Perhaps the Bills are better than currently advertised in Buffalo.
On a Monday morning when a digital billboard in south Buffalo began displaying a sign urging Bills owner Ralph Wilson to clean house, the team’s players had a far different message for their disgruntled faithful: Don’t count them – or coach Dick Jauron – out just yet.
In blunting the criticism heaped on them for much of the past month, the Bills showed great resilience in pulling out a sloppy but much-needed 16-13 overtime win at the New York Jets on Sunday.
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The timing couldn’t have been better.
The Bills (2-4) snapped a three-game losing streak, won for only the fourth time in 16 games and defeated an AFC East rival for the first time in nine meetings. And they did it in dramatic fashion by overcoming the latest in a rash of injuries – including a concussion that knocked out quarterback Trent Edwards – by winning a game they never led until Rian Lindell hit a 47-yard field goal with 2:44 left in overtime.
“It was a huge relief. We really needed that win,” said linebacker Paul Posluszny, who’s diving interception was one of six for the Bills and set up the decisive drive. “It was a great opportunity for us to get that win and just to say, ‘Man, thank you.”‘
Safety George Wilson savored the victory.
“Sometimes it’s hard to remember what that winning feeling feels like, when you’ve been down for so long,” Wilson said. “There was a lot counting against us. To overcome all those circumstances, all that adversity and to still come out with a win speaks volumes for the character of this coaching staff and of this team.”
The Bills, who play at Carolina (2-3) this weekend, have had plenty to deal with since the start of the season.
There’s been inner turmoil after Jauron fired offensive coordinator Turk Schonert 10 days before the start of the season.
The fans haven’t been happy either. Two youths admitted to vandalizing the lawn of Leodis McKelvin after the cornerback’s costly fumble in a season-opening 25-24 loss at New England.
Jauron’s been on the hot seat for weeks, and now finds his name on a billboard launched by fan Ryan Abshagen, who raised the weekly $1,125 rental fee through an online campaign.
The billboard reads, “It’s time to clean house, RALPH,” referring to the owner. Next to that is a checklist of three names: Jauron; Tom Modrak, the team’s chief college scout; and John Guy, vice president of pro personnel John Guy.
Abshagen didn’t think the Bills victory affects his message.
“One win does not erase four years of mediocrity,” Abshagen said, referring to Jauron’s four-year tenure, a stretch in which the Bills have gone 24-31 and failed to make the playoffs. “Changes still need to be made.”
Jauron, on Monday, declined to refer to the billboard specifically, but said: “The fans, I understand, are upset. We’re upset too.”
Jauron added: “We’re trying to get it right. We’re just happy we won yesterday.”
The Bills have plenty to address despite their victory.
Buffalo’s offense might again be in flux with Edwards’ status uncertain. Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick was inconsistent in taking over, going 10 of 25 for 116 yards and interception, but did produce back-to-back scoring drives in the third quarter, tying the game by hitting Lee Evans in stride on a slant for a 37-yard touchdown.
The Bills defense has issues of its own. Though it matched a team record by forcing six interceptions, Buffalo allowed 318 yards rushing, including 210 to Thomas Jones. The Bills have now allowed 961 yards rushing in their past four games.
On the positive side, the Bills defense prevented the Jets from scoring on their final 10 possessions after building a 13-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
“The only stat that matters is the ‘W,”‘ Wilson said. “All things considered, for a lot of the heat that our coaches have been taking, guys getting injured, adversity comes in a variety of ways. It’s how you respond to it. And we did a phenomenal job of following coach Jauron’s lead by staying poised and composed.”