Bills finally win at their home-away-from-home
By SCOTT PITONIAK
TORONTO - Chan Gailey said he was worried about how his team would react coming off the bye week. "Scared to death" was the phrase the Bills second-year coach used.
"You don't know if your guys are back into it or not,'' he said from the bowels of the Rogers Centre early Sunday evening. "We had a couple of guys late for meetings (last week) because they were not back into the routine, so it makes you nervous as a coach. Can they all get it back together and get working the way we're supposed to work?"
I think it's pretty obvious after watching Buffalo annihilate the Washington Redskins, 23-0, to improve to 5-2 that the Bills got it back together and then some.
The guy who wound up being scared to death was Redskins quarterback John Beck, who was sacked - THIS IS NOT A MISPRINT - nine times by a Bills defense that entered the game with an NFL-low total of four sacks in its first six games. The nine sacks were the second most in franchise history, and the most since Buffalo recorded 11 on Dec. 13, 1964. The nine sacks also were the most against a Redskins team in 33 seasons.
Gailey had complained after a sackless loss to the Giants two weeks ago that working on improving the pass rush would be priority No. 1 during the bye week.
"That was amazing to go get nine sacks against that team,'' he said. "They really worked hard at it during the bye week. I don't think anybody expected that. I'll be honest with you, I didn't expect that."
Yes, this sack attack was perpetrated against a team missing its starting left tackle (Trent Williams), its leading rusher (Tim Hightower) and its leading receiver (Santana Moss). And against a team with a mediocre quarterback (John Beck) making just his third NFL start.
But, come on now. Nine sacks. That's incredible.
While that certainly was unexpected, the continued excellence of Fred Jackson was not. Steady Freddie turned in his fifth 100-yard rushing performance of the season with 120 yards on 26 carries. And he also contributed 74 more yards on three receptions. By doing so, he became the first Bills running back since Hall-of-Famer Thurman Thomas to accumulate more than 1,000 all-purpose yards through the first seven games of the season. (Let's hope now that Fitz's contract extension has been finalized that the Bills will do the right thing and reward Jackson, too.)
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick - the Bills new $59-million man - had another solid outing, completing 21-of-27 passes for 262 yards for two scores. Yes, he also had a rare red-zone interception and lost the handle on a fumble - the first lost fumble by Buffalo in 25 quarters. But the Bills "D" was so suffocating, it didn't matter.
Fitz did survive a scary moment late in the first half when Skins linebacker London Fletcher drilled him as he completed a pass to Jackson.
"I think everybody on offense and the whole team had a collective gasp when they saw him down there on the fieldtrying to suck air, so to speak," said Jackson. "He came back to the huddle and was still doing the same thing, so everybody's in the huddle wide-eyed and trying to make sure he's OK because obviously he's a huge part of what we do. Without him, we wouldn't be in the situation we are. So that was the first thing. I tried to make sure he was all right after the play, and it's good for him to back in there because . . . "
Before Jackson could finish his sentence, he was interrupted by Fitz, who was sharing the podium with him, and having a grand, old time.
"I just want to add to that, I thought, 'Boy, Toronto really doesn't like me" because I didn't know he broke the tackle and ran down the sideline. So I said, "That's a lot of excitement for a quarterback getting hit." But then I noticed Fred was running."
Running for a 46-yard gain that set up the 44-yard RianLindell field goal that put the Bills up 13-0 as time ran out in the first half.
Big plays like that one got the normally docile, disinterested Toronto Bills fans off their fannies. Showing passion they hadn't shown