Bills win the unsexy way

When you really look at it, checking it out at all angles, the Bills' 24-17 win over the Detroit Lions at Wilson Stadium Oct. 27 just wasn't very sexy. It was sort of like Anna Nicole Smith, but a little smaller in stature and not as whacked.

 

That, unfortunately, was to be expected, for this was a sandwich game for the Bills, squeezed between important AFC East dates with the Dolphins and Patriots. The Lions? They were just a 2-4 NFC team going nowhere with a rookie quarterback and a general manager with a big mouth.

So Buffalo expected to win. Too bad the game wasn't interesting.

Hell, the only thing that would have appealed to Anna Nicole Smith was that it indeed was a sandwich game. "What kind of sandwich?" she'd ask.

Um … yeah.

This was just an unsightly win for the Bills, but most people wouldn't care. They're 5-3 – a half-game behind the first-place Dolphins and a game and a half over third-place New England.

Of course, they get no style points for beating the Lions, not when they were outrushed, lost the turnover battle and gave up four sacks while collecting none.

They were saved by Drew Bledsoe, Eric Moulds, Peerless Price, and a defense that forced Detroit into five three-and-outs and stopped the Lions on a fourth-and-one at its own 20, which allowed Buffalo to get the ball and run out the clock (See "The Big Play").

"We go to Miami, we look impressive, then today we win ugly," said Price, who celebrated his 26th birthday with a four-catch, 101-yard, one touchdown day. "We was able to win ugly today and our defense stepped up."

We'll talk about the defense later.

Moulds, Price, Bledsoe and Travis Henry were the focal points on offense. Bledsoe's 42-yard pass to Eric Moulds in the first quarter set up Buffalo first touchdown – a 5-yard Travis Henry run that gave the Bills a 7-0 lead. Later, he hit Peerless Price for a 59-yard touchdown in the second quarter, a play that came off a Detroit blitz and was the result of silent anticipation between Bledsoe and Price.

"It's just a feel," Price said. "There was a guy in the slot and just the safety deep. I had a corner route, but I saw Drew stepping up to throw it, so I was wide open. I was running a corner route. I saw him coming toward me so why am I running to get covered?"

Price broke off the route and Bledsoe hit him with a bullet at the Detroit 30. Price then faked out the safety with an awesome move, and he was gone for the end zone.

"I got that move from Eric," Price said. "He made that move against Houston and I liked it. I put it into my repertoire. Charlie Joiner called it a race move. You give him three hard steps like you're going one way and then you cut it back. That's exactly what I did."

Buffalo tied the game at 14, then took a commanding 24-14 lead in the third quarter on Henry's second five-yard touchdown of the day. The score was set up by a Bledsoe quarterback sneak on fourth and one at the Detroit 35. It went for four yards.

"Oh yeah. Me, Michael Vick, we have the same style," Bledsoe said of his mobility.

He was joking, of course, but that run appeared to have loosened the hammys because on the very next play, he took off for eight yards. It was impressive.

But the impressiveness almost didn't add up to anything. After Detroit closed the gap to seven on a Jason Hanson field goal with three minutes, seven seconds left in the fourth quarter, Henry fumbled on the first play of the Bills' subsequent possession, and Detroit recovered.

"I just told him pick his head up," Price said of Henry's fumble. "‘We're gonna win the game and you're gonna forget about it.' That's all I told him. Travis knows he can play this game. He's a tough back. He's fighting for extra yards every time he gets a chance and that's what he was doing right there."

Ultimately, the fumble was nothing. The Bills stuffed Detroit on downs and won the game. The defense got a stop when it needed to.

"I think what we've done in the passing weeks is settle down," said Keith Newman. "We haven't given up the big plays … We haven't given up anything that has killed us, which I think is one of the biggest things we've done. We cut down on a lot of the mental mistakes that were hurting us early in the season … I just think we're playing smarter out there. The Oakland game, 50 out of the 60 snaps we played, we played real good. But on those 10 (other) plays, they got over 250 yards. Those are the big plays that killed us. Lately, we have been playing good football and every guy is on the same page and that's great … We've got trust. Each player trusts in the player next to him."

The Bills gave up 64 yards to Lions running back James Stewart in the first half, but just 19 the rest of the way. Nose tackle Pat Williams said there really wasn't anything different about the Bills' philosophy, only that he was on the field more in the second half, which contributed to Buffalo's stout run stopping.

"I'm taken out in different packages," he said. "We got small-dime, big-dime, we got ‘Tennessee,' so I come out on certain plays. But (coach) wants me on the field all the time now … When I come out of the game, they run the ball. So the coach said, ‘Stay out there,' so I started staying out there more."

And consequently, the Lions' running game stalled, which made the offense stall. Joey Harrington and Detroit only got five first downs after halftime. Harrington finished 20 of 42 for 199 yards, one touchdown and one interception. His longest completion was 24 yards to Bill Schroeder.

In general, Buffalo's defense could really not be blamed for much. Detroit scored in the second quarter on a second and goal from the Buffalo 23 when Harrington threw a terrible pass that was tipped twice and luckily caught by Az-Zahir Hakim to tie the game at 7. Then Charlie Rogers muffed the kickoff, giving Detroit a short field. Stewart ran for a two-yard touchdown, giving the Lions a short-lived 14-7 lead.

But Buffalo was mostly tough.

"The thing that we focused on after the Oakland game," said Fletcher, "was, ‘Hey, let's wipe this off. Don't worry about the first five games. Let's focus on being the best defense for the next 11 games.' That is how we've approached these games. It is huge the way the defense has played this week, last week, and last half versus Houston. We are going to need a total team effort to win football games."


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