By most accounts it was a season on the brink and the Bills had three chances to win, thanks in large part to an inspired defensive effort that held Arizona in check for most of the day. But a late turnover cost them their first opportunity late in regulation. After the game went to overtime, Buffalo won the toss and had the first possession, but their drive stalled at the Cardinals 40 and the Bills punted. It took the second interception of the game by Jairus Byrd to lift Buffalo to a much needed 19-16 victory.
"Euphoric I guess. We're really excited," said Byrd when asked to describe the mood in the postgame locker room. "We fought back and this was a big win for us. Coming from where we did the past two weeks the performance we had, this was big."
Byrd intercepted a John Skelton pass over the middle intended for Rob Housler at the Arizona 35 and returned it to the Cardinals six-yard line. Two plays later Rian Lindell kicked a 25-yard field goal for the victory in overtime.
"Similar to the first one," said Byrd of his game-clinching interception. "From what the receivers did it allowed me to go over to the middle and rob and help out. He just kind of ran a seam post route, tried to bring it over across the middle and I was able to jump it."
Buffalo had a 16-13 with four minutes remaining, but on a 2nd-and-9 play with four minutes remaining lined up in Wildcat formation and Brad Smith sent a pass to the end zone that was intercepted by Patrick Peterson.
"We designed it to go to the middle of the field and it ended up not going to the middle of the field," said head coach Chan Gailey. "If we hit that we're all talking about what a great call it is and if we don't then it's a dumb call. So it was a dumb call. If I had to do it over again I'd run it."
Arizona then drove 42 yards on 10 plays, losing quarterback Kevin Kolb in the process, and Jay Feely nailed an improbable 61-yard field goal to tie the game with 1:14 remaining (16-16).
Buffalo got the ball back, but could not get a first down forcing them to punt with 57 seconds left in the game. New Cardinals quarterback John Skelton moved the Arizona offense down to the Bills 20-yard line with two seconds left. But Feely inexplicably missed a 38-yard field goal off the left upright forcing overtime. According to the Bills players on the field goal block unit, Alex Carrington got a piece of the ball.
"Once they got inside the 30-yard line we made the huddle call, coach DeHaven put us in an all out rush, and Kelvin Sheppard was pushing on Alex Carrington and got his hand up and tipped the ball and I saw it hit the goal post and I couldn't tell if it fell through or fell back forward," said George Wilson. "I saw the referees wave it off no good and it was like a breath of life."
Buffalo got off to an inauspicious start as Fred Jackson fumbled on the first carry of the game giving Arizona the ball at the Bills 33-yard line. But the defense held allowing just two yards off the turnover forcing Arizona to settle for a 49-yard field goal (3-0).
"It was a gut check," said Gailey. "I was impressed with the way our team fought through adversity with the first play of the game. Fumble the ball. We played great red zone defense. We didn't play as consistent as offense as you want, but did some good things in all areas enough to win the game on the road against a good football team. It wasn't pretty at times but it was a gut check and that may go a long way for our football team."
The Bills defense would then be the first to put points on the board for Buffalo. On and 2nd-and-17 from the Arizona six-yard line, the entire defensive line collapsed the pocket with Chris Kelsay the first to get to Kevin Kolb for a safety to make it a 3-2 game midway through the first quarter.
Off the ensuing free kick the offense would mount their best scoring drive of the half. Jackson would roll up 16 yards on four straight carries including a 3rd-and-1 conversion. Ryan Fitzpatrick hit Stevie Johnson to convert a 3rd-and-5 and later a 3rd-and-9 on the drive. On 1st-and-goal from the 10 C.J. Spiller darted off left tackle and went untouched into the end zone for a 10-yard scoring play (9-2).
"It was a lot of tough yards," said Ryan Fitzpatrick of the ground game. "There were a lot of runs we didn't hit the huge 40, 50-yard runs in this game. We stuck with it and you've got to credit Chan for that and Fred and C.J. did a great job. I don't know what their numbers were. The guys up front they've been beat up, there's been different guys in different positions. The way they handled that I thought was great."
Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller combined for 141 rushing yards on 28 carries and a pair of touchdowns.
The Cardinals attack kept sputtering as Buffalo's front four was getting consistent pressure. Mario Williams got the defense off the field on a 3rd-and-9 sack of Kevin Kolb, but Buffalo's own offense would struggle from there.
The Bills went three-and-out on offense for three of their last four first half possessions gaining a combined total of four yards.
Arizona would take a one-point lead to halftime thanks to a 10-play 67-yard drive as William Powell proved to be a much more effective rusher than LaRod Stephens-Howling. Powell and Larry Fitzgerald accounted for 48 of the last 49 yards on the drive with Fitzgerald pulling in a nine-yard touchdown catch on what looked like a missed alignment by Buffalo's defense (10-9).
Neither offense could move into scoring territory on their initial possessions in the second half, but Arizona would strike first with a field goal drive as Jay Feely would hit his second 49-yarder of the game (13-9) with three minutes left in the third.
Buffalo's offense would answer right back as they leaned on C.J. Spiller in the run game. After a 23-yard catch and run by Stevie Johnson, Spiller took the next two carries seven and then 33 yards down to the Cardinals 16-yard line. Brad Smith took a Wildcat snap and went off the right side for 16 yards to set up 1st-and-goal from the one.
Fred Jackson would cross the goal line for a one-yard scoring play and the lead (16-13) at the end of the third quarter.
Buffalo's front four had the most consistent pass pressure in weeks as they logged a total of five sacks on the afternoon.
"I thought it was huge for our defense and offense and everybody as a whole, special teams, coming together the way we did," said Nick Barnett. "It showed that we've been questioned about our mental toughness and I thought we did a good job of pulling together in the fourth quarter against a good offensive team and defensive team. It's huge."
With the win the Bills improved to 3-3 on the season creating a top to bottom logjam in the AFC with all four teams at .500. Buffalo hosts Tennessee for a 1 pm kickoff at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday.