The Bills defense came into their Week 5 game with the Eagles leading the league in interceptions. The takeaway parade continued at Ralph Wilson Stadium Sunday as they recorded three first-half interceptions of Michael Vick and five total turnovers to preserve a 31-24 victory for the Bills.
"You get five turnovers and you don't turn it over but once and the turnover that we gave them they ended up coming away with nothing out of it right before the half," said head coach Chan Gailey. "You get five to one you give yourself a great chance to win."
Buffalo had a 17-point second half lead, but it quickly evaporated as the Eagles offense awakened late with 17 second-half points. Trailing 31-24 with two minutes remaining Michael Vick's completion to Jason Avant was ripped out of his hands by Drayton Florence sending the ball up into the air. Nick Barnett pulled it in for his second interception of the game with 1:49 to play.
"It was a great play," said Florence. "We preach turnovers all throughout the week and we were lucky to get five off of Vick and I was just playing cover two and they ran it to the flat and I tried to get the pick, but I broke it up and nick Barnett was just in the right place to get the interception."
With the ball the Bills offense were facing a 4th-and-1 near midfield when they decided to try and draw the Eagles defense offsides to get a fresh set of downs. Philadelphia obliged as Juqua Parker jumped into the neutral zone making contact with Andy Levitre to draw a flag. Buffalo with a fresh set of downs kneeled to kill the clock and preserve the victory.
"Every Saturday we line up and we practice it," said Gailey. "You don't think it's going to work, but the one time it does it wins the game for you."
Buffalo's defense got things started as the league's leading interception unit picked off Michael Vick on the Eagles first two possessions. Philadelphia was driving on their opening series, but on a 1st-and-10 at the Bills 31, Alex Carrington tipped a screen pass at the line and Reggie Corner pulled in the interception at the Buffalo 46.
"If Reggie hadn't been there it would just have been a batted pass," said Carrington. "So credit to the defense on that."
The Bills offense made quick work of the short field as they established the run game early. Fred Jackson, who rushed for 111 yards, capped the scoring drive with a five-yard touchdown run after Donald Jones 18-yard catch and run set up 1st-and-goal for an early 7-0 lead.
"Going in that was our game plan," said Ryan Fitzpatrick. "We felt like we were going to put the ball in Fred (Jackson's) hands. We were going to let the guys up front, who we thought were bigger and stronger take control of the game. They did a good job all day."
On the Eagles next possession, Buffalo's defensive front got pressure on a 3rd-and-11 with Arthur Moats coming off the left side to hit Vick just as he was delivering the ball. Vick's pass was off target for Jason Avant with George Wilson turning his head around just in time to make the interception at the Buffalo 47.
Ryan Fitzpatrick and company couldn't cash in on the second takeaway as their second series stalled at the Philadelphia 37-yard line.
Philadelphia took advantage putting together their lone touchdown drive of the first half marching 65 yards on eight plays before Vick found a wide open Jeremy Maclin in the end zone for a two-yard touchdown reception to pull the Eagles even (7-7) early in the second quarter.
Buffalo answered with a touchdown drive of their own. Fred Jackson again made a key play on the scoring drive. On a 3rd-and-5 from from the Bills 40, Jackson caught a screen pass and got a key block from Andy Levitre and rolled 49 yards to the Eagles 11-yard line.
Two plays later Fitzpatrick hit David Nelson for a six-yard touchdown reception. Rian Lindell's extra point put the Bills back in front 14-7.
On the next play from scrimmage, Michael Vick was hit by a blitzing Kelvin Sheppard as he threw a pass intended for Brent Celek and it was picked off by Nick Barnett at the Philadelphia 31. Barnett then followed a convoy of blockers into the left corner of the end zone for a 31-yard interception return for a touchdown to put the Bills up 21-7.
"I just dropped in a zone and didn't jump the first crosser," said Barnett. "I got back a little bit, we saw that play on film where they try to run a dig behind us so I was hoping he'd throw it right in the spot where he had been throwing it and I got a nice little present."
The defensive scoring play marked the third straight week that the Bills had an interception return for a touchdown. It was only the second time in team history Buffalo has done it in three straight games dating all the way back to the Bills inaugural season in 1960 (games 10-13).
Philadelphia threatened to cut into Buffalo's lead at the end of the half after Fitzpatrick threw an interception at the Bills 48-yard line with under a minute to go in the second quarter. Michael Vick however, was forced to throw it out of the back of the end zone on a 3rd-and-10 at the Buffalo 26 and time expired keeping the Eagles from attempting a field goal.
"I thought we could get one more play and have some time," said Eagles head coach Andy Reid. "I thought we were pretty close on the clock there."
Buffalo began the second half with the football and promptly put another seven points on the board. Jackson accounted for 34 yards on four carries and receptions of 16 and 12 yards by Naaman Roosevelt and Stevie Johnson helped set up a 1st-and-goal for the Bills at the Philadelphia five-yard line.
Brad Smith then came on to take a direct snap and followed lead blocks by Corey McInytre and Eric Wood into the end zone for a five-yard touchdown run (28-7).
The explosive Eagles offense finally woke up on the ensuing possession. On a 1st-and-10 at their own 37, Vick took off for a 53-yard run down to the Bills 10-yard line to set up 1st-and-goal. LeSean McCoy then got the corner on a run to the left going 10 yards for the touchdown to make it a two score game (28-14) midway through the third quarter.
After an exchange of possessions, a Brian Moorman punt pinned the Eagles back at their own two-yard line. Vick completed a 2nd-and-10 pass to Jason Avant, but after the catch, Avant had the ball stripped by Jairus Byrd, who then recovered the loose ball at the Eagles 37 for Buffalo's fourth takeaway of the game.
"They have been a little loose with the ball," said Barnett. "Carrying it around and hanging it out when they're trying to make big plays. So all week we've been focusing on trying to rip that ball out and cause turnovers and it paid off."
The Bills converted the turnover into a 25-yard Lindell field goal to boost their lead to 31-17 at the end of the third quarter.
Philadelphia's offense answered quickly with a four-play 80-yard drive. On the first play of the fourth quarter Vick hit DeSean Jackson on a receiver screen with blockers ahead of him. Jackson scooted to the end zone untouched for a 31-yard scoring play. The extra point made it a 10-point game (31-21) with almost a full quarter to play.
After a three-and-out by Buffalo's offense, Philadelphia again turned to the big play to move the ball right down the field. Vick hit Jackson over the middle for a 26-yard pass play to move into Buffalo territory. That was followed by a 16-yard pass play to McCoy to set up 1st-and-goal at the Bills eight-yard line.
Back-to-back penalties by the Eagles offense however, bogged down the drive and Philadelphia was forced to take a 35-yard field goal to pull to within a touchdown (31-24).
Buffalo's offense was still stuck in neutral, as they could only make it out to their own 44-yard line before being forced to punt with just under six minutes remaining.
Philadelphia then put together another drive in which yards were gained in big chunks. Vick made three straight pass plays of 11, 11 and 15 yards to move into Buffalo territory. On a 3rd-and-3 at the Bills 25, Vick completed a pass to Jason Avant, but he was stripped by Drayton Florence, sending the ball up into the air.
Barnett picked it out of the air for his second interception of the game returning it to the Bills 42 with 1:49 left. Buffalo's offense killed the rest of the clock to help the Bills improve to 4-1. They travel to New York next week to face another NFC East opponent, the Giants for a 1 pm kickoff.