Bills still living the dream
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Turns out the Buffalo Bills didn’t need to actually contain quarterback Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles .
All they had to do was watch and wait for this so-called “Dream Team’’ to start unraveling on its own.
Running back Fred Jackson gained 196 yards from scrimmage and scored a touchdown, and linebacker Nick Barnett had two of Buffalo’s four interceptions in a 31-24 victory yesterday over a slow-starting, underachieving, far-from-elite opponent.
“All week, we talked about getting after Vick,’’ Barnett said. “Containing Vick is a hard job for anybody. We were trying to make him uneasy, make him think too fast.’’
Barnett returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. And he then sealed the victory by picking off Vick again with 1:49 left.
Facing third and 3 at the Bills 29, Vick attempted a swing pass to Jason Avant at the left sideline. Cornerback Drayton Florence got his hands on the ball, which tipped off Avant as he was falling backward. Barnett then scooped it up before the ball hit the ground.
“The ball just popped right into my hands,’’ Barnett said. “I tried to get me another touchdown, but I don’t have that Deion Sanders speed.’’
Barnett and the Bills can laugh because they are showing no signs of playing the familiar role as the NFL’s pushover.
Bouncing back from a 23-20 loss at Cincinnati, Buffalo (4-1) has already matched last year’s win total, is off to its best start since 2008, and looking nothing like the team that opened last season losing eight straight en route to a 4-12 finish.
“I think what we went through last year, nobody wanted to go through again,’’ coach Chan Gailey said. “I think we learned we could play in the big ballgames.’’
Ryan Fitzpatrick went 21 of 27 for 193 yards and a touchdown pass to David Nelson. Brad Smith scored on a 5-yard run that spotted the Bills a 28-7 lead early in the third quarter.
The Eagles are proving dysfunctional, and not even Vick’s suggestion of dropping their “Dream Team’’ label this week has put a stop to what’s been an ongoing nightmare.
“Sitting at 1-4, there’s really not too much you can say whether you’re a good team or a bad team,’’ Vick said. “I know I have a lot of confidence in these guys. We just have to keep fighting.’’
Vick went 26 of 40 for 315 yards and two touchdowns, but was undone by a career-worst four interceptions, three coming on the Eagles’ first four possessions. He added 90 yards rushing to give him 4,948 for his career, passing Randall Cunningham for most by an NFL quarterback.
Philadelphia has lost four in a row - its longest skid since 2005 - and is off to its worst start since 1999, coach Andy Reid’s first season.
Reid was defiant in the loss, blaming himself for the team’s struggles.
“No. 1, there’s nobody to blame but me,’’ Reid said. “That’s how I look at it. I take full responsibility for it. It’s my team.’’
Turnovers aside, the Eagles offense couldn’t get out of its own way to complete a comeback.
Vick squandered a scoring chance at the end of the second quarter when, with no timeouts and facing third and 10 at the Buffalo 26, he held on to the ball too long before throwing it through the back of the end zone as time ran out.
Then there was how the Eagles’ second-to-last possession ended, settling for Alex Henery’s 35-yard field goal. Vick had marched Philadelphia to Buffalo’s 6 before penalties on consecutive plays pushed the Eagles back 20 yards.
The Eagles then capped their comedy of errors by failing to get the ball back for what would’ve been one last drive.
Facing fourth and inches at midfield with 1:23 left, Fitzpatrick was successful in getting Eagles defensive end Juqua Parker to jump offside. That gave Buffalo a new set of downs and a chance to run out the clock.
“We’re putting ourselves in a tremendous opportunity,’’ Jackson said. “But we still have a lot of work to do and a lot of teams left to play.’’