Bills come back, then hold on to victory against Raiders
Buffalo's riveting come-from-behind victory - secured by rookie Da'Norris Searcy's end zone interception as time expired - had been over for several minutes and the Bills players were celebrating their 2-0 start in the home-team locker room at the Ralph.
But the party came to a screeching halt when an official showed up like some killjoy to tell Chan Gailey the final play was being reviewed.
There was question whether Searcy, who out-leaped a couple of Oakland Raiders to grab Jason Campbell's last-second, Hail Mary pass, had sole possession of the ball when he crashed to the turf.
Fourth-string, rookie Raiders wide out Denarius Moore, a thorn in Buffalo's side all afternoon, certainly had done his darndest to get his paws on the pigskin, too.
And in the NFL, the tie always goes to the offense.
So if it were indeed determined that Moore had just as much of the football in his hands as Searcy had, then it would be ruled a touchdown reception - and a 38-35 Bills victory would be changed to a 42-38 Bills loss.
And the majority of the 68,191 spectators who were already whooping it up in the parking lots would have been tempted to curse the football gods and drive their vehicles into Lake Erie.
As I watched referee Mike Carey head to the hooded camera for the review, all I could think of was the "Music City Miracle." I'm sure I was not alone.
As Chan Gailey said, "You never know what's going to happen when they go under the hood."
Fortunately, for the Bills, misery wasn't about to repeat itself.
Instead of a comedown to forget, Buffalo was able to resume enjoying a comeback to remember.
For only the sixth time in Bills regular-season history, they had erased a second-half deficit of 18 points or more.
Oddly, Carey explained afterward that his beeper had gone off erroneously, and that the play already had been reviewed upstairs, immediately after it had occurred. Meaning that upon further review there should not have been further review.
So the play stood as called, the announcement made with just a few thousand nervous fans still in the stadium. When I heard Carey say over the public address system "The interception stands!" I thought maybe, just maybe, the luck is finally starting to change for the better in Bills Nation.
No, Ryan Fitzpatrick is not Jim Kelly. But the Harvard man doesn't lack for brains or moxie. After a mediocre first half, he bounced back to throw three touchdown passes and engineered five consecutive touchdown drives. Fitz was downright masterful on that final 80-yard drive that culminated in a six-yard scoring toss to David Nelson who was left uncovered in the end zone. He now has seven TD passes, the first time a Bills QB has opened a season this hot since Jimbo had eight scoring tosses through two games in 1991.
No, Fred Jackson is not Thurman Thomas. But the undrafted back from Coe College (Marv's alma mater) has done something the past two weeks that only two backs in Bills history have done. Steady Freddie rushed for 117 yards today, giving him back-to-back century-mark games, just as the Thurmantor did at the start of the 1991 season and O.J. Simpson had done at the start of the 1973 and '75 seasons.
And, no, Chan Gailey is not Marv Levy. But he has revived a moribund team that is 6-4 after a 0-8 start last season. He knows how to call a game, as evidenced by the 79 points Buffalo has dialed up so far, the most since the '91 club opened with 87 points. These Bills believe in Gailey, and perhaps it's time we should, too.
Does this mean they are ready to end their 11-year playoff drought? Probably not.
Does this mean they are ready to knock off New England and Tom Brady next Sunday? Probably not.
But they're getting closer to ending these streaks of misery. For the first time in quite some time there's a buzz around this team. The Bills are becoming relevant and enjoyable to watch. They've won going away in Kansas City and they've won by digging themselves out of a huge hole. These are steps in the right direction.
Searcy clearly was determined not to let Campbell's prayers be answered today.
He was determined not to allow someone snatch a victory from him and his teammates.
And upon further review, the win was not reversed.
Maybe, just maybe the luck is finally starting to change for the better for the long-suffering citizens of Bills Nation.
Award-winning columnist and author Scott Pitoniak has followed the Bills since the mid-1960s and covered them since 1985, writing five books about the team along the way. His 14th book overall, Color Him Orange: The Jim Boeheim Story, will be published by Triumph Books in late October and will be available both in print and digital editions. You can read more by Scott at www.scottpitoniak.com .
SCOTT'S REPORT CARD
COACHING: The Bills were sluggish early on and hurt themselves with a drive-killing interception and penalty. But Chan Gailey did a good job making adjustments in the second half, as the Bills wiped out an 18-point deficit. Grade: B
OFFENSE: The Bills rushed for 217 yards, passed for 264 yards and produced five touchdowns on five second-half possessions. Fred Jackson is something else, having ripped off yards of 43, 34 and 29 against a defense that yielded 38 rushing yards the week before. Another good game for the O-line. Grade: B-plus
DEFENSE: They had a much tougher go of it this week as Jason Campbell passed for 323 yards, despite operating without his top four receivers who were out with injuries. Secondary had a tough day against Denarius Moore, a fourth-string rookie receiver who out-played them for five catches, 146 yards and a score. Bills did do a decent job bottling up Darren McFadden (20 carries, 72 yards, 3.6 yards-per-carry.) Third-quarter forced fumble by Nick Barnett was a huge tide-turner. Grade: C
SPECIAL TEAMS: Brian Moorman averaged 49.5 yards per punt. Rian Lindell connected on one field goal but had another blocked. Return game not much of a factor because Oakland kicker Sebastian Janakowski boomed all six kicks into the end zone or beyond for touchbacks. Grade: C
OVERALL: After showing they could win in a rout, they showed they win in a comeback. The Bills are still a work in progress - and the key word there is progress. They have the ability to score against New England, but they can't afford to get into a shoot-out with Tom Brady. Hey that 15-game losing streak vs. the Patriots has to end sometime. Could this be the week? Grade: B