting for it, and I've got some family coming in. My mom, grandmother, some cousins ... So that should be cool, too.
You were a Raiders fans growing up?
Are you still angry about the 'Tuck Rule' game?
Who was your favorite player?
ML: Jeff Hostetler and Napoleon Kaufman.
Who will your friends be rooting for on Sunday?
ML: If they're true Raider fans, they should be rooting for the Raiders. But they're going to be rooting for Marshawn, too. So it's all good.