Ryan Fitzpatrick quickly made his expensive new contract pay off, and the Buffalo Bills finally gave their adopted – and sometimes indifferent – fans north of the border something big to cheer about.
Fitzpatrick hit tight end Scott Chandler for two touchdowns, and the Bills once porous defense had nine sacks and two interceptions to batter the already injury-riddled Washington Redskins 23-0 on Sunday.
It marked Buffalo’s first win in four trips to Toronto, since the cross-border series was established in 2008. They handed Redskins coach Mike Shanahan his first shutout loss in 24 seasons as an NFL coach or offensive coordinator, according to STATS LLC.
And surprise, surprise, the Bills were the ones drawing much of the applause days after safety George Wilson questioned Toronto fans’ passion and loyalty toward Buffalo.
”That was one of the things coming in, give them something to cheer about. And I thought we did that today,” said Fitzpatrick, who signed a six-year, $59 million contract two days earlier. ”I think there was more excitement out there than there has been in years past.”
Fitzpatrick did his part in helping the Bills (5-2) open a season with four consecutive ”home” wins for the first time since 1995.
And the defense proved dominating, coming out of its bye week off in limiting the Redskins to 178 yards and 10 first downs.
”It was a great overall performance,” said defensive end Spencer Johnson, who had a sack and blocked Graham Gano’s 49-yard field-goal attempt in the second quarter. ”To shut anybody out in the NFL, that’s a big feat, a big accomplishment and a big step in the right direction.”
The Redskins (3-4) have lost three straight and look nothing like the team that entered its bye week at 3-1.
”It’s pretty humbling to take that,” Shanahan said. ”That’s as bad as I’ve ever been involved with from the offensive side.”
Washington continues to unravel as a result of such a growing list of injuries that would put a dent into Canada’s universal health care system.
Without running back Tim Hightower (knee), receiver Santana Moss (hand) and tight end Chris Cooley (knee), the John Beck-led attack managed 61 yards of offense and three first downs on six first-half possessions.
It didn’t get much better in the second half.
Their second drive of the half ended when Beck was sacked for a seventh time attempting to convert a fourth-and-4. The next time out, Beck was intercepted by Wilson.
”I kind of don’t have any answers right now,” Beck said, making his second straight start since replacing Rex Grossman. ”I’m trying to figure that out myself. This is the one you want to see the tape, because it will be very telling.”
Beck went 20 of 33 for 208 yards.
With the Bills up 13-0 at the half, Fitzpatrick opened the third quarter with a seven-play, 80-yard drive, which he capped by hitting Chandler on a 15-yard fade in the left corner of the end zone.
Running back Fred Jackson had 120 yards rushing, and 74 receiving. With 1,074 yards from scrimmage, he became only the fourth Bills player to surpass 1,000 yards seven games into a season, and first since Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas in 1991.
The nine sacks is the second best total in team history, and two short of the record.
And they came with Buffalo minus two key starters, defensive tackle Kyle Williams (foot) and linebacker Shawne Merriman (Achilles tendon)
”I don’t think anybody expected that,” coach Chan Gailey said. ”I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t expect that.”
Rookie first-round pick Marcell Dareus’ 2 1/2 sacks led the way for a defense that entered the game with just four all season.
”I think this is the first complete game our team has played, and it’s only the beginning,” Dareus said. ”The sky’s the limit.”
Fitzpatrick went 21 of 27 for 262 yards, and shook off a pair of turnovers and a big hit from linebacker London Fletcher.
Late in the first half, Fletcher caught Fitzpatrick high on the chest and bowled him over just as the quarterback completed a short pass to Jackson, who turned it into a 46-yard gain. Fitzpatrick was slow in getting up and then dropped to one knee.
After being attended to briefly by the training staff, Fitzpatrick stayed in the game to help set up Rian Lindell’s 44-yard field goal to put Buffalo up 13-0 as time ran out.
”I think the whole team had a collective gasp when they saw him down there trying to suck air,” Jackson said. ”It was good for him to get back in there.”
Notes: There were notable pockets of Redskins fans throughout the Rogers Centre as part of an announced crowd of 51,579. Fans were late-arriving, as there were numerous empty seats throughout the 54,000-seat stadium. … The Bills did blame a false start on the cheering fans for doing the wave on a third-and-1 at the Redskins 16 in the fourth quarter. … Shanahan was the Broncos receivers coach in a 27-0 loss to the Bears on Sept. 9, 1984, the only other time he’s been blanked, according to STATS.