For an offense that entered the season finale ranked 30th in the NFL, there haven't been many bright spots, but Fred Jackson was clearly the most positive all season long. So it was fitting that on a snowy January day in Buffalo, Jackson led the charge with 212 rushing yards and a touchdown in a 30-7 victory over the Indianapolis Colts.
"We were going to do what it took to get him to 1,000 and he did it," said Ryan Fitzpatrick. "The guys up front played great. Fred all year hasn't gotten a lot of national attention, but the effort that he plays with, you guys see it every week. He is such a good football player."
Jackson's big rushing day pushed him up and over 1,000 rushing yards for the season, as he had the first individual 200-yard rushing day since Thurman Thomas had 214 against the Jets in 1990. It's the seventh highest single-game rushing total in team history. Jackson finished the season with a career-high 1,062 yards.
"It feels good," said Jackson, who almost doubled his rushing total of a season ago. "But I think first and foremost I have to give props to all my teammates. The offensive line did a great job blocking all day and Lee and T.O. did a great job getting on the safeties so there was great blocking by the receivers and Fitz even got downfield and got a block for me. They wanted it just as bad as I did and it feels good to get it not only for myself, but to get it for those guys."
"We said we've got to put it on our shoulders to get him 1,000 yards because Fred is a warrior," said Richie Incognito. "He's a special running back, and the least we can do is get him 1,000. It was great for him to have the performance he had and to finish on strong note."
The Bills offense put up its third most productive day in points and second most in total net yards with 403 on the day.
Buffalo got on the scoreboard first thanks to an interception by rookie Cary Harris. Harris picked off a 3rd-and-7 pass from Peyton Manning on the Colts opening possession returning it to the Indianapolis 41-yard line. Fred Jackson accounted for 35 of the 41 yards gained on the drive including an 11-yard touchdown reception from Ryan Fitzpatrick for an early 7-0 lead with 9:25 left in the first quarter.
"It was one of those things where we try to get us out and be able to use some of our advantages with a linebacker on us and we were able to do so and get in one-on-one coverage and kind of make a move on him," said Jackson. "Fitz told me I was his number one read so I wanted to do whatever I could to help him and he was able to get the ball on me. And it was successful."
The Colts responded on their next series marching 72 yards on 12 plays with Mike Hart scoring on a one-yard touchdown run to tie the score (7-7) late in the first quarter.
The Bills would put a well-executed drive together midway through the second quarter to re-take the lead. After the Colts inserted backup QB Curtis Painter, Buffalo's defense forced a three-and-out getting the ball back for the Bills offense near midfield.
After a 17-yard run by Jackson set up 1st-and-10 at the Colts 21, Fitzpatrick hit Lee Evans two plays later for a 21-yard scoring strike. Evans found a soft spot between the corner and safety for his seventh touchdown of the season and a 14-7 Bills lead.
"It was just kind of a play action play," said Evans. "They were really coming up on the run so I was able to get over the top of the backs. Fitz threw a good ball at my body and it was able to get me in the end zone."
Painter then became a turnover machine for the Colts. On the ensuing Indianapolis possession Painter fumbled while scrambling away from pressure from John McCargo and the ball was recovered by Chris Kelsay near midfield.
Buffalo's offense needed only two plays to score again as Fitzpatrick hooked up with Terrell Owens for a 41-yard touchdown and a 21-7 lead. The Bills quarterback reflected on his three touchdown day.
"That was great," said Fitzpatrick. "It's been a long year for everybody, but for our offense to go out there and to score the touchdowns early, to put the points on the board, to get Lee (Evans) in the end zone, to get Terrell (Owens) in the end zone, to get Freddy (Jackson in the end zone, it was good for us."
On the very next play from scrimmage Painter then overthrew intended receiver Austin Collie and Harris intercepted his second pass of the game again near midfield with 2:24 left in the half. He finished the game with just four completions for 39 yards as the Colts managed just 157 total net yards.
"We definitely had the weather conditions help us out," said Harris, who had practiced only a few days at free safety as he started in place of an ill Donte Whitner. "I liked playing back there. It felt good to help with the interceptions, but the weather played a factor in that and the pass rush so I thank all those guys."
Buffalo's offense got as far as the Colts' 14-yard line off Harris' second takeaway before the drive stalled forcing the Bills to take a 31-yard Rian Lindell field goal for a 24-7 lead at the break.
Lindell would add two more field goals in the third quarter to account for the final points in the game as he eclipsed the 1,000-point barrier for his career.
"I knew at the beginning of the year I'd need around 100 points to get it," said Lindell. "It's nice."
Terrell Owens also moved into third place on the all-time receiving yardage list as he finished with 65 yards in the game to move past Raiders all-time leading receiver Tim Brown. Owens now has 14,951 career receiving yards.
"The things that I've accomplished throughout my career has been due to a lot of dedication and a lot of hard work," said Owens. "Overall you can never discount my body of work. My numbers speak for themselves."
With the victory the Bills finished the season at 6-10 and they will have a top 10 draft pick in April. But what they took from Sunday's game was the support they got from their loyal fans on a bitterly cold winter day.
"It was awesome with our fans giving us as much support as they've given us despite the way things turned out," said Chris Kelsay.
"They came out and supported us on a day like this," said Jackson. "It's always good to put on a show for them and we were able to do so. It gives them something , like us, something to look forward to next season."