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Bills find a way to conquer snow and the Colts

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We all say it dismissively. You live in Western New York, you deal with the snow. End of discussion.

That goes double for the Buffalo Bills. Winter's wrath is supposed to be a major part of home-field advantage, something to embrace and wear like a snowflake-shaped badge of honor.

But Sunday was different. It was more extreme than anything the Bills had ever experienced in their Orchard Park stadium, going back to the days when it was known as The Ralph and even Rich. No one saw anything quite like what Mother Nature delivered throughout the Bills' 13-7 overtime victory against the Indianapolis Colts, who play their home games in a dome.

Of course, the Bills have a number of players on their roster who grew up and played college football in warm climates. For them and their teammates, even ones who have played in the snow as pros, Sunday was something they never could have imagined even in their wildest dreams.

"I'm from Belle Glade, Fla.," said wide receiver Deonte Thompson. "We don't see this kind of snow."

A lake-effect storm that began about 30 minutes before kickoff and ran throughout the game dumped about eight inches of snow on the field, impacting footing and everything else associated with playing football. Freezing temperatures also took their toll.

"The worst part was on the sideline," defensive end Ryan Davis said. "You couldn't even get in front of the heater all the time because there were a lot of guys around it. When you're on the field, it wasn't too cold, but on the sideline, where you're not moving, that's when it was a problem."

Running, throwing, blocking and tackling also were a problem. In fact, at times, they were downright impossible.

"We weren't even standing on the field," Davis said. "We were standing on top of the snow. And I'm putting my hand down on ice. I'm like, 'I don't even know how I'm going to come off the ball against this tight end and this tackle.' I remember a few times out there I wasn't even in a three-point stance. I was standing up because I felt like I was better equipped, had better leverage just standing up and then coming off the ball."

Let's get to the bottom line. The Bills did just enough to improve their record to 7-6 and keep their playoff hopes alive with three games left. They barely beat a team that is 3-10, that has lost 11 starters to injury, but they did come out on top.

The weather made it challenging for both teams to function, which largely explains the low point total. But the Bills also nearly cost themselves a chance to win through self-destruction that has been typical of their 17-year playoff drought.

They were lucky, near the end of regulation, when an offensive pass-interference penalty nullified a two-point conversion that would have given the Colts an 8-7 lead. They were equally fortunate when, after third-string quarterback Joe Webb threw an interception in Bills' territory, Adam Vinatieri missed a 43-yard field-goal attempt near the end of regulation, to go along with a miss from 33 yards earlier in the game.

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And perhaps their biggest break of all came in overtime after coach Sean McDermott made a controversial decision to punt from the Indianapolis 41-yard line with 4:07 left after twice being unsuccessful going for it on fourth down earlier in the game. At the very least, that could have set the stage for a tie, which would have been as damaging to the Bills' playoff hopes as a loss.

But the Bills wound up getting the ball back with 2:15 remaining. That was when Webb, who entered the game after Nathan Peterman exited late in the third quarter with a concussion, played the role of unlikely hero. Webb led the Bills on a drive highlighted, first, by his throw on third-and-six from the Buffalo 39 that Thompson — with a defender interfering with him — plucked out of the air for a 34-yard gain while falling backwards into the snow.

The play set up the game's biggest highlight — LeSean McCoy's 21-yard touchdown run that ended the game with 1:33 left in OT.

What was rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White, who is from Louisiana and had never played in snow before Sunday, thinking as he watched McCoy's run?

"I was ready to get inside," White said. "I was ready to get inside."

"It was fun, actually, I'm not going to lie," Thompson said. "This is a game you dreamed about as a kid, playing in snowy games, running around, playing football, having fun. So it definitely was a fun day."

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Winning certainly helped put him and his teammates in a good mood.

For all that could have gone wrong, the Bills merit credit for what they did right. Although they allowed Frank Gore to run for 130 yards, he only averaged 3.6 yards per carry and the Colts averaged only 3.5 yards per rush as a team. On the other hand, McCoy ran for 156 yards and averaged 4.9 yards per carry.

Punter Colton Schmidt did a remarkable job, averaging more than 38 yards on six attempts, with a long of 48, and putting two inside the 20.

White was constantly dancing and jumping between plays. It looked as if he was thoroughly enjoying his first time playing in snow, but he said that wasn't the case, that all of the movement was to "psych himself" to play through the conditions while also trying to "pump up" his teammates.

"When I went out to warm up, it was just windy," White said. "Then, when I went back out with the pads on, I was in for a rude awakening. When they were blowing (the snow to clear) the lines, it was just stacking it up and making it tough on us on the back end. I didn't fall, but I definitely lost footing a couple of times trying to break on the ball.

"It was exciting, but I don't like it. I can't break on the football (how) I like (to), and (not) being able to get out and run fast. I don't like it."

What he did like was what the Bills showed as a team after last Sunday's 23-3 loss against the New England Patriots, the Bills' fourth defeat in a five-game stretch.

"Just how resilient a group it is," White said. "We keep fighting 'til the end. We're never going to quit and today showed that."

"We stayed focused," said Davis. "That's what I'm most proud about. We're still alive. You can really feel the vibe around here. We know our situation, so this win was huge."

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