NFL Nation: Johnni Lee Higgins
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.
"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 back 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.
"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."