It wasn't easy. Playing in front of a massive, emotional sellout crowd, the Buffalo Bills used every available second to scrape out a 17-16 win on the road against the Washington Redskins. Dominated for much of the game by a Redskins team playing in honor of their fallen teammate, Sean Taylor, the Bills used some big plays defensively, some opportunistic circumstances offensively and 5 Rian Lindell field goals to even their record at 6-6.
Nothing is ever easy in this league, but little has ever been as difficult as the adversity the Redskins have faced this week. Led by Jason Campbell, the Redskins played their hearts out and deserve credit for showing incredible resiliency this week. They are a high-class organization. But fourth-quarter mishaps, and Buffalo's ability to capitalize on them, allowed the Bills to win a game they probably shouldn't have.
Defense Dominant in Second Half
After allowing the Redskins to increase their lead to 16-5 on Washington's first possession of the second half, Buffalo's defense turned on their shut-down mode. The Redskins were held scoreless for the remainder of the game, committing two turnovers along the way. The defense forced a safety in the first half on an Angelo Crowell sack; Crowell later recovered a fumble, and Larry Tripplett intercepted a tipped pass. Buffalo's offense needed every one of these plays.
Clinton Portis entered this game as the 6th-leading rusher in the NFL, but Buffalo corralled him all afternoon. Portis did score a touchdown, but tallied just 50 yards on 25 carries for the game. With no running game (thanks in large part to the Bills dominating the line of scrimmage), the Bills were able to put pressure on Campbell - and it worked. Campbell was sacked three times, nearly one third of their season total coming in (10). Despite their first-half problems, the defense was the catalyst in this victory with their dominant second-half performance.
Jackson, Reed Catalysts on Offense
Trent Edwards was stellar in his return to the starting lineup, completing 22 of 36 passes for 257 yards. On the final drive of the game, Edwards threaded the needle on a 30-yard strike to Josh Reed to get Buffalo into position for the game-winning field goal. He was accurate, a solid leader and very poised in the face of the Gregg Williams Blitz. He couldn't get it in the end zone - a problem for the Bills all year - but he had the offense moving when it needed to move.
Fred Jackson, replacing two injured Bills runners (M. Lynch and A. Thomas), was excellent - he compiled 151 total yards (82 ground, 69 air) and was the only consistent threat for the unit all day. In his first NFL start, he was Buffalo's leading rusher and receiver on this day. It was Jackson's presence that allowed the Bills to eventually overcome 8 penalties and a turnover.
Rumblings Game Balls
K Rian Lindell: Again, I've given him a lot of flack in the past, but he's certainly proven me wrong. Not only has Lindell made 17 straight field goals, but every single kick he hit today was high-pressure. I'm happily eating my words right now.
RB Fred Jackson: Can you say "diamond in the rough"? He averaged over 5 yards per carry and had a 54-yard reception on a day the offense couldn't score a touchdown. He was absolutely huge in this win.
LB Angelo Crowell: 9 tackles, a sack for a safety, and a fumble recovery as he lead a fantastic second-half defensive charge. This young leader is really starting to blossom.