Don’t look now, but these AFC East-leading Buffalo Bills just may be for real.
Sure, we are just three games into the season but being 3-0 and defeating perennial AFC power New England 34-31 to get there is a strong indication things are changing in Buffalo. The Bills had lost to the Patriots 15 straight times before kicker Rian Lindell booted a 28-yard field goal as time expired Sunday to give Buffalo the win and send the crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium into an utter frenzy.
“This city has been through a lot, and they finally have a team they can believe in,” said second-year wide receiver Dave Nelson. “I just wanted to be out there to experience it with them.”
What Nelson and the Bills' fans experienced is another rousing comeback as the Bills trailed 21-0 in the second quarter. It seemed that Bill Bellichick’s Patriots were on the way to bringing the Bills back to reality. But something strange happened. The Bills didn’t give up. They kept plugging away.
Harvard-trained quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick made enough plays and running back Fred Jackson came up with some big runs. But mostly it was the Bills defense that remained relentless through. They intercepted Patriots quarterback Tom Brady four times and set the stage for an edge-of-your-seat fourth quarter.
The Bills had also mounted a big comeback a week earlier against the Oakland Raiders.
“The resolve of this team is unbelievable,” said Bills linebacker Chris Kelsay. “You've got a lot of young guys on this team, but it was amazing the way they handled the situation. [Head coach Chan Gailey] addressed the team before we took the field in the second half and said, ‘Hey, we've been in worse shape than this before.’ And, we believed. Our fans stuck behind us.”
The Bills, who have been stuck in futility for years, are trying to keep things in perspective. Yes, they are 3-0 and easily the surprise team of the NFL season, but it’s just three games into the season.
“It doesn't mean anything,” said George Wilson, who's filling in while his father Ralph Wilson, the Bills owner, recovers from a broken hip in Detroit. “I mean, we've shown we can beat the Patriots now. It's the third game of the year. You don't win a championship by being 3-0. You don't earn the respect around the league by winning three games. We're just working to be 4-0. This doesn't mean we're in the playoffs right now. We haven't even gotten through the first quarter of the season. We've got more games to go."
(Photo: Rick Stewart/Getty Images)