|Bills safety George Wilson has what Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski wanted - the ball, after a fourth-quarter Tom Brady pass intended for Gronkowski. (Barry Chin/Globe Staff)|
Winning ways all coming back to Bills
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Despite being 2-0, the Bills weren’t considered a serious contender by some because those wins came against the Chiefs and Raiders.
After rallying from an early 21-0 deficit to stun the Patriots, 34-31, yesterday before 68,174 fans at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Bills are atop the AFC East and proving the doubters wrong.
“Everybody believed,’’ Bills safety George Wilson said. “The coaches. The players. We all believed in ourselves. We all believed in each other and believed in the game plan we had in place. We knew in the first half they gave us their best shot.’’
Rian Lindell’s 28-yard field goal with no time on the clock put a resounding end to Buffalo’s 15-game losing skid against the Patriots (2-1).
Buffalo’s last win against New England was 31-0 in the 2003 season opener.
“I figured if I played long enough, I should [beat the Patriots],’’ said linebacker Chris Kelsay, a nine-year veteran who has played his entire career in Buffalo.
Trailing, 21-0, in the second quarter, the Bills became the first team since 1950 to come back from 18 points to win in consecutive weeks. Last week, Buffalo trailed, 21-3, before beating the Raiders, 38-35.
“It’s time for those past Buffalo Bills memories to fade away,’’ said cornerback Drayton Florence, whose fourth-quarter interception return of 27 yards for a touchdown gave the Bills their first lead, 31-24.
“It’s a new era. A new day.’’
Leading up to yesterday’s game, receiver Stevie Johnson said the Bills couldn’t afford to fall behind, 21-3, to the Patriots and win.
Fortunately for the Bills, he was wrong.
“That just gives us more faith in each other,’’ Johnson said.
When the Bills fell behind by three touchdowns early, a comeback seemed highly unlikely.
Tom Brady had thrown two touchdowns to tight end Rob Gronkowski, Kyle Arrington had picked off Ryan Fitzpatrick twice, and momentum was with the visitors.
The Bills say they weren’t worried, though.
“It’s easy for me to say after a win, ‘No, we never doubted,’ but we didn’t,’ ’’ Kelsay said. “Coach [Chan] Gailey addressed us at halftime and said, ‘We’ve been down worse than this before and won the game.’ I didn’t feel a doubt in anybody’s mind.’’
Buffalo’s comeback can be greatly attributed to picking off Brady four times and tailback Fred Jackson giving the Bills a gritty performance.
The Bills scored 24 points off Brady’s interceptions, with Florence returning the final one for a touchdown, but Wilson’s pick may have been the biggest.
Holding a 24-17 lead, New England appeared on its way to putting Buffalo away early in the fourth when Brady looked to Gronkowski for a third touchdown.
Instead, Wilson leaped up and picked off the pass at the Buffalo 2.
“Early in the game, I was on him on a seam [route] and Brady threw it back shoulder,’’ Wilson said. “I was on the upfield shoulder on the inside and I knew in that tight red zone he’s his favored target. I kind of baited him.
“I forced him with an inside release and when I saw his eyes get big, I got my eyes behind. Threw both my hands up and I was able to make a play.’’
Buffalo converted Wilson’s interception into a touchdown as Jackson scored from a yard out. The NFL’s leading rusher had 74 yards on 12 carries and caught five passes for 87 yards.
Jackson’s 38-yard reception to the New England 1 set up Lindell’s winner.
“He does it week in and week out,’’ Florence said.
As Jackson walked off the field carrying his 5-year-old son, Braeden, the fans chanted, “Freddie! Freddie! Freddie!’’
“It’s great,’’ Jackson said. “It’s a lot of fun. I’m going to relish it. As long as those guys are behind me, chanting my name like that, I’m going to try to make plays for them.’’