Week 16: Bills Pull Off Stunning Comeback Win 30-23
Awful first quarter led to a solid final three quarters and the win.
by Steve Saslow
Reggie Corner knocked away an end zone pass that Brandon Stokley had in his hands to preserve a stunning comeback 30-23 win over the Broncos in Denver today. The loss was devastating for the Broncos who now have to win in San Diego next week to make the playoffs. The Bills fell behind 13-0 when they played awful football in the first quarter and into the 2nd quarter before catching fire and playing inspired football. Trent Edwards threw for 193 yards and a touchdown while Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson each had scoring runs for the Bills.
The Broncos came out fired up as they knew they needed the win after the Chargers beat the Bucs at 1:00. The Bills opening series defensive woes continued as the Broncos made it look all too easy. They marched down the field for an opening score after winning the coin toss. They ran on the first four plays and gained 36 yards. Then Jay Cutler hit a 30 yard pass over the middle to Darrell Jackson and that setup Cutler's second bootleg of the drive. He walked it in to the end zone from two yards out to give the Broncos the early 7-0 lead.
The Bills once again, as they have so much this year, were playing from behind. Offensively it was typical on the first series as well. They got a good kickoff return by Leodis McKelvin setting them up in decent field position. The Bills did nothing with it as Edwards was hit on a blindside blitz that went untouched. He fumbled but Lynch recovered. One incompletion later and it was a three and out.
The Bills had the Broncos pinned but Cutler ran again breaking away from pressure by Marcus Stroud to convert a third down play. On the next play Eddie Royal killed the Bills (and me in my fantasy football Super Bowl) by rumbling 71 yards on a reverse as the Bills once again took poor angles on another long run. The Bills held on downs and the Broncos had to settle for a field goal to go up 10-0.
The next series was more of the same for the Bills as Edwards was again hit on an untouched blitz and was shaken up and called for intentional grounding and it looked like the rout would be on before the first quarter was over. The Bills were outgained 213 yards to -2 when the two teams finally changed sides with the Broncos on another easy scoring drive. Fortunately the defense stiffened for a second straight game holding the Broncos to a second field goal and the red zone failures would come back to haunt Denver as the Bills were about to start playing the game.
The Bills responded with a 56 yard drive that was aided by a third down screen pass to Roscoe Parrish and a roughing the passer penalty. Once in the red zone the Bills sputtered again as OLB Jamie Winborn made three straight plays to force a Rian Lindell 37 yard field goal to put a small dent in the Broncos armor to pull the Bills within 10.
The defense stiffened again after another nice Broncos drive stalled with penalties. A 54 yard field goal was no good as it fell short and gave the Bills the ball in good field position. They marched down the field 56 yards to pay dirt as Lynch ran in a pitch from two yards out to pull the Bills within three just before halftime at 13-10.
The Bills seemed rejuvenated by getting back in a game they seemed so hopelessly out of after the first 20 minutes of football. They put together their third straight solid drive offensively to start the 2nd half. They had great field position again after a short kickoff. They moved into field goal range with a nice mixture of short passes and runs. The drive stalled at the 30 but Lindell drilled a 49 yard field goal to tie the game five minutes into the second half.
The Broncos were still moving the ball at will and a completion put them in Bills territory but Donte Whitner forced the ball loose and Corner recovered giving the Bills the ball back. Edwards started rolling out and ran for 11 then followed that up with a completion for 12 yards to Josh Reed who came up with plays all day long to extend drives. Too bad they couldn't find him in the red zone though as that drive stalled as well. Jackson took a third and goal draw play and was stopped for a one yard game. The referees missed a blatant face mask penalty on the play that would have kept the drive alive instead they had to settle for Lindell's third field goal of the game to give the Bills their first lead of the game 16-13.
The Broncos did what they had been doing all day offensively, they quickly moved downfield. When the Bills had a chance at a stop Cutler got out of trouble once again and found Daniel Graham for a 23 yard completion on third and 15. A stop there would have really given the Bills a bit more control of the game. The completion seemed to fire up the Broncos and Cutler than hit another 20 yard completion to move them in scoring range. A sack by Kawika Mitchell would only momentarily slow down the Broncos attack. Cutler completed passes of 18 and 12 yards before running it in himself for his second touchdown run of the game. It appeared the play clock expired before he snapped the ball but there was no call and the score gave the Broncos the lead back 20-16 as the third quarter came to an end.
The Bills struck back quickly as Edwards went up top finally hitting Jackson who was lined up wide right. Jackson took the pass and run 65 yards to the three yard line. He was tired at that point and Lynch was out after aggravating his shoulder injury. So Xavier Omon entered the game and his first two career carries went for no yards setting up a crucial third and goal. Edwards found Steve Johnson in the end zone for the score to give the Bills the lead back at 23-20.
The Broncos drove down to a 43 yard field goal on the next series to tie the game at 23. The Bills that took advantage of another short kickoff and solid return by Jackson to take over in Broncos territory. Back to back receptions by Reed of 16 and 11 yards setup runs of 10 and 8 for Jackson, the second one took him into the end zone to give the Bills a 30-23 lead.
The Bills weren't getting the calls in this game and it was evident on the next Broncos series. McKelvin picked off a pass that would have set the Bills up in great shape to take a two score lead. A very questionable holding penalty on Stroud nullified the pick. On the next play Brandon Marshall made a 19 yard catch. It appeared he didn't get his feet in bounds and Reed was screaming his case from the sidelines. The Broncos quickly snapped a play knowing that Marshall didn't catch it but the Bills were too slow to challenge. The Broncos continued the drive down the field for a tying score but the Bills defense, that bent but didn't break much of the day, made another big play. Mitchell picked off a pass at the one yard line to thwart that drive with under six minutes to go in the wild game.
The Bills did what they wouldn't do last week, they kept in on the ground. With Lynch out, it was up to Jackson to get a couple of first downs to run out the clock. He didn't even get one as the Bills had to punt from their own end zone. Thanks to a good roll it was a 53 yard punt and the Broncos started their next drive at their own 39 yard line and went right back to work as receivers seemed open all day in the middle of the Bills defense.
Cutler was intent on running in this game. He had two touchdown runs earlier in the game and then had a run almost as big when he ran for nine yards to give them a first down. The Bills defense was inspired however by the interception on the previous series. Terrence McGee knocked down a deep pass to Marshall and Reggie Corner followed it up by knocking down a pass that made it 3rd and 10 at the two minute warning.
Denver was good on third downs all day and Cutler hit Marshall for 13 yards and then again for 12 to move them in the red zone with 1:16 to go. The defense that struggled so much against a potent offense all day but only gave up two touchdowns needed to find a way to keep them out of the end zone. Cutler misfired when he had a receiver wide open in the end zone on third down. That setup the final stand by the defense with Corner showing the heroics to avoid overtime.
It was a great accomplishment for this team to comeback and win on the road and for the first time this year against a team with a winning record and everything to play for. The Bills players to a man have said how much they love and respect Coach Jauron. They sure showed it on the field after sleep walking through the first quarter. They knew they had a chance to play hard and help save the man's job. They played with tremendous emotion in the second half and may have just saved the job of the man they respect so much. It's a shame that emotion wasn't there earlier in the season or else they may still be playing for something more than pride. At least they showed pride and high character in getting this win.
Here are our exclusive gameballs and goats from the Bills game against the Broncos:Gameballs