The Bills did not make it easy, but Buffalo's defense was able to preserve enough of an eight-point lead to post the first victory of the Chan Gailey era outlasting Detroit 14-12 on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The win ended Buffalo's eight-game losing streak to start the season and dropped Detroit to their 25th straight defeat on the road stretching back to the 2008 season.
"It's great to get a win," said Gailey. "Anytime you have a group of guys that have persevered, and that's what it is, it's perseverance. It's a special time anytime you can have a big win, and that was a big win."
Buffalo's players were relieved as much as they were elated in being able to nail down their first victory.
"I think everybody is real excited obviously," said Ryan Fitzpatrick. "We've been waiting a long time for this. Chan did a great job and has done a great job all year of keeping everybody positive, upbeat, keeping everybody fighting. We're hoping that this now turns into the momentum shifter that we need just to get back on the right track."
"It feels great," said Chris Kelsay. "Too long (in) coming, but it's our first win and hopefully we've got a lot more in store."
Nursing an eight-point lead (14-6) with 3:45 remaining, Buffalo had 88 yards of field to defend. Detroit converted three fourth downs, the third of which went for a 20-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill to Calvin Johnson with 14 seconds left pulled Detroit to within two. But Hill could find no one open on the two point conversion attempt and his toss to the back of the end zone sailed out of bounds allowing Buffalo to escape with the narrow victory.
"The ball slipped," said Hill. "I was sick when the ball left my hand. I was trying to give Brandon (Pettigrew) a high ball. That thing flailed out of the hand."
"Obviously, it's a great feeling to stop them on a two-point conversion and get a win for our football team," said Kelsay. "It's good to come out on top."
"You look there at the end of the game, we had done some good things on third down at getting off the field the last few weeks and we get them in 4th-and-8 and 4th-and-10 some things where we need to take advantage of it and win the football game," said Kyle Williams. "We weren't able to do it, but when all was said and done we won the football game. We made a play when we needed to make it."
Buffalo tried to build on their 11-point lead at the end of the third quarter, but Rian Lindell's 41-yard attempt with 10 seconds left in the third sailed wide of the right goal post to keep it 14-3.
Detroit followed with a field goal drive of their own, but kicker Dave Rayner, signed to replace the injured Jason Hanson earlier in the week, also pushed a 49-yard attempt wide right early in the fourth.
The Lions offense did not get in sync until midway through the fourth quarter. Hill directed a seven-play 61-yard scoring drive with a 29-yard hook up with Calvin Johnson putting Detroit in field goal range. Rayner was true on his second 40-plus yard attempt, putting a 45-yarder through the uprights to make it a one score game with 5:53 remaining (14-6).
Buffalo's offense came out charged up in the second half taking the opening drive of the third quarter 73 yards to pay dirt to balloon their lead to 14-3. Fred Jackson accounted for 62 of the 73 yards on the drive as he had 170 total yards of offense, and the fifth 100-yard rushing day of his career with 133 on the ground.
"I felt like I needed to come out and play a little harder," said Jackson in reference to his down game the week prior against Chicago. "I felt like I had to go to another level and I feel like I've got to play like that for the rest of the year."
Jackson's two biggest plays book ended the third-quarter scoring drive as he had a 39-yard run on the first play of the series to move Buffalo to the Detroit 34. Five plays later, Jackson took a shovel pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick and found day light along the near sideline to score on a 16-yard play for the score.
"We had worked the shovel pass to the left and missed it," said Gailey. "I knew it was going to be a pretty good play at some point. It had just worked out that they executed really, really well at a critical time in the third quarter."
For Fitzpatrick it was his 10th straight game with at least one touchdown pass, marking the longest streak for a Bills quarterback since Drew Bledsoe's 10-game streak in 2002.
A game that was scoreless through the first quarter changed on a turnover. Buffalo got just its second interception of the season when Dwan Edwards picked off a pass deflected by Donte Whitner near midfield.
"Any time you get on the field you want to make plays and help your team," said Edwards. "I was happy as I don't know what to give this team the opportunity to win the game."
Fitzpatrick and Lee Evans hooked up for a 43-yard pass play down to the Lions' seven-yard line and two Fred Jackson rushes got the ball in the end zone, with his last being a one-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 Bills lead early in the second quarter.
The score stayed that way until the final minute of the half, when a Stefan Logan punt return to the Bills 29, set up the Lions offense to put points on the board with 39 seconds left in the second quarter.
With seven seconds left the Lions tried to reach the end zone on a 3rd-and-4 at the Bills seven-yard line, but a Hill pass attempt to Calvin Johnson was off the mark and broken up by Leodis McKelvin to bring up fourth down.
Rayner followed with a 25-yard field goal to make it a 7-3 game at the half.
Spiller, Johnson injuredBuffalo's first victory of the season did come at a price as both C.J. Spiller and Spencer Johnson were lost to hamstring injuries. Head coach Chan Gailey was not optimistic about having Spiller for next week's game at Cincinnati.
"For a running back it's always significant," said Gailey. "A hamstring is always significant. They haven't given me a final report, but I can't imagine (Spiller) playing this week. We'll have to see how long that lasts."
The Bills face the 2-7 Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium for a 1 pm kickoff.