At Ralph Wilson Stadium on Sunday, the Buffalo Bills stole a victory over the visiting Minnesota Vikings in a game they had no business winning. For most of the game, Buffalo continued their maddening habit of shooting themselves in the foot with mistakes, turnovers and penalties – a habit they haven’t been able to break for 14 non-playoff seasons under five different coaches. Bills’ fans have seen this act so often over the years that they show little patience for the current team when they start to exhibit their same story, different day behavior. So for the third time in four home games, the Bills were booed off the field at halftime, this time trailing a very beatable Viking team, 13-10. Neither club did anything in a listless third quarter, and when Orton threw a bad interception in the early portion of the final quarter to set up a Minnesota field goal, the Bills found themselves down 16-10 in a game that they were favored to win. Kyle Orton, the Bills’ QB who had a tough afternoon with six sacks against and another pair of turnovers, pulled his offensive unit together and engineered an 80 yard drive that culminated with a 2 yard touchdown strike to Sammy Watson with one second left on the clock to steal a 17-16 win. Here are some thoughts about things that happened during the game and what they might mean going forward:
* Orton’s performance was typical of his career – he was brutally awful at times, but brilliant on the final drive, which actually was much longer than 80 yards, as the Bills needed to overcome penalties and sacks that caused third and fourth and long situations. Orton hit Scott Chandler and Chris Hogan on key completions before connecting with Watkins for the winning score.
* Watkins had his best game of what has been an uneven rookie year. He’s had some average games also, mostly when he didn’t seem completely recovered from an early season rib injury, but he is without a doubt going to grow into a major weapon for his team’s offense for the remainder of this year and beyond. He is slowly developing some chemistry with Orton and will be scary good when he’s completely on the same page with his veteran signal-caller.
* The Bills’ running game took a major hit looking ahead to the immediate future. Fred Jackson suffered a groin injury and left the game. That meant that C.J. Spiller, who’s struggled all year, was going to get his chance to get multiple carries. Unfortunately, on his first attempt, he went down with a collarbone injury, which happened after he was tackled on a stirring 53 yard scamper. Anthony Dixon did an admirable job finishing the game as the lone back, and in the coming weeks, depending on how long Jackson and Spiller are sidelined, off-season trade acquisition Bryce Brown will get his first chance to contribute after being an inactive healthy scratch all year.
* There were some unsung heroes in the game Sunday, including Leodis McKelvin, who nabbed a pair of interceptions, Dixon with some key runs, the defensive line with four sacks, and linebacker Preston Brown with some impressive tackling.
* The Bills’ offensive line has looked overwhelmed the last 2 weeks, especially the guards, Erik Pears and rookie Cyril Richardson. Why wouldn’t the coaching staff want to take a look at the backups, Chris Hairston and Kraig Urbik, at some point? Urbik was a starter on last year’s line that led the rushing attack to a second-best in the NFL ranking, but supposedly lost his job to Pears, who hasn’t impressed.