Buffalo Bills quarterback Trent Edwards looks to pass during the first half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008. Buffalo won 24-23.(AP)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Rian Lindell’s mind is at ease after the Buffalo kicker made up for what could’ve been a costly mistake. The rest of the Bills are breathing easy, too.
In a game they had no business winning, the Bills overcame three quarters of their own ineptitude to score 17 points in the final 8 minutes for a 24-23 win over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. Lindell hit a 38-yard field goal as time ran out—making up for a 46-yarder he missed earlier in the game—and helping Buffalo get off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 1992.
“You had better believe it,” Lindell said. “I can sleep tonight now.”
Believe this, too: With New England losing to Miami, Buffalo is now alone in first place atop the AFC East.
“We keep them close, don’t we?” Bills owner Ralph Wilson said. “You know what, I’m speechless.”
The Bills won by overcoming drive-killing penalties, numerous dropped passes, terrible field position—five times they started inside their 13—and three turnovers. They produced their second straight fourth-quarter comeback victory following a 20-16 win at Jacksonville.
“It’s really hard to put into words how this team battled,” receiver Lee Evans said. “It was bad. We were killing ourselves and we knew what we could do. We just had to execute.”
It began on offense, as Trent Edwards was near perfect—going 14-of-19 for 182 yards and a touchdown—in engineering three straight scoring drives to end the game. For Edwards, it marked the fourth time in 12 career starts he’s rallied the Bills back when trailing or tied in the fourth quarter.
But what of the poor and dysfunctional Raiders, who dropped to 1-2, and coach Lane Kiffin, whose job has been on the line following a season-opening 41-14 loss to Denver?
“I don’t even think about that,” Kiffin said, regarding his status.
The defeat was tough enough for the second-year coach.
“It was a very disappointing loss, especially the way it finished,” he said.
It was Kiffin who appeared to wait too late in attempting to call a timeout to freeze Lindell prior to the final kick. Kiffin shrugged it off, saying whether he got the timeout or not had nothing to do with the outcome.
Kiffin was stoic as he left the field, shaking Bills coach Dick Jauron’s hand. On his way to the locker room, Kiffin was the only member of the Raiders who jogged up the tunnel with his head up.
“We are just one team with one goal,” receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins said. “Coach is coach, and I can only be me. But we are all one team.”
It was Higgins who appeared to deliver the knockout punch to Buffalo when JaMarcus Russell—on third-and-10—hit him on a skinny post for an 84-yard touchdown to put Oakland ahead 23-14 with 6:23 left.
But back marched the Bills.
Edwards capped a seven-play, 69-yard drive with an 11-yard pass to Roscoe Parrish. After the Raiders went three-and-out, the Bills took over at their 34 with 2:29 left.
Edwards completed his first two passes for 27 yards, and Marshawn Lynch added 21 yards on four carries to all but run out the clock.
It wasn’t lost on many Bills veterans that this was the type of game they’ve lost in the past, including two last year when both Denver and Dallas beat them on the final play.
Former Buffalo Bills defensive end Bruce Smith acknowledges the fans during a halftime ceremony at an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders at Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008.(AP)
“It shows the chemistry and character of this team,” said defensive end Chris Kelsay. “Since I’ve been here, I’ve been on the other side of this situation many times, but this year’s there’s just something different about this team to find a way to get it done.”
Kelsay was part of a defense that limited the Raiders to 98 yards rushing, a week after they combined for 300 yards against Kansas City. Kelsay also made a big play, punching the ball out of Russell’s hands to force a fumble deep in Raiders end to set up the first of Lynch’s two touchdown runs.
Russell finished 9-of-19 for 156 yards and also scored on a 1-yard plunge. Sebastian Janikowski hit three field goals.
Lindell’s field goal marked only the second time in Bills history they won a game on the final play of regulation. The other was when Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly scored on a 2-yard plunge in a 27-24 win over Miami in 1989.
This marks the first time a team other than New England is on top of the AFC East since Week 4 of 2005, when Miami was 2-1 and the Patriots were 2-2. … Raiders DT Gerard Warren did not return after sustaining a neck injury in the second half. … Bills LT Jason Peters was briefly benched in the second quarter after being beaten by Kalimba Edwards, who forced a fumble by Trent Edwards. Peters was playing his second game since ending his offseason-long holdout. … Raiders WR Javon Walker made his first catch since signing with the Raiders this offseason, and finished with two receptions for 18 yards.