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Bills vs. Cardinals, 2016: Buffalo secondary stymies Arizona

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The Buffalo Bills secondary came to play this week!

A hot start by the Buffalo Bills on both sides of the ball, along with a few key plays by the secondary late in the game, gave them their first victory of the season with a 33-18 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

The defense that was so maligned last week against the Jets started out very hot against the Cardinals. The team, which started Corey White on the outside in place of the injured Ronald Darby, forced the Cardinals into five straight three-and-outs to open the game, including the opening drive that saw the Cardinals punt after starting at the Bills’ 40. Stephon Gilmore, in particular, played a big part in holding Carson Palmer to 7-of-18 passing in the first half.

The offense also opened very well, opting to move away from the home run offense from last season and operate a bit more methodically. A huge run by Tyrod Taylor helped put the Bills in a goal-line situation early on, but the Bills opted to send out Dan Carpenter to make the game 3-0.

From there, LeSean McCoy took over. Shady ran for 89 yards in the first half, scoring on runs of 24 and 5 yards. The blocking up front was spectacular, giving McCoy plenty of room in the middle to break off several long runs early on. Mike Gillislee also saw his first ground action, recording 20 yards on the ground early on.

Of course, the team wasn’t perfect. Taylor looked improved from last week, both with his arm and legs, but wasn’t able to force much down the field early aside from a pass to Robert Woods (that probably would have been ruled incomplete on a challenge) that set up the first touchdown. He also overthrew Marquise Goodwin on an interception, although it pinned the Cardinals deep and didn’t affect anything expect fantasy football scoring. Jerry Hughes also showed us some of his form from last season, ripping off Palmer’s helmet on a third-down sack that extended the Cardinals’ lone touchdown drive of the first half.

The second half opened as well as the first one did. The Cardinals went three-and-out to open the first half, and the Bills responded with several big runs, capped by Taylor’s 20-yard touchdown scamper. Dan Carpenter, he of the six missed extra points last season, missed his first of this season to leave the score at 23-7.

The Cardinals responded with their own special teams gaffe on the other side of the field, however. A short field goal attempt (set up by two defensive stops and a fourth down delay-of-game penalty) was ruined by a high snap that the holder could not corral, allowing Aaron Williams to scoop up the ball and record the Bills’ second fumble recovery touchdown in as many games.

The Cardinals seemed to wake up at that point, recording several long plays reminiscent of the Jets game, and punched the ball in to make the score 30-13. (A two-point try was unsuccessful). Their next drive ended in a very impressive 60-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro, the longest kick in New Era Field history.

The defense came through to try to put the game away late in the fourth quarter. An errant throw by Palmer landed in the arms of a diving Gilmore, allowing the Bills to burn off two minutes from the clock and give Carpenter his second field goal of the game. Another late interception by Corey Graham deep in Bills territory slowed them down a bit as well, but the ball was placed at the one-yard line and the Cardinals managed to bring down McCoy for a safety on the first play of the drive.

John Brown brought the safety punt into the red zone, but a sack from Hughes forced a third-and-long that led to Gilmore’s second interception of the day. The Bills went three-and-out, but the Cards’ last-gasp drive ended with a Corey White interception, the fourth that Palmer threw on the day.

With that, the Bills have their first win of the 2016 season. Not a lot of experts gave the Bills much of a chance against a team many had pegged to make it to the Super Bowl, if not win the whole thing, and have a big momentum boost heading into their much-dreaded trip to New England to take on the Patriots next week.

For now, though, the Bills are on the board for 2016, and looked good making it there. Enjoy it.