Bills back to normal after finally returning home

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) It’s back to normal for the vagabond Buffalo Bills.

Finally.

The more than 6 feet of snow from the severe lake-effect storm that paralyzed much of the Buffalo region last week has mostly melted away. So has the Bills two-game skid, following a 38-3 rout of the New York Jets in a ”home” game at Detroit on Monday night.

And after a much-needed day of rest Tuesday, the Bills (6-5) can turn their attention to hosting the Cleveland Browns (7-4) in a key AFC playoff showdown this weekend.

”It was just a busy, hectic week. And really this win was for the city of Buffalo, giving back for everything that they’ve been through,” receiver Robert Woods said. ”It feels good, especially after a win. Now we’ve just got to get another one.”

First things first, said team president Russ Brandon.

”I’m just happy we’re home,” Brandon said, after the team returned home at 1 a.m. Tuesday, after spending the previous four days in Detroit. ”It’s great to be sitting back in Orchard Park and looking forward to preparing for Sunday.”

And, yes, Brandon expects the game against Cleveland will be played at Ralph Wilson Stadium

Following a tour of the facility, Brandon anticipates the stadium will be ”100 percent operational,” despite experiencing some minor damage during the storm.

The problems ranged from burst pipes, to leakage, to parts of the wall separating the field from the stands being damaged during the snow-removal process. A portion of the wall of the Bills’ practice facility caved in, but has already been repaired.

Brandon said engineers found no structural issues to the stadium itself.

A weekend warmup contributed to the speedier than expected cleanup. Crews of about 500 snow-shoveling volunteers did the rest by working three shifts around the clock from Saturday morning to Monday night.

If not for the thaw, the Bills projected it would have taken until Friday to clear the 200-acre grounds of the estimated 330,000 tons of snow – enough to fill the team’s fieldhouse about 12 times over.

The Bills hope to find themselves on better footing, too, after their most lopsided win since beating Indianapolis 38-0 on Sept. 20, 1992.

Buffalo’s defense allowed a season-low 218 yards offense, and had a season-best seven sacks to up its NFL-leading total to 46. The Bills special teams produced a touchdown, when Anthony Dixon blocked Ryan Quigley’s punt, which was recovered in the end zone by Manny Lawson.

And the Kyle Orton-led offense ended a seven-plus-quarter touchdown drought. Buffalo also produced touchdowns on each of its three red-zone possessions, after going 0-for-6 in its previous two games.

Not bad for a snowbound team that didn’t have a chance to practice last week until arriving in Detroit on Friday.

The storm had a unifying effect.

”A lot of players have been through a lot,” Woods said. ”And you just realize how much you miss the game, miss your teammates. It was just happy to get back and be able to play football again, and get out of the house, really.”

The second-year receiver led the way with a career-best nine catches and 118 yards and a touchdown. Woods also made a highlight-reel one-handed grab up the right sideline during which he maintained control by holding the ball to the side of his helmet.

Woods acknowledged his catch wasn’t as clean or breath-taking as New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr.’s one-handed grab for a touchdown in a 31-28 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday night.

But Beckham’s catch was certainly on Woods’ mind before the game while he warmed up with backup quarterback EJ Manuel.

”Every time (Manuel) caught it one hand, it was like, `Odell! Odell!”’ Woods said. ”And it just so happened that I had a chance to make a play like that in the game. I had a little helmet help, but it’s still a good catch.”

NOTES: The Bills return to practice Wednesday. … Buffalo has a winning record through 11 games for only the third time since its 14-season playoff drought began in 2000. The Bills were 6-5 in both 2000 and 2008. … Buffalo converted 7 of 13 third-down opportunities for a season-best 54 percent.

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