At 3-0, Bills go from AFC's near-worst to first
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)
Coach Chan Gailey prefers the alternative after being reminded how the Buffalo Bills were affectionately referred to as ''lovable losers'' a year ago.
''Yeah, you'd rather be a lovable winner,'' Gailey said Monday.
Surprise, surprise. A year after Buffalo became the NFL's last team to win a game following an 0-8 start, look who's left as the AFC's only remaining unbeaten team three weeks into this season. It's those never-give-up, offensively prolific, no-name, slow-starting, fast-finishing, good-news-story Bills.
''If feels good,'' center Eric Wood said. ''But we also knows what it feels like to lose, and we don't want to go back there. We're going to keep that chip on our shoulder. ... We know we have to go out and earn respect each and every week.''
At 3-0, the Bills have attracted most everyone's attention as they prepare to travel to play Cincinnati (1-2) on Sunday.
They're leading the NFL with 113 points, which also happens to be a franchise record over a three-game stretch. And they're showing they can win in dramatic fashion.
Buffalo's coming off a 34-31 win over AFC East rival New England in a game the Bills rallied from a 21-0 second-quarter deficit to snap a 15-game losing streak against the Patriots. That followed a stirring 38-35 win over Oakland in which Buffalo was down by 18 at the half.
Dating to 1950, the Bills became the NFL's first team to win consecutive games by overcoming 18-point deficits.
''The objective is to win the game,'' Gailey said, before adding he'd prefer a faster start. ''We'd like to not have to set records for coming back.''
Buffalo has opened 3-0 for only the ninth time in franchise history, and first since going 4-0 in 2008. The Bills eventually got to 5-1 before unraveling en route to a 7-9 finish.
There's at least one difference to this season's start, given that the Bills already have a win over an AFC East rival. They went 0-6 against the division in 2008.
And there's a newfound confidence that's grown with each win.
''When you go out there and make wins how we did, it just boosts our confidence even more,'' receiver Stevie Johnson said. ''Worst to first: You've seen that plenty of times with teams. Why not the Buffalo Bills?''
After spending the past 11 seasons of missing the playoffs and establishing franchise lows, the Bills are producing mostly highs this year.
For an offense that scored 20 points only four times last season, Buffalo has now scored 30 in three straight games, including a 41-3 opening win at Kansas City. It's the longest stretch since scoring 30 points over a five-game stretch in 2004.
The comebacks have been impressive given that Buffalo's rallied from 18-points or more only six times before. That includes setting an NFL playoff record by overcoming a 32-point deficit in a 41-38 overtime win over Houston in the 1993 AFC Wild Card game.
Fitzpatrick has now accounted for three of those comebacks, including a 49-31 win at Cincinnati last season, in which Buffalo trailed by 21 points.
With 369 yards passing against New England, Fitzpatrick in two seasons has become the first Bills player to have three 300-yard games since Drew Bledsoe had eight from 2002-03.
And if that's not enough, the Bills have produced 400 yards offense in each of their past two games, which already matches the number they had all last season.
Buffalo's already one win short of matching last year's total, and the players believe last season was an important learning experience for a team that endured far too many frustrating close calls. The Bills lost five games by 5 points or less, including three in overtime.
''We were kind of lovable losers last year. Everyone rooted for us because we tried so hard,'' Wood said. ''But that's not what it's about in this business. That's not what keeps you around. And I'm glad we're winning ballgames. We've got to keep it going.''
Wood added: ''As Chan said today, `Coming in and saying great win is fun to get used to'.''
Notes: Gailey said tests confirmed that rookie CB Aaron Williams will be out indefinitely after he hurt his collarbone Sunday. Gailey didn't provide a timetable except to say the injury is not season-ending. ... Rookie LB Chris White will miss a few weeks after pulling his hamstring. ... Starting RG Kraig Urbik (left knee) and reserve LB Kirk Morrison (hamstring) could resume practicing this week.