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Big second half helps Bills escape with 38-35 win

Posted Sep 18, 2011

Down 18 at halftime, the Buffalo Bills roared back with 21 straight points to take the lead early in the fourth quarter 24-21. The lead then changed hands four more times in the fourth quarter in a back and forth offensive shootout with the Bills winning on a six-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to David Nelson with 16 seconds remaining for a dramatic 38-35 victory.

“That was an amazing gut check by our football team and what they did coming out at halftime was amazing,” said head coach Chan Gailey. “I was really proud of them. We talked about doing it, but then you’ve got to go do it.”

With the ball at their own 20-yard line with 3:41 remaining and all of their timeouts Buffalo’s offense again set out to re-take the lead down 35-31. After a pass interference penalty on Oakland got the Bills out near midfield Fitzpatrick began taking what the Raiders defense gave him working the middle of the field with completions to David Nelson and Donald Jones.

Fred Jackson then made the most of a screen play gaining 11 yards followed by another completion to Nelson.  Buffalo converted a 4th-and-3 at the Oakland 24 with Donald Jones pulling in a quick slant over the middle to keep the drive alive.

After two straight incompletions, Fitzpatrick scrambled and completed a pass to Nelson along the right sideline for nine yards to the Oakland six. Then on 4th-and-1 Fitzpatrick found David Nelson again all by himself on a post pattern for a six-yard touchdown with 14 seconds remaining to put Buffalo up 38-35.

“Last week with the big game that Chandler had, they were obviously keying on him in the red zone there,” said Nelson. “We actually ran that play earlier when Chandler caught it and tried to back in the end zone and got stopped at the one-yard line. They were all keying on him when he went out and when they saw it was a similar play they thought the ball was going to Scott and I just slipped underneath the ‘mike’ linebacker and Fitz found me.”

“Blown coverage, plain and simple,” said Raiders head coach Hue Jackson.

Oakland with 16 seconds left and a pair of timeouts came close to a win as Jason Campbell’s last second heave to the end zone was intercepted by Bills safety Da’Norris Searcy as time expired, with a Raiders’ receiver fighting him for the ball.

"I had the best view of the ball over everybody, so once the ball started coming down I got adjusted and went up over everybody and I was the first guy to touch the ball, and when I started coming down guys started trying to pull at it and that's when I tucked it away," Searcy said.

It was a battle of defenses and punters early as neither team could put together a drive into scoring territory in the first quarter. On Oakland’s first possession of the second stanza Darren McFadden got into a rhythm as he gained the edge a few times on the drive to move the sticks for the Raiders.

McFadden had a 14-yard run to begin the series. Receiver Denarius Moore set up the scoring opportunity however, with a difficult catch on a 3rd-and-3 play at the Bills 37 to set up 1st-and-10 at the Buffalo 17.

After Chaz Schiliens nine-yard reception set up first-and-goal at the one, Michael Bush pounded the ball in on third-and-goal for a one-yard touchdown run and 7-0 lead.

Buffalo’s offense had trouble responding. On a 3rd-and-10 at their own 20-yard line, Ryan Fitzpatrick’s pass intended for Stevie Johnson appeared underthrown and was intercepted by Stanford Routt at the Buffalo 36.

With Oakland’s offense in rhythm, Jason Campbell hit Derek Hagan for a 17-yard completion and Marcel Reece for a five-yard pass play to set up a 1st-and-goal at the Buffalo six-yard line. McFadden then bounced off a pair of tacklers and lunged for the goal line in the front left corner of the end zone for Oakland’s second touchdown on a five-yard scoring run.

The Bills responded with their longest drive of the half, marching 73 yards on 10 plays, but David Nelson was stopped a yard short of the first down marker on a 3rd-and-8 at the Raiders 14-yard line. Rian Lindell put a 25-yard attempt through to make it 14-3 Raiders with just over two minutes left in the first half.

Oakland however, had no intentions of sitting on their lead. After a 16-yard screen play by McFadden, Jason Campbell hit Moore for a 42-yard gain down the right sideline to set up a 1st-and-10 at the Bills 23. Michael Bush followed with a 22-yard run up the middle to the goal line on the next play and Campbell went in from a yard out on a quarterback sneak for a 21-3 edge after the extra point.

“I’m definitely disappointed in our performance giving up so many points and yards,” said Kyle Williams. “We’ll take them how we get them though. A ‘W’ is a ‘W’.”

Buffalo went to their hurry up offense with less than a minute and a half and got into field goal range, but Lindell’s 39-yard attempt was blocked by Tyvon Branch as time expired in the first half.

The Bills second half had a far more productive start than the first. Buffalo’s offense took their opening series of the third quarter and needed all of three plays to get their first touchdown.

Fred Jackson took a handoff off left tackle on a 2nd-and-3 at the Raiders 43 and found a ton of daylight. Jackson juked the safety and dragged a pair of tacklers into the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown run to close the gap to 11 (21-10) less than two minutes into the second half.

"It all started with Freddy having a huge run, that long run for a touchdown" said Fitzpatrick. "That guy right there is amazing." 

“Everybody in the huddle going out in the second half knew we were capable of going out and winning that game,” said Jackson. “We talked about it in our locker room and told our defense to make some stops for us and we’ll put some points up on the board and get back in this game. Everybody felt that we could do that.”

Oakland moved into Buffalo territory on the ensuing possession, but on a 2nd-and-7 at the Buffalo 42, McFadden had the ball stripped on a carry up the middle by Nick Barnett. Danny Batten recovered the loose ball at the Bills 43.

Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense began to break yards off in big chunks. First, a 12-yard carry by C.J. Spiller, then a nine-yard reception by Stevie Johnson to move into Raiders’ territory.

On a 2nd-and-1 at the Oakland 36, Brad Smith stepped in at quarterback and ran around the right end for 11 yards and a first down. Spiller then followed with an 18-yard run to the Raiders’ seven to set up first and goal.

Fitzpatrick then hit Stevie Johnson on a slant route on third-and-goal for the touchdown. Lindell’s extra point pulled Buffalo to within four (21-17) with 3:41 left in the third quarter.

After the defense forced Oakland three-and-out, Buffalo’s offense again was on the move. Taking over at their own 31, Fitzpatrick went to go-to receiver Stevie Johnson for a pair of pass plays that covered 24 yards. Then it was back to the ground and Fred Jackson, who ripped off a 29-yard scamper to the Oakland 16-yard line.

Scott Chandler pulled in a 10-yard catch, but was stopped just short of the goal line. But Jackson capped the drive on a one-yard run up the gut to wipe out Buffalo’s 18-point deficit and put them in front for the first time in the game 24-21 less than a minute into the fourth quarter.

“Every time we got the ball the guys had 100 percent confidence that we were going to put it in the end zone,” said Fitzpatrick, who finished 28-46 passing for 264 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception. “I was pretty fired up about that. It’s so good to be on the other end of some of these close games.”

Jackson’s 29-yard run put him up over 100 rushing yards for a second straight week. It marked only the fourth time a Bills running back has done that in the first two weeks of the season (O.J. Simpson 1973, 1975 and Thurman Thomas 1991).

The Raiders promptly answered with an eight-play 80-yard drive capped by McFadden’s second touchdown of the game, a 12-yard swing pass near the right sideline giving Oakland the lead 28-24 after Sebastian Janikowski’s point after with nine minutes left.

Again Buffalo’s offense was in high gear rolling up 80 yards on just nine plays. David Nelson and Stevie Johnson combined for 44 yards on three catches and C.J. Spiller took off down the right sideline for 26 to help set up the Bills in a first-and-goal situation at the Raiders’ eight-yard line. Unsuccessful on three straight attempts, Buffalo caught a break on a holding call on third-and-goal giving the Bills a new set of downs.

On second-and-goal from the six, Fitzpatrick fired a laser to Scott Chandler, who somehow held on for the six-yard touchdown reception to put the Bills up 31-28 with 4:48 remaining despite tight coverage from Tyvon Branch.

“I really thought that guy had it,” said Chandler. “I almost was getting ready to tackl him. I was able to wrestle the ball from him. It was a big point in the game, and it was really great for us to get that touchdown.”

The back and forth nature of the game continued with Oakland scoring just five plays into their ensuing drive on a 50-yard bomb from Campbell to Moore with 3:41 remaining.

“It was a slugfest going back and forth,” said Moore, who finished with 146 yards receiving. “But it’s one of those games where we shouldn’t have let up.”

Buffalo’s last game-winning drive in the closing seconds made it 35 second half points tying for second most in franchise history. It also improved Buffalo to 2-0 on the season. The Bills host New England (2-0) next Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.