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Tim Graham: So what if the Bills have gotten some breaks? #SorryNotSorry

Tim Graham

Strange, this Buffalo Bills season.

A month before the season began, after the Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby trades, general manager Brandon Beane found himself answering questions about throwing in the towel on 2017.

Buffalo fans still sporting argument scars over the 2014-15 Sabres broke out their old debate points for this year's Bills.

What we've learned the past couple weeks, however, is the Bills are not tanking, and even those who supported the nuances of rebuilding must admit first-year coach Sean McDermott's team is ahead of expectations.

The Bills are 3-1 and atop the AFC East after beating the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons on consecutive Sundays. Buffalo went into the sparkly, gargantuan, $1.5 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium and upset Atlanta, 23-17, on Sunday.

In each game, the Bills created their own opportunities and caught some officiating breaks. Forces have not been conspiring to undermine the Bills.

The NFL and its officiating crews are not scheming against them, as Bills fans have lamented for, well, the team's inception it seems.

And the other team is losing its best players, not the other way around. The Falcons, who led the NFL in scoring last year, began the second half without receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu. Top linebacker Vic Beasley, starting defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw, starting safety Ricardo Allen and starting right tackle Ryan Schraeder didn't dress.

As old pal John Wawrow from the Associated Press noted on Twitter, there's no "yeah-but" column in the NFL standings.

Strange days, indeed. Most peculiar.

The Bills conceded as much on their Twitter account.

A debatable fumble happened four minutes into the second half, and rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White returned it 52 yards for a touchdown, to give Buffalo a 14-10 lead.

Bills pass-rusher Jerry Hughes barely dislodged the ball from Matt Ryan's right hand, but Ryan's fingertips still were on the ball as he pushed it forward. CBS analyst and retired quarterback Trent Green predicted the call would be overturned as an incomplete pass.

The mandatory review upheld the ruling on the field.

The Bills tweeted a video of the play underneath "We'll take it" and the smirk emoji.

#SorryNotSorry, I say. As many times as I've thrown my head back and groaned for Bills fans over some boneheaded mistake or obnoxious bounce, I'm pleased to see them start to even out.

Or at least so it would seem after witnessing 17 years without playoffs. Let's be honest: Most of us, including me, assumed before a down was played we'd see 18 in a row.

Not if what we've seen the past eight days keeps up.

With 3:27 to play Sunday and the Bills clinging to a three-point lead, safety Micah Hyde dove for an errant Ryan throw. The ball did touch the ground, but it was ruled an interception on the field.

Again, it was the type of borderline review the Bills rarely seem to win. But that takeaway was upheld, too, and this one led to Stephen Hauschka's 55-yard field goal that forced the Falcons to press for a touchdown on their final drive.

In the victory over Denver last week, a tipped Tyrod Taylor pass fell incomplete on third-and-6 to force a punt from Denver's 46-yard line with 7:38 left and Buffalo ahead by seven points.

Except referee Carl Cheffers gifted the Bills 15 yards and a first down.

The crime? Broncos pass-rusher and Taylor's buddy, Von Miller, extended his hand to help Taylor off the ground then playfully pulled it away. Unsportsmanlike conduct, Cheffers assessed.

Yeah, not equivalent to a helmet-on-helmet hit on a defenseless player. But the same punishment nonetheless, and a pleasant surprise Bills fans aren't accustomed to.

Buffalo drained another 4:24 off the clock, and Hauschka kicked a field goal to go ahead two insurmountable scores.

The breaks are magnified because McDermott's team is playing so effectively safe. The Bills are not beating themselves, operating with ball control and field position in mind while waiting for the opponent to break serve.

The Bills have gone 15 consecutive quarters without a turnover, a club record. They are plus-6 in turnover margin. They were plus-6 at the end of last season. They already have six interceptions, half of last year's total.

The Bills are averaging seven penalties a game, but for 40.8 yards and 1.3 first downs. Last year, the Bills averaged 7.3 penalties for 60.0 yards and 2.1 first downs.

I know Bills fans will want to keep their expectations in check. The drought has featured a few cruel teases into October.

But the Bills are 3-1 and are only a one-point underdog at the Cincinnati Bengals next Sunday. We could be looking at 4-1 entering the Week Six bye and then three of the next four games at New Era Field.

Expectations, schmexpectations.

Much love

Imagine what people will be doing in the parking lots around New Era Field for Tre'Davious White jerseys now.

White was named Defensive Rookie of the Month and then had another big game. The 27th overall draft choice scooped up a fumble for his first NFL touchdown and added another pass breakup. He entered Sunday with a league-leading six breakups.

The last time Bills fans saw a defensive rookie jump out to this kind of start, they embarrassed themselves, going gaga for linebacker Kiko Alonso. Remember that guy who tweeted a photo of his election-day ballot in which he wrote in Alonso's name for every office?

Alonso cooled off and hasn't done much since September 2013. His biggest Bills contribution was being the guy the Philadelphia Eagles took for running back LeSean McCoy.


I'm unafraid to advertise it.

When a Bills player comes on the "Tim Graham Show" each Wednesday from 4-6 p.m. on Sports Radio 1270 The Fan, his next game is a doozy.

Jordan Poyer: Team-high 11 tackles and a sack versus Carolina.

Kyle Williams: Four tackles and a sack against Denver.

Lorenzo Alexander: Four tackles, team-high three QB hits and a forced fumble on special teams against Atlanta.


We good here?

Buffalo for the first time in club history beat undefeated teams (of at least 2-0) back-to-back.

The Bills are atop the AFC East at 3-1, thanks in part to old friend Stephon Gilmore. He had a raggedy game for the New England Patriots. He committed his second hands-to-the-face penalty to negate a sack late in the game and deny Tom Brady a chance for another possession.

The Panthers beat the Patriots, who are 2-2, the same record as the New York Jets. The Miami Dolphins, meanwhile, looked atrocious again.

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