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Buffalo Bills 2014 season: first half photo essay review

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At the midway point of the 2014 season, the Buffalo Bills are 5-3 and in the thick of the AFC playoff picture. Let's recap Buffalo's first eight games of the season in style.

Alex Goodlett

For the most part, the Buffalo Bills' 5-3 start to the 2014 season has been a fun ride. Let's continue our relaxing bye week by picking one photo from each game that exemplifies the overriding narrative for each contest. There are some genuinely excellent photos from big-time moments over the past two months, and a select few of those are below.

Week 1: Bills 23, Bears 20 (OT)


Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

After building a 17-7 lead, the explosive Bears offense was able to close the gap in the second half and force overtime, tied at 20-20. Buffalo's defense held on the opening possession of the extra period, however, and on the ensuing possession, Fred Jackson raced 38 yards - treating safety Chris Conte like a cardboard cutout with a vicious stiff-arm along the way - to set up a game-winning field goal by Dan Carpenter.

Week 2: Bills 29, Dolphins 10


Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

In a low-scoring, defensive affair, it was running back and kick returner C.J. Spiller that blew the doors open on the Bills' eventual dominating win when, leading 9-3 in the third quarter, he returned a kickoff 102 yards to up the Bills' lead to 16-3. (Miami would score a touchdown on their next possession, but the Bills responded yet again with a Sammy Watkins touchdown to effectively put the game on ice.)

Week 3: Chargers 22, Bills 10


Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Philip Rivers and the Chargers burst the bubble on the Bills' 2-0 start with a highly efficient day passing the football in the Chargers' 22-10 win at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Rivers completed 18-of-25 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns - both to receiver Eddie Royal, pictured above - and Buffalo's offense could not match it in a disappointing defeat to one of the better teams in the AFC.

Week 4: Texans 23, Bills 17


Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

In a Week 4 road trip to Houston, star defensive lineman J.J. Watt essentially beat the Bills by himself. He did not record a sack in the contest, but that hardly mattered; he recorded an absurd 15 quarterback pressures in the contest, including nine hits on EJ Manuel. To top it all off, he made the play of the game: with the Bills leading 10-3 in the third quarter and on the cusp of scoring more points, he intercepted a Manuel pass intended for Jackson in the flat and returned it 80 yards for a game-tying touchdown.

Week 5: Bills 17, Lions 14


Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

Two down performances prompted a quarterback switch, with Kyle Orton taking over for Manuel. Things got off to a slow start, with the Lions - who today are 6-2 - building an early 14-0 lead thanks in large part to an ugly pick-six Orton threw. Slowly, however, the Bills worked their way back into the contest, with Orton throwing a two-yard touchdown pass to Chris Gragg in the fourth quarter (with a Jackson two-point conversion) to tie the game, 14-14. Aided by three missed field goal on the Lions' behalf, and a juggling Watkins catch as a setup, Carpenter drilled a 58-yard field goal to give the Bills an improbable win.

Also, this happened. Orton is the best quarterback on the Internet.

Week 6: Patriots 37, Bills 22


Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

It was a game that many hyped as the biggest Bills game in years, and it included rhetoric that Tom Brady and the Patriots were showing signs of slowing down after a decade-plus of dominance. But while the Bills were able to keep it a one-score game in the fourth quarter, New England controlled throughout in the most demoralizing of the Bills' three losses. In the second half alone, Brady completed 15-of-17 passes for 274 yards and three touchdowns. Order was restored, and the Pats are 6-2 today.

Week 7: Bills 17, Vikings 16


Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

For a long time, it looked like the Bills were going to blow a should-win game on their home field against a struggling NFC opponent with a rookie quarterback. It was Watkins, however, that ended up being the Bills' saving grace. A 26-yard touchdown in the second quarter gave the Bills a 7-3 lead, and after the Vikings were able to up their lead to 16-10 late in the fourth quarter, it was Watkins' toe-tapping, two-yard touchdown with a second remaining that allowed the Bills to steal a win. Watkins finished this game with 122 yards and two scores on nine receptions.

Week 8: Bills 43, Jets 23


Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo got four passing touchdowns out of Orton and 43 points in total, but they struggled to move the ball consistently all day, particularly on the ground. How, then, did the final numbers look so gaudy? Geno Smith, Michael Vick, and the Jets turned the football over a whopping six times in this 20-point road win against a hated division foe. Stephon Gilmore, Preston Brown, Aaron Williams, and Da'Norris Searcy each recorded an interception, while Stefan Charles and Duke Williams added fumble recoveries.