The Buffalo Bills have a 14-7 lead over the Oakland Raiders through two quarters at New Era Field. Buffalo’s defense recovered from an early touchdown to force three punts and a defensive touchdown, and the Bills offense added a touchdown of its own in the second quarter.
The Raiders scored a touchdown on their first possession, after Derek Carr found Michael Crabtree to get the team to the one yard line. On the next drive, the Bills looked to be on their way to answering with a score of their own, but a phantom offensive pass interference penalty undid a Jordan Matthews catch and run that would have brought the Bills to the red zone. Head referee Ed Hochuli, whose officiating crew leads the NFL with 19.4 flags per game, ended up calling a few more in both directions to even out the impact before the half ended.
The Bills finally got on the board halfway through the second quarter, with some nice running from LeSean McCoy and passing from Tyrod Taylor culminating in a toe-tapping end zone reception by Andre Holmes on a broken play. The Raiders looked like they would answer right away, returning the ensuing kickoff nearly to the end zone, but it was called all the way back to inside their 20 yard line on a holding penalty. Oakland’s drive eventually sputtered to a punt.
With less than a minute remaining in the half, the Raiders had started to drive, deep in their own end of the field. Then Leonard Johnson delivered a textbook tackle to Raiders runner DeAndre Washington, popping the ball up right into the hands of rookie linebacker Matt Milano. Milano brought it all the way back for his first career fumble return and his first career touchdown return, giving the Bills the lead for the first time in the game. Even kicker Stephen Hauschka got in on the big plays, forcing a Cordarelle Patterson fumble on the ensuing kickoff, though Oakland recovered that one.
One surprising mismatch in this game so far: the punting results. Bills punter Colton Schmidt had an excellent first half, with a 47.7 net punting average, two punts downed inside the 20, and one of those landing at the one yard line. On the other side, All-Pro punter Marquette King is dealing with a groin injury, and it’s showing on the field. He’s punted three times for an average of only 34 yards. The field position battle goes to the Bills in the first half.
Buffalo will receive the opening kickoff of the second half, hoping to extend their lead and solidify their playoff positioning. We’re talking about it here. Go Bills!