Kyle Orton passes for 105 yards on Bills’ game-winning drive to beat Vikings in a miserably played game otherwise

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – For 57 minutes, the Buffalo Bills and Minnesota Vikings jointly conducted a How To Play The Crappiest Football Game Ever clinic.

And largely succeeded.

Sunday’s game at Ralph Wilson Stadium was dreadful stuff — one of the sloppiest, shoddiest, sackingest NFL games you’ll ever see.

Eight sacks in the second half alone!

But trailing 16-10 with 3:07 left, the Bills offence dramatically came to life. Quarterback Kyle Orton masterfully drove the Bills 80 yards in 15 plays, throwing the winning two-yard touchdown pass to rookie receiver Sammy Watkins with one second left, as Buffalo won 17-16.

About a quarter of the 68,477 at the Ralph missed it, having already headed for the parking lots.

Buffalo improved to 4-3. With five beatable teams on the schedule over the next six weeks, this unlikely comeback victory keeps the Bills from yet another pre-November start to their playoff deathwatch.

All thanks to as clutch a mid-season, end-of-game drive as the Bills have mustered in some time.

“That whole first three-and-a-half quarters felt like we couldn’t get going, couldn’t get in sync, and it felt like the past four years,” veteran Bills tight end Scott Chandler said.

“That last drive wasn’t the past four years. We’re a different team this year. I don’t know, we’ve just been leaning on each other more and getting huge plays from guys down the stretch.”

Indeed, the Bills have eked out three of their four wins either in the final four seconds of regulation (Detroit and Minnesota), or overtime (Chicago).

Orton actually threw for 105 yards on the game-winning drive. That’s because the Bills kept moving backward — twice because of penalties (for -15 yards), and twice because of sacks (-10 yards).

The key play was a 4th-and-20 at the Buffalo 40-yard line, with 1:27 remaining. One play earlier, Orton hit Chandler in the hands on a deep out, but Chandler dropped it.

Orton didn’t hesitate to go right back to Chandler on the make-or-break fourth down, finding him in a seam for 24 yards.

“Nobody blinked,” Chandler said of the play. “We just believed we were going to get it.”

Bills running back Anthony (Boobie) Dixon, who played the entire second half after Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller went down with significant injuries, said Orton was dynamic in the huddle on the winning drive.

“He was poised. He even came in there and cracked a smile at one time and was like, ‘C’mawn, guys, we got this,’” Dixon said. “He made us feel comfortable, he kind of relaxed us. We settled in and got the job done.”

Orton kept firing away, on dropback after dropback, amid a ridiculously overwhelming Vikings pass rush. They sacked him six times on the day, including five in the second half — and two on that drive.

The play that set up the winner to Watkins was Orton’s completion to Chris Hogan for 28 yards, down to the Minnesota 2. Twenty-five seconds were left when that play began. Hogan made a fantastic grab of the aerial between two Vikings defensive backs, near but at the sideline.

The clock kept running down.

With no timeouts, Orton hurried the Bills offence to the line and spiked the ball — with five seconds left.

On the next play, Orton perfectly hit Watkins on an out pattern in the end zone, and the sure-handed rookie snared it and tapped both feet down before going out of bounds. He’d scored Buffalo’s only other touchdown in the second quarter, on a 26-yard pass from Orton.

Dan Carpenter drilled the extra point to win it.

“When we execute the plays, execute our responsibilities, we have a lot of success,” Orton said. “We have to do a better job of doing that on a more consistent basis.”

Or even just more frequently than hardly ever.

On their previous four drives of the second half, the Bills gained but 73 yards. Wretched stuff. Buffalo’s patchwork offensive line now features two overwhelmed rookie starters: left guard Cyril Richardson and right tackle Seantrel Henderson.

The Vikings pass rushers — especially Everson Griffen, who had three sacks and two QB hits — made not only both of them look silly, but the entire Bills O-line.

Beyond just that barometer, the Bills for 57 minutes played as poorly as the Vikings — turning it over three times in the first half for the second consecutive week, taking too many penalties at crucial times, missing far too many tackles and blowing pass coverages — at times making Minnesota’s passer, Teddy Bridgewater, not look like the rookie he was making his first career road start.

The Bills’ designated kickoff specialist, Jordan Gay, couldn’t even squib-kick it properly at one point in the first half.

That’s why Bills head coach Doug Marrone was miffed, not jubilant, afterward.

“To come in here to you guys and B.S. you — come on,” he said. “We’ve got to get some things done.”

And earlier than just in a game’s waning moments.


Bills have barely led under Orton, but have 2 wins

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – In three games with Kyle Orton as starting quarterback, the Buffalo Bills have led in the second half for exactly five seconds. Yet they’ve won two of those games.

Who says baseball boasts all the crazy stats?

In Orton’s first start for Buffalo at Detroit two weeks ago, the Bills never led until Dan Carpenter nailed a 58-yard field goal with four seconds left, for a 17-14 victory.

Last week, the New England Patriots never trailed the Bills in a 37-22 win at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

On Sunday at the Ralph, the Minnesota Vikings trailed only for a period of 3:06 in the second quarter, then led throughout the second half, until Orton engineered an 80-yard, game-winning drive that culminated with his touchdown toss to Sammy Watkins with one second left, in a 17-16 Buffalo win.


This time the Ralph chews up Fred and C.J.

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Ralph Wilson Stadium continues to devour top-tier NFL running backs this season.

This time, the hometown team’s.

The Buffalo Bills’ top two runners — Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller — went down in the first half Sunday against Minnesota, both with apparently serious injuries.

Jackson suffered a groin injury so bad, he needed help to walk slowly and gingerly off the field. He was soon carted to the locker room.

Late in the second quarter, Jackson’s replacement — Spiller — busted loose on his first long run in weeks, only to fall hard at the sideline upon being tripped up.
Spiller was quickly carted off from that spot, with a trainer holding his left wrist against his body — a bad, bad sign. Usually means a serious shoulder or collarbone injury.

Bills head coach Doug Marrone said there was “no timetable” on Jackson’s return, while Spiller will be out an “undetermined amount of time.”

Less than an hour later, ESPN reported that Spiller suffered a broken collarbone.

Those injuries thrust Anthony (Boobie) Dixon into a first-string role. After four years as a backup in San Francisco, and limited action so far with the Bills, he said afterward this is his first legit starting opportunity of his career.

“Oh, man, it’s time to step up and be great. It’s an opportunity I’ve been waiting on for a long time,” Dixon said.

“I’ve been prepared all my life for that, working on the little stuff, and working on making plays for this team.”

Dixon rushed for 51 yards against the Vikings and caught three passes for 15 yards.

In the Bills’ home opener in Week 2, Miami’s Knowshon Moreno dislocated his left elbow on his first carry. Last week he returned but tore and ACL is out for the year.

In Week 3 at the Ralph, San Diego’s Danny Woodhead suffered a severe high ankle sprain and fractured fibula and is out for the year.

A week ago New England’s Stevan Ridley tore both the ACL and MCL in his right knee and is gone for the year.

Kansas City next plays at the Ralph, Nov. 9.

Cowboys’ no-name defence quietly riding high and confounding experts


So what if the star power is gone from the Dallas Cowboys defence? The stopping power is up — way up — from the league’s worst unit in 2013.

At 5-1, the surprising Cowboys are off to their best start in seven years, tied atop the NFC East with the Philadelphia Eagles heading into Sunday’s home game against the 3-3 New York Giants (4:25 p.m. EDT, CTV).

CrawfordIn a telephone interview on Tuesday afternoon, third-year defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford — from Windsor, Ont. — said the defenders in Big D realize they’re confounding all the experts who predicted they’d be downright dreadful again.

And they’re just fine with that.

Low expectations were understandable considering Dallas not only lost its two top defensive linemen in March (edge rusher DeMarcus Ware, who signed with Denver after he was cut in a cap move, and free agent Jason Hatcher who signed in Washington) but also top linebacker Sean Lee, who was lost for the season after blowing out an ACL in the spring.

“We have guys now who aren’t huge names in the NFL, so people aren’t looking at us like, ‘Oh, they have this guy and that guy,’” Crawford said. “But we’ve got guys who should be names in the NFL. Our whole defensive squad is looking great right now.”

Well, if not great, then at least adequate — trending toward good. With Tony Romo passing efficiently and running back DeMarco Murray off to a historically prolific start — a record-tying six games of 100+ yards to start the season — the Dallas D hasn’t had to be great.

If you’ve forgotten, the Cowboys ended 2013 with one of the most worst defences on NFL record. The unit surrendered 6,645 total yards, worst in the league last year and third worst in NFL history. Dallas was equal-opportunity awful: almost as bad against the run (ranking 27th) as the pass (30th).

Rod Marinelli had taken over for Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator last year, and the transition from Ryan’s 3-4 to a more traditional 4-3 employing conservative pass coverage proved a huge flop. Proficient offences shredded the Cowboys. Marinelli, though, was retained.

This year he has taken the leftover no-names, worked in the additions provided by owner/GM Jerry Jones, trashed the conservative cover-2 he learned to love under Tony Dungy in Tampa Bay and Lovie Smith in Chicago, and has produced a defence that, entering Week 7, ranks 15th in total yards per game allowed, 17th against the run, 12th against the pass, 16th in third-down efficiency, tied for eighth in points allowed per game and second in first downs allowed.

“Even before (Lee’s injury) there were people saying we weren’t going to do much on the defensive side this year,” Crawford said. “They were going off what we did last year.

“We definitely try to make it our goal to play our best, stick to the plan and good things will happen. And it’s been working out.”

Not that it did in the first half of the first game. The visiting San Francisco 49ers carved the Dallas defence in jumping out to a 28-3 halftime lead. Looked like the same old same-old.

But Colin Kaepernick and the Niners couldn’t score another point in a 28-17 win.

Dallas then defeated Tennessee 26-10. In Week 3, regression: St. Louis burst out to a 21-10 lead behind little-regarded quarterback Austin Davis in only his second career start. But Romo, Murray and the offence found a groove and Dallas roared back to win a wild one, 34-31.

Since then the Cowboys have won three games in which the defence has played progressively, impressively better: in a 38-17 Sunday night blowout of New Orleans, in a 20-17 overtime win against cross-state rival Houston and, this past Sunday, in perhaps the No. 1 statement victory of the young NFL season: 30-23 over the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks, in Seattle no less.

Just as impressive as winning at ear-blasting CenturyLink Field was the way in which Marinelli’s defence shut down the smashmouth Seattle attack. The Cowboys held Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks to only 80 yards on the ground, 126 through the air and just nine first downs.

A key player for the Cowboys has been linebacker Rolando McClain, acquired in July in a trade with Baltimore after he’d announced his retirement last year.

Few linebackers in the league this season have made as many big plays as McClain. His interception of Wilson in the final minute last Sunday sealed the victory that shocked everyone in America but America’s Team.

“We proved what we wanted to prove,” Crawford said, before correcting himself. “I mean, we haven’t proved anything yet. But it was a big win for us.”

Just two days after that win, maybe it was understandable that Crawford would add that he and his defensive teammates are having a blast this season; that personalities really are meshing.
“It’s a great vibe right now,” he said.

“We’ve got guys like Rolando, who will wake you up at 4 o’clock in the morning on Sunday and already be ready for the game. I just love to be around guys who love football like this.”

Four o’clock? Seriously?

“Yup,” Crawford said. “It’s like Christmas morning for him. He just can’t wait to play the game.”

The question asked around the NFL this week is whether the Cowboys are for real — whether they’re a legit threat to win their division, or even the NFC championship.

Wariness is justified. With this team, this century, every short stretch of success usually starts dissolving the nanosecond Jerry Jones start crowing about it.

That said, and that understood, it’s undeniable what these Cowboys have done since halftime of the opener against the Niners. In the five-and-a-half games since, they’ve outscored opponents 162-98 and tallied 18 touchdowns, and allowed only 11 — two per game.

Next up for the Cowboys are the Giants, a divisional nemesis that got walloped 27-0 in Philadelphia last Sunday night. Under head coach Tom Coughlin, and behind quarterback Eli Manning, the Giants always seem to bust out of a slump when they visit the Big D; they’re 4-1 at AT&T Stadium.

Can the Cowboys avoid the natural letdown after Sunday’s big win? Yes, Crawford said. And beyond.

“I feel like we’ll be pumped every Sunday for the rest of the season.”

- – -

The Cowboys’ unheralded defence:

LDE: George Selvie, Jack Crawford

DT: Tyrone Crawford, Nick Hayden

DT: Henry Melton, Terrell McClain

RDE: Jeremy Mincey, Anthony Spencer

LB, strong side: Bruce Carter, Kyle Wilber

LB, middle: Rolando McClain

LB, weak side: Justin Durant, Korey Toomer

LCB: Brandon Carr

RCB: Orlando Scandrick

FS: Barry Church

SS: J.J. Wilcox


After move to DT, Canada’s Crawford still effective

Three games into this season, Tyrone Crawford switched positions.

Born and raised in Windsor, Ont., Crawford felt he was just beginning to flourish as a pass-rushing 4-3 defensive end in his third year with the Dallas Cowboys.

CrawfordBut Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli felt Crawford had enough power and talent — if not enough weight at 275 pounds– to still be effective inside, at defensive tackle. Crawford bought in.

Three games later, the move appears to be a success.

“At first it was going a little slow,” the 6-foot-4 Crawford said in a telephone interview from Dallas on Tuesday. “But I’m growing into it now, and I’m improving daily. I just need to continue getting coached up, and keep doing the things they ask — reading blocks and things like that. It’s working out pretty well for me.”

The Cowboys selected Crawford in the third round of the 2012 draft. He proved an ill fit in Rob Ryan’s 3-4 defence. He progressed slowly and mostly watched from the sideline.

Last year, he figured to be more impactful as an edge rusher in the switch to Marinelli’s 4-3. But early in training camp Crawford tore an Achilles and missed the 2013 season.

“I feel like I learned a lot last year,” he said. “I had a lot of time on my hands. I learned the game of football more. I talked to coaches I’ve had in the past, not just about football but about life, too. It helped me out a great amount. And then in the weight room too. As soon as I could start lifting, I did. I got stronger.”

Crawford started the first game of his career in the opener last month against San Francisco (That’s him smacking Colin Kaepernick, above, courtesy AFP). A week later at Tennessee he was credited with five quarterback hurries, and logged three more the following week at St. Louis.

Then the position switch.

As a defensive tackle for the first time, he hurried Drew Brees twice and knocked down one of his passes in a big win over New Orleans.

A week later against Houston he led all Cowboys defensive linemen with four tackles, a tackle-for-loss and a quarterback hurry.

And in last Sunday’s enormous win in Seattle, Crawford officially was credited with hurrying quarterback Russell Wilson three times, but — probably the most respected NFL analytics website — listed him with two hurries and one sack.

So three games into his new career, not only has the 24-year-old Crawford been effective but ranks him as the 28th most productive player defensive tackle in the league.

Crawford said the move looks permanent.

“They may move me outside sometimes in different packages, but that’s not because we’re moving back in another direction,” he said. “It’s just that we have a different scheme going on.”

How is a 275-pounder standing up to the pounding from all those 300+ pound interior offensive linemen, especially that of the tough-as-nails Seahawks?

“Yeah, I probably should start to put on more pounds,” Crawford said, chuckling. “I was trying to wait to see if it was going to be permanent or not. I’ll probably jump up 10 pounds, to 285 or something.”

Even so, Crawford has not been overmatched physically.

“Other teams probably are figuring because I’m smaller for a (4-3 defensive tackle) that I’ll use a little bit speed more than power to move guys,” he said. “But I’ve been pretty effective with the bull rush.”

Flutie’s CFL years and Music City Debacle given their due in A Football Life documentary

It’s finally Doug Flutie’s turn to be featured in the NFL Network’s outstanding biography series, A Football Life.

While some of these profiles perhaps are for completists only, or are to be savoured mainly by just yesteryear romantics, every football fan should make a point of seeing this one — especially CFL fans.

Ditto Buffalo Bills fans curious to see how the Music City Debacle is portrayed. That is, the inexplicable Flutie-benching/Rob-Johnson-ascension prior to the last-played playoff game in Bills history: the gutting loss to Tennessee in January 2000.

Doug Flutie: A Football Life debuts Friday night.

For more than 20 years, the 5-foot-9¾ playmaker-extraordinaire befuddled defences, vexed talent evaluators, won over coaches and teammates, shamed skeptics and endeared himself to fans of his teams at every level — in high school, at Boston College and all through his topsy-turvy pro career, which took him from the USFL (1985-86), to the NFL (1986-89), to the CFL for eight masterful years, then back down for eight final years in the NFL.

An accomplished speaker and broadcaster now in his own right, Flutie offers apt quotes and insight throughout the documentary, such as his base view of how simple his job really was: “You take your read and you throw it to the open guy.”

But Flutie also reveals how clichéd assessments of his play drove him crazy; that when he failed it was because he was a shrimp, but when he succeeded it was because he was some otherworldly football magician.

Magical? No, it was just a simple bootleg, he counters at one point.

In his first NFL go-round, talent choosers could not overlook Flutie’s vertical shortcoming.

“The NFL was so scared of me. They didn’t know what to think of me. OK, here you’ve won the Heisman, you’ve put up all these numbers, you’ve beat big-time teams (but) you’re too small to play.

“So publicly … they try to say all these positive things, and in the back of their minds they’re like, ‘Somebody else draft him.’”

With his NFL career going nowhere in 1990, Flutie made the courageous, smart decision to take his talents north.

If you think his years in Canada — with the B.C. Lions from 1990-91, Calgary Stampeders from 1992-95 and Toronto Argos from 1996-97 — rate only cursory treatment in this special, you’ll be happy to learn otherwise.

Several of Flutie’s CFL teammates are interviewed, including Dave Sapunjis, his brother Darren Flutie, Pinball Clemons and Paul Masotti — as are then Stamps owner Larry Ryckman and offensive coordinator John Hufnagel.

Amid many clips of his most stunning plays as a CFLer — and good gawd, those — we hear such plaudits as these from Ryckman:

“I truly believed he was the Wayne Gretzky of football.

“What Doug did in these games is probably the best football that has ever been played. I know that is a really bold thing to say, but Doug would do things that you don’t see anymore.”

Well, except sometimes we see it now in Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, truth be told.

A Football Life does not gloss over the financial fallout between Flutie and Ryckman.

“I was getting paid, like, a year late all the time,” Flutie said.

As eventual 10% owner of the Stamps, Flutie apparently wound up as the only player not getting paid during one cash-strapped season. And Flutie claims he never received a $700,000 personal-services payment.

Ryckman is asked on camera if he’s ever going to pay up.

“I don’t think I owe Doug Flutie anything,” he says, laughing.

After winning six CFL MVP awards and three Grey Cup titles in eight years, Flutie accepted an offer from the Bills in 1998 to return to the NFL. The team then signed Rob Johnson and anointed him the starter. But Johnson got banged up in the opener, and Flutie immediately began to conjure his, well, magic.

“Wow,” then Bills head coach Wade Phillips says in an interview. “He just did so many things that were unexpected, that were special.”

Flutie went to the Pro Bowl at the end of the season, earned comeback player-of-the-year honours and signed a new $22-million deal in Buffalo.

Flutie helped lock up a playoff berth for the Bills in 1999 with a week yet to play. Then trouble.

Before the Bills’ final, meaningless regular-season game against Indianapolis, coaches told Flutie to “rest up” for the playoffs while Johnson, the high-priced backup, quarterbacked. Johnson shone in a 31-6 win.

“And then a conversation took place between Wade Phillips and (owner) Ralph Wilson,” remembers A.J. Smith, then Bills director of pro personnel. “And out of that conversation, the head coach walked out and said, ‘We’re making a change.’”

Johnson would start.

“I love Wade Phillips,” Flutie says. “Wade was one of the most enjoyable head coaches I ever played for. It wasn’t Wade’s decision.”

Ownership meddling of the most destructive, ill-conceived kind.

Tennessee won what’s remembered in most places as the Music City Miracle, 22-16 — thanks to a highly questionable ‘lateral’ on a kickoff return in the waning seconds, which the Titans returned for the winning score.

“In hindsight,” Phillips says now, “Doug probably would have won the game, so that’s kind of the way we look at it.”

A year later Flutie took his talents to San Diego and mentored rookie Drew Brees, who is interviewed.

Flutie concluded his incredible playing career by attempting a dropkicked field goal in 2005 for the Patriots. One hadn’t been made in an NFL game since 1941.

Flutie, then age 43, booted it straight. But too short?

Huh. Not on your life.

Doug Flutie: A Football Life premieres Friday at 9 p.m. EDT on NFL Network, and re-airs three hours later, as well as Saturday at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. EDT.



New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan was asked Tuesday what it feels like to see his former all-world cornerback, Darrelle Revis, now suiting up for the hated New England Patriots. “A little sick to my stomach,” Ryan said. The Jets visit the Pats on Thursday night.



Renie Anderson, the NFL’s senior VP of sponsorship and partnership marketing, told a marketing symposium Tuesday that the Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson domestic-violence controversies have had “no measurable impact” on the league’s business, according to Sports Business Journal. “We’ve gone partner to partner, speaking with them to understand their needs and concerns,” Anderson said.



Cowboys RB Joseph Randle was arrested Monday night for shoplifting and charges with a class B misdemeanour. The team might suspend him … 49ers LB Patrick Willis suffered a sprained toe Monday night in St. Louis, reported, and is “unlikely” to play at Denver on Sunday night … The Broncos placed LB Danny Travathan on IR/designated for return. He has a cracked bone above his left knee … The Bengals placed WR Marvin Jones on season-ending IR. A broken foot from August never healed enough and he’ll have surgery … Yahoo Sports says the Bengals recently worked out QB Terrelle Pryor.


Ralph Wilson Stadium chewing up and spitting out opposing running backs in ’14: Moreno, Woodhead and Ridley so far

First Miami’s Knowshon Moreno. Then San Diego’s Danny Woodhead. Now New England’s Stevan Ridley.

Ralph Wilson Stadium is chewing up and spitting out visiting running backs in 2014 — one per game.

The playing surface isn’t to blame. Nor anything to do with the $130-million off-season renos at the Ralph. Blame fate if you must, as well as swarming Buffalo Bills rush-stopping defenders and their crushing, legal hits.


  •  In Week 2, the Dolphins’ Moreno dislocated his left elbow on his first carry. On his way down upon being tackled along the numbers at the southwestern 35-yard line, Moreno tried to soften his fall by planting his free left arm. A Bills defender fell on him against the outside of that arm, though, and bent it back the wrong way. Moreno missed three games. In his return this past Sunday against Green Bay, Moreno carried the ball just six times for 10 yards but somewhere along the way suffered an ACL injury. On Tuesday the Dolphins placed him on season-ending injured reserve.
  • In Week 3, the Chargers’ Woodhead (my pregame photo of him, accompanying) ran to his left on his first carry, crouched low and got crunched by a pair of Bills tacklers, along the numbers at the northeastern 24-yard line. Woodhead’s right ankle buckled. Doctors determined he suffered a severe high ankle sprain and fractured fibula. The next day the Chargers placed the smurfy runner/receiver on season-ending IR.
  • This past Sunday, in Week 6, the Patriots’ Ridley swept left on his 10th carry. Along the numbers at the northeastern 28 yard-line — just four yards behind the exact spot where Woodhead smucked his ankle — Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore charged hard and dove at Ridley’s legs. Gilmore’s helmet smacked hard into Ridley’s right knee, tearing both the ACL and MCL. Ridley is expected to be placed on season-ending IR.

None of these injuries appeared to be the fault of the A-Turf Titan 50 playing surface, installed in 2011. Just freakish occurrences, after hard hits. The Bills defence is the stingiest in the NFL against the run, allowing only 68 yards per game.

Running backs from the final five visitors to the Ralph this season — the Minnesota Vikings (Oct. 19), Kansas City Chiefs (Nov. 9), New York Jets (Nov. 23), Cleveland Browns (Nov. 30) and Green Bay Packers (Dec. 14) — might want to goose their insurance policies accordingly.


Leave it Tom Brady to deflate the Bills and their fans — again

BILLSORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Five head coaches, five general managers and now two owners later, Tom Brady is still doing it.

Still killing the Bills.

(My pregame photo of him, right.)

Really, who else but the 15th-year New England Patriots quarterback would be the one to pinprick the euphoria that had enveloped Western New York all week?

That is, after Terry and Kim Pegula received royal NFL ascent to succeed the late Ralph Wilson as the new owners of the Buffalo Bills.

Brady on Sunday did what Brady almost always did against the Bills when Wilson owned the club. He completed passes all over the field, for 361 yards and four touchdowns, and avoiding serious errors, as the Patriots smoked the Buffalo Bills 37-22 before 70,185 fans.

New England improved to 4-2 on the season, alone in first place now in the AFC East — its accustomed perch. Buffalo fell to 3-3.

Brady improved his career record against the Bills to 23-2. How does he account for that?

“I’m not sure, really, historically,” the wide-smiling, scruffy-faced Brady said in the Patriots post-game interview room. “You just think about a day like this. We had a great game. The guys played really well.

“We made a lot of critical plays when we needed to.”

Like, on virtually every snap of the second half.

Indeed, in his annual stop at Ralph Wilson Stadium it’s in the second half when Brady cranks it up. This time he outdid even himself.

In adding to New England’s 13-7 halftime lead, Brady completed 15-of-17 throws for 274 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to new Pats wideout Brandon LaFell on a pair of precisely placed passes, one far down the field.

BILLSBefore the kneel-down at the end, the Pats had the ball four times in the second half. The result: touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown.

If that sounds familiar, it should. Two years ago the Bills and Patriots were tied 21-21 at the Ralph early in the third quarter when Brady, his fabulous tight end Rob Gronkowski and a different cast of receivers all caught fire — scoring touchdowns on six straight possessions in a 52-28 victory.

So here’s one for fun. The Patriots have had the ball 17 times in the second halves of their past three games at the Ralph (all wins). Nine of those possessions ended in touchdowns, four in field goals, three in punts and one in a turnover (a goal-line fumble).

Yeah, a 3-1 touchdown-to-punt ratio. Sick. Brady in those halves, by the way, is 43-of-62 for 539 yards, six TDs and no interceptions.

How, we asked Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, does your quarterback do this year after year in Buffalo?

“I think you have to give credit to the whole offence,” Belichick said, as drolly as you’d expect in spreading around the credit. “I thought we did a decent job of blocking the front and giving him time. The receivers made some good plays, Tom made some good reads and made some good throws, but it took everybody out there working together.”

Brady began Sunday possessing one of the lowest yards-per-attempt stats (6.3) in the NFL. Some observers inferred it means the Patriots passing attack no longer is lethal downfield, that it’s now purely dink-and-dunk.

In other words, more Brady-is-nearly-washed-up talk.

After a tough first half — in which he completed 12 passes for just 87 yards — Brady started stretching the field with his throws. And accurately.

On the sixth play of the third quarter he threw a deep post to wide receiver Brian Tyms, even though Tyms was double-covered. A third safety was coming over fast. Tyms outfought Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore for the ball in the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown.

If Brady had placed that ball a foot or two higher or behind, Gilmore probably breaks it up.

“You can’t sit there in awe (of Brady) the whole time,” Tyms said. “After a while I just got accustomed to it.

“I wanted the ball more (than Gilmore). I’m not going to run 40 yards without the ball.”

LaFell, the former Carolina Panther who signed with the Patriots as a free agent in the spring, did not hesitate to dismiss thinking that Brady has lost his deep ball.

“That’s one thing you should know about Tom,” LaFell said. “With a resume like he’s got, you should never doubt that guy.”

After Brady connected with LaFell for the first time on a scoring strike with 8:42 left in the game, to put New England ahead 30-14, fans by the thousands bolted up the aisles and out.

They knew how this would end.

Still, Buffalo did not pack it in. Bills quarterback Kyle Orton — in his second encouraging but hardly perfect start — got hot and eventually hit Chris Hogan with an eight-yard scoring toss. Orton hit Robert Woods with a two-point conversion pass to make it a one-score game — 30-22 — with plenty of time remaining, 5:58.

The Pats were penalized on the kickoff and began their next drive at their own seven-yard line. Buffalo had hope. The remaining crowd got loud.

Then silence. Brady did it again.

He completed four passes and in just seven plays, as the Patriots quickly and authoritatively drove 92 yards for the game-icing score — a 56-yard touchdown strike to LaFell, with 2:49 left.

“That guy’s great, man,” LaFell said of Brady. “He’s a winner.”

And at least figuratively, he owns the Bills.

- – -


Bills fans go nuts over new owners

BILLSORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – “Terry! Terry! Terry! Terry! …”

As expected, Buffalo Bills fans went crazy before opening kickoff at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday.

Many of the 70,185 on hand arrived early to see the special pregame introduction of new Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula. The NFL on Wednesday rubber-stamped the couple’s joint purchase of the team (for $1.4 billion) from the estate of Ralph Wilson, the club’s founding owner who died in March.

The Pegulas were introduced about 15 minutes before kickoff. The couple’s offspring walked out to midfield with them, amid thunderous cheering.

Terry Pegula, the gas-and-oil multi-billionaire, addressed the crowd. Most Bills fans worried incessantly for years, especially since Wilson died, that some carpetbagger owner would swoop in and relocate the club, such as Jon Bon Jovi’s bid group to Toronto.

“There aren’t too many times in life when I’m happy with being second at anything,” Pegula said. “But to follow Ralph Wilson? I’ll accept that.

“Now I know you guys love us. You’ve shown that, I’ve heard it, witnessed it. But you need to take all of that hard drive and that emotion and give it to your football team today!”

They did, to no avail.

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Revis shuts down Sammy

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. – Sammy Watkins caught just two passes for 27 yards against the New England Patriots.

That’s because Darrelle Revis, one of the NFL’s great shutdown cornerbacks, sparkled on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium..

He was matched up in press-man coverage all game long against the Buffalo Bills’ flashy rookie wide receiver. And mostly took him out of the game.

“Twenty-four (Revis’ jersey number) followed him around the whole game,” Bills quarterback Kyle Orton said.

Revis is in his first year in New England, after a one-year stop in Tampa Bay and six standout seasons before that with the New York Jets.

“I tip my hat to Sammy,” Revis said. “I feel like he’s one of the young rising stars in this league. He’s great — he’s a great receiver.”

Nice of him to say. But, really, how did you shut him down?

“My game plan was just try to be physical, and whatever weaknesses he showed me on film, just try to take advantage of them,” Revis said.

And what weaknesses would those be?

“I can’t tell you that,” Revis said, laughing, “out of respect for Sammy.”