CHICAGO (AP) The Buffalo Bills’ push to end a 14-year playoff drought is off to a good start.
Fred Jackson set up Dan Carpenter’s overtime field goal with a 38-yard run to the 1, and the visiting Bills surprised the Chicago Bears 23-20 in the season opener on Sunday.
The 33-year-old Jackson ran for just 61 yards on the day, but he came through with a big scamper at the end.
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”I am old, but I can still play,” he said.
The Bears had just punted, and Buffalo took over on its 22 to start the winning possession. The Bills moved the ball to the Chicago 39 when the Jackson turned toward the left side and broke off his big run, pushing safety Chris Conte out of the way twice inside the 10 before being knocked out of bounds.
EJ Manuel backed up 3 yards and put the ball in the middle of the field. After a delay of game penalty, Carpenter won it with a 27-yarder.
It was a good start for the Bills as they enter a new era following the death of founding father and Hall of Fame owner Ralph Wilson. They are trying to get to the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season and they started by knocking off a team eyeing its own run to the postseason.
”It’s so difficult to win on the road in this league, especially on opening day. I think it’s even tougher,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said. ”I’m proud of them. It was different. I’m not going to lie to you. It was different in that locker room before the game.”
Here are some things learned from this game.
FAMILIAR SCRIPT: The Bears got little pressure from a revamped defense despite the addition of five-time Pro Bowl end Jared Allen. And there were some questionable decisions at times by Jay Cutler, who got picked off twice and threw for 349 yards and two touchdowns.
In some ways, it was a familiar pattern.
”You guys are going to be as negative as possible,” a surly Cutler said. ”But we’ve got a lot of games left, we did a lot of good things. Obviously we made mistakes today and we’ve got to clean them up and got to keep it going.”
As for the defense, Bears coach Marc Trestman didn’t seem too concerned.
”At the end of the day you keep them in the 17- to 20-point range, that should be enough for us to win,” he said. ”If we hang onto the football, take care of it, we would have been in a good position to do that.”
ON SECOND(ARY) THOUGHT: The Bills’ gave up a 44-yard pass to Alshon Jeffery, which set up a touchdown on Chicago’s first possession. Otherwise, that group didn’t allow anything longer than 18 yards.
Corey Graham had one of Buffalo’s two interceptions when he picked off a pass intended for Martellus Bennett down the middle. That led to a touchdown catch by C.J. Spiller that made it 17-7 late in the first half.
”Jay was trying me,” said Graham, a former Bears player. ”I felt like he was coming at my head out there, he was trying to throw my way. If quarterbacks are going to test you like that, you got to make plays.”
BALANCED ON GROUND: Jackson led Buffalo with 61 yards, but the Bills ran for 193 and averaged 5.8 per carry.
Anthony Dixon ran for 60 yards on five carries, including a 47-yarder. Spiller ran for 53, and Manuel had 19 yards and a TD run. He also completed 16 of 22 passes for 173 yards.
CONTE’S PLIGHT: Bears safety Chris Conte made some good plays after missing most of the preseason because of injuries but had another rough moment at the end.
He finished with six tackles and an interception, but Conte got shoved by Jackson while trying to strip the ball on that big late run. His blown coverage against Randall Cobb in last year’s finale at Soldier Field led to the winning touchdown for Green Bay and kept Chicago out of the playoffs.
BANGED UP BEARS: The Bears’ health could be an issue, especially with a trip to San Francisco up next.
Pro Bowl receiver Jeffery spent most of the second half on the sideline because of a hamstring injury, and left guard Matt Slauson and center Roberto Garza left the game with ankle injuries.
NOTES: Bills LB Keith Rivers left the game because of a groin injury, and S Aaron Williams was being evaluated for a concussion afterward. Buffalo also held out CB Stephon Gilmore because of a nagging groin injury. … Trestman thought Jeffery might return at some point in the second half, but he didn’t. … Slauson and Garza didn’t think they were seriously injured.
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