DETROIT – It was only a football game. Next to all of the real-life tragedy brought on by that lake-effect weather monster in Western New York last week, it meant nothing.
The Buffalo Bills never forgot that Monday night.
They recognized that the greatest achievement from their 38-3 pounding of the New York Jets was that for a few hours, they allowed a whole lot of people to briefly forget all of that snow, all of that frustration, all of that fear, all of that sadness that turned an entire community upside down for several days.
That was why, in the Bills’ triumphant locker room, coach Doug Marrone presented the first game ball to the emergency responders of Erie County, who faced a 24-7 challenge of a lifetime.
“We wanted to give the people back in our region a chance to smile a little bit by the way we played,” Marrone said. “It’s more important for them than it is anything else.”
“First off, man, I just want to say shout out to the Buffalo community,” said Bills running back Anthony Dixon, who blocked a punt that resulted in one touchdown and ran for another score. “That was definitely for them.”
Of course, there also is plenty to be said for the Bills’ ability to overcome considerable adversity to put together their most dominant performance of the season to improve to 6-5 and remain in the hunt for a playoff berth.
They clearly didn’t allow themselves to be the least bit affected by missing two key practice days while team headquarters in Orchard Park was buried under 6 feet of snow and, therefore, unreachable for players and many other club employees. They refused to be thrown off by the fact the game, originally scheduled for Sunday afternoon at Ralph Wilson Stadium, was moved to Monday night at Ford Field and workouts were held Friday, Saturday and Sunday at odd times at the Detroit Lions’ practice facility.
The Bills might very well consider wanting to deal with “disruptions” every week for the balance of the season. At the very least, they should consider petitioning the NFL to allow them to face the Jets a few more times this year, considering they have beaten them by a combined 81-26 in two games this season.
The Jets were pathetic in every phase, even worse than when the Bills capitalized on six turnovers to embarrass them, 43-23, at MetLife Stadium last month. But the Bills deserve plenty of credit for being sharp in all phases. On offense, they broke out of a red-zone touchdown funk with a vengeance by scoring three TDs on three trips inside the Jets’ 20 yard line. On defense, they registered seven sacks to boost their NFL-leading total to 46 and holding the Jets to 218 yards to the Bills’ 336. On special teams, they had a blocked punt that was recovered for a touchdown.
“We were definitely out of our comfort zone” before the game, Dixon said. “But the whole time we were just telling each other, ‘We’re going to make it work.’ We just kind of rallied together and we got the job done.”
The other great unknown was what sort of fan support the Bills would receive. It proved to be exceptional, with Bills loyalists making up most of the crowd of 56,044 that was allowed in for free.
“As soon as I came out” of the tunnel “and looked to the right and saw all the blue jerseys, I was like, ‘Holy cow, baby! Here we go! We’ve got the crowd!’” Marrone said.
Before Woods’ score, the Bills had a string of six consecutive failures in scoring touchdowns from inside their opponents’ 20-yard line.
Woods led all receivers in the game with a career-best nine receptions for 118 yards, giving him the first 100-yard receiving game of his two-year career. He made a highlight-reel grab by using his right hand to pull the ball out of the air and pinned it on the right side of his helmet to secure it before stepping out of bounds for a 27-yard gain that set up the Chandler TD.
A 53-yard Dan Carpenter field goal – capping an 11-play, 45-yard drive – made it 17-3 with 9:45 left in the third quarter. The Bills went up, 24-3, after Dixon blocked a Ryan Quigley punt and Manny Lawson recovered for a touchdown with 8:05 left in the third quarter.
An interception by Duke Williams and his return deep into Jets territory set up a 5-yard touchdown run by Fred Jackson to give the Bills a 31-3 lead with 5:09 remaining in the third quarter.
The Bills’ defensive dominance included ends Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes registering two sacks apiece, and Buffalo’s defensive front constantly harassing Jets starting quarterback Michael Vick, who was sacked five times before being yanked late in the third quarter. Geno Smith, his replacement, was sacked twice.
Dixon closed the scoring with a 30-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter against Jet defenders who clearly seemed to have no interest in playing any longer.
“We came out and dominated from start to finish,” Dixon said. “That’s how we’ve got to be the next couple of weeks. We’ve all been talking about winning four in a row, five in a row and believing that we’re still in it.
“A lot of people are not giving us a chance, but we believe and I know the people in Buffalo believe. And we’re all we need.”