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.