DETROIT (AP) Kicker Dan Carpenter, quarterback Kyle Orton and the rest of the Buffalo Bills combined to provide a fitting send-off to the franchise’s Ralph Wilson era.
And they did it in the late Hall of Fame owner’s backyard of Detroit, no less.
Orton rallied the Bills from a 14-0 deficit in his debut as starter, and Carpenter sealed the 17-14 victory over the Lions with a 58-yard field goal with 4 seconds remaining Sunday.
It was a dramatic finish that came in what was the final game for the Bills under the Wilson family’s control since Ralph Wilson died in March. The team has since operated under the control of Wilson’s widow, Mary Wilson.
On Wednesday, NFL owners are expected to approve the sale of the Bills for a league-record $1.4 billion to Buffalo Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula.
”It means so much,” Bills president Russ Brandon said, noting that Mary Wilson and other members of the Wilson’s estate attended the game. ”We always used to laugh that even in preseason, `You had better win in Detroit, it’s Ralph’s hometown.’ I’m just so happy for Mary. She’s the ultimate competitor.”
The Bills (3-2) snapped a two-game skid in Orton’s first game as Buffalo’s starter after EJ Manuel was benched this week. And their defense had six sacks in delivering coordinator Jim Schwartz a win in his return to Detroit after being fired as Lions head coach last season.
Ralph Wilson grew up in Detroit, and maintained his home in nearby St. Clair Shores. Wilson even held a small share of the Lions before he helped form the upstart AFL by founding the Bills in Buffalo in 1959.
The Lions (3-2) were undone by placekicking. Alex Henery missed all three field-goal attempts, including a 50-yarder that sailed wide left with 21 seconds remaining.
Here are a number of things that came out of a game in which Buffalo improved to 5-4-1 all-time against Detroit:
ORTON’S DEBUT: Orton overcame a sluggish start, including an interception which Rashean Mathis returned 41 yards for a touchdown, to produce a big finish. The 10-year journeyman went 30 of 43 for 308 yards and a 2-yard touchdown to Chris Gragg that, combined with Fred Jackson’s 2-point conversion, tied the score in the fourth quarter.
It marked the eighth time in 71 starts Orton has won in overtime or when trailing or tied in the fourth quarter. He also had Buffalo’s first 300-yard passing game since Ryan Fitzpatrick had 337 yards in a 42-30 loss to New England on Nov. 11, 2011.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Carpenter hit three of four field-goal attempts with his only miss a 50-yarder in the third quarter that struck the left upright.
He also hit from 45 and 25 yards, with his 58-yarder the sixth-longest in NFL history to decide a game in the final 2 minutes or overtime.
”Usually, the height part is not really an issue for me, it’s really about just getting it there,” said Carpenter, who also hit a 27-yarder in overtime to seal Buffalo’s 23-20 season-opening win at Chicago. ”It’s like a birdie putt. You don’t want to leave it short.”
NOT SO SPECIAL TEAMS: The Lions might be in the market for another kicker after Henery hit the right upright from 44 yards, and was short and left on a 47-yard attempt.
”It’s a performance-based league, plain and simple, and you have to perform,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said.
The Lions signed Henery two weeks ago after cutting rookie Nate Freese.
SCHWARTZ’S RETURN: The Bills defense had six sacks, allowed 263 yards offense and stopped the Lions on 10 of 11 third-down chances.
Marcell Dareus led the charge with a career-best three sacks. He stepped up his game because fellow starter and mentor Kyle Williams was sidelined by a knee injury. And then he wanted to win for Schwartz.
”We all took it to ourselves to go out and do the best we could for Schwartz and for the team, and just pull it out,” said Dareus.
INJURIES: Bills cornerback Ron Brooks was held overnight in a Detroit hospital for evaluation for a neck injury sustained in a frightening collision during a punt return against the Lions. Brooks did wave his left hand after being placed on a spinal stabilization board and carted off the field midway through the first quarter.
Lions receiver Calvin Johnson’s status is uncertain after aggravating an ankle injury in the first minute of the third quarter. And Detroit running back Reggie Bush did not return after hurting his ankle early in the fourth quarter.
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