Niagara Gazette

Bills

October 9, 2011

Bills keep turning turnovers into victories

ORCHARD PARK — Sure, the yards allowed have piled up this season, but the Buffalo Bills have come up big in an area that usually matters more — turnovers.

Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick was picked off four times Sunday, with the fourth-and-final interception coming late in the fourth quarter on the Eagles’ final offensive drive to seal Buffalo’s 31-24 win at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Nick Barnett scooped up his second pick of the day on a Vick pass intended for Jason Avant on third-and-3 inside the Bills red zone with less than two minutes to go.

“I tried to get the pick, but I got the PBU (pass break-up) and Nick Barnett was in the right place at the right time and we got the turnover,” Bills cornerback Drayton Florence said. “We were able to get that turnover at a costly time in the game and it paid off for us.”

Through five weeks the Buffalo defense has reeled in 12 interceptions, already one better than last year’s season total of 11. The Bills have also scored a defensive touchdown in three consecutive games for the first time since 1960, their inaugural season. Buffalo had just two TDs on defense a year ago.

“We’re scoring off of turnovers, we’re creating turnovers — I think we’re leading the league in picks right now,” Florence said. “We just have to continue to set ourselves up for postseason play because that’s what the good teams do — they get turnovers and they score off of them.”

The Bills have allowed at least 454 total yards of offense in each of the last four weeks, but Florence said the Bills have made up for it with takeways.

“I’m mean, giving up the yards, obviously we don’t want to do that, but at the end of the day this game’s about winning,” Florence added. “As long as we come out with a win giving up 400 or 500 yards passing, it’s a stat that we don’t like to give up, but if we can go out and get a ‘W’ that’s what everybody is going to remember.”

•••

The Buffalo pass rush got under the skin of Vick early and often, with a pair of hits resulting in timely interceptions. Arthur Moats tagged Vick as he released the football in the first quarter which resulted in Wilson’s interception.

Barnett had his first of the day fall right in his lap after rookie Kelvin Sheppard brought Vick down just as he threw the ball.

“They slid the protection and the tackle and back actually popped out on the outside rusher and I crept in right behind the tackle and applied the pressure and by the time I looked up, I seen Nick going down the sideline,” Sheppard said of Barnett’s 41-yard interception return in the second quarter that put the Bills up 21-7.

•••

It’s not often that a hard count forces a defense— at any level — to jump offsides on late in the game. Sunday, though, it proved to be the difference-maker with 1:23 remaining. Ryan Fitzpatrick’s cadence resulted in Philadelphia defensive tackle Juqua Parker jumping offside for a 5-yard penalty.

“When you’re going through it in practice it’s kind of like, ‘why are we doing this again.’ But it just goes to show you there’s some good situation stuff that happened today with that obviously being the big one that put the game away there with the penalty,” Fitzpatrick said.

Parker was lined up in front of left guard Andy Levitre, the left guard who lined up in front of Parker, said the Bills made some dummy calls at the line, but gave credit Fitzpatrick for drawing the offsides.

Levitre said with a smirk that the plan was to punt if the plan didn’t work. Coach Chan Gailey wasn’t as forthcoming.

“I’ll never tell,” he said.

•••

Wide receiver Donald Jones was carted off the field into the locker room late in the first quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. Naaman Roosevelt was counted on immediately to fill Jones’ role, and the second-year wideout came away with five catches for 41 yards, including a 20 yard pass-and-catch in the fourth quarter.

“I definitely just wanted to pick up where Donald left off because he’s definitely out there making plays,” Roosevelt said. “Fitz had trust in getting me the ball so I just wanted to make the best of my opportunities.”

Jones exited the locker room after the game on crutches with a boot on his left foot.

“It’s going to be a while,” Gailey said. “It’s not a year, but it’s going to be a while.”

•••

The Eagles entered Sunday’s game against the Bills tied for the league lead with 15 sacks. Despite a rookie starting at left tackle, Ryan Fitzpatrick was brought down just once by Philly.

“We played as a unit,” said Chris Hairston, who filled in for an injured Demetrius Bell. “We communicated very well and we were able to all really be on one page and that’s a huge part of O-line success. Being able to do that really put us in a position to protect Fitz, open some holes up for Fred, and it really helps you enjoy playing out there.”

Hairston said it was good to come away with a win in his first career start.

“Having my mom out in the stands, my son and my loved ones out there,” he said. “I enjoyed just being out there playing the game I love.

•••

Fred Jackson became the first Buffalo running back since Willis McGahee in 2005 to score at least one touchdown in four straight games. ... Nose tackle Kyle Williams was not on the field for the Bills on the Eagles’ final drive. Williams said after the game that he sustained an injury to his left foot and would know more of the extent today. ... Vick surpassed Randall Cunningham’s all-time NFL record for career rushing yards (4,928) as a quarterback in the third quarter. Cunningham played 16 NFL seasons, including 11 with Philadelphia. Vick is in his ninth season. ... Vick also reached another milestone Sunday by throwing his 100th touchdown pass. ... Terrence McGee was active Sunday for the first time since injury his hamstring in the first quarter at Kansas City in Week 1. Demetrius Bell (shoulder), Chris Kelsay (calf) and Torell Troup (back) were among the inactives for the Bills. Also in street clothes were Aaron Williams, Terrence Wheatley and Chris White. Trent Cole and former Bill Jason Peters missed the contest for the Eagles, as did Mike Kafka, Jaiquawn Jarrett, Curtis Marsh, Kyle DeVanand Julian Vandervelde.

Contact Tonawanda News sports editor Brandon Koch at brandon.koch@tonawanda-news.com.

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