The sun was certainly shining brightly on Orchard Park, NY on Sunday. The hometown Bills, fueled by a racuous crowd and an opportunistic defensive effort, defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 31-24. The Bills intercepted Michael Vick four times, including two by Nick Barnett, and were able to control the game by containing the potentially explosive Eagle offense.
The self-proclaimed “Dream Team” of the Eagles scratched and clawed their way just to stay in the game. Philadelphia wide receiver Jason Avant had a particually tough day despite leading the Eagles with 139 yards receiving. Avant lost a fumble and had a pass deflected off his hands into the arms of Barnett.
When asked about the turnovers, Avant said, “We had a chance to turn it around and win the game, but I undertand in a game like this someone has to take the blame.”
Barnett, the beneficiary of the Avant miscue, described the play by saying, “I was just running for the ball and it popped right in my hand. I tried to get that touchdown but I don’t have that Deion Sanders speed.”
The Bills capitalized on Eagles’ mistakes throughout the game, including a crucial 4th down and inches to go in which Eagles’ defensive lineman Juqua Parker jumped offsides on hard count by Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, which gave the Bills a first down and enabled them to run out the clock. Asked if the Bills were actually going to run a play, Bills coach Chan Gailey responded, “I’ll never tell.”
Eagles defensive end Jason Babin defended his teammate by saying, “Oh, it’s real tough. There isn’t one person blaming Jaqua (Parker) at all. It’s an extremely tough play. I know he feels bad about it, but that’s just the way football goes, but it’s not just one play that loses the game.”
The Bills players and fans were upbeat after the victory that pushed their record to 4-1. An unexpected start to a season from a team that last year started 0-8. The most recent victory has people outside of the the Bills locker room starting to believe that this team is a legitimate contender.
Shawne Merriman, Bills linebacker, feels the Bills are starting to “open up some eyes to people watching around the country. It feels like a win for us, that’s all it feels like. Not a Super Bowl win or a playoff win, it just feels like another win in the W column.”
But Merriman knows that expectations are only half of the battle. He has been on Charger teams that have underachieved in the past, so playing the role of underdog is not a bad spot to be in according to Merriman. “I don’t mind flying under the radar a little bit. I’ve been in the opposite situation before and it hasn’t turned out so well. So as long as we keep going out and doing the things we’re doing, I’m happy.”
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Photos by Theresa Villano
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