The last time the Buffalo Bills scored a dramatic, last-second victory was in Week 3 of the 2011 season. I was watching the game at a Bills bar in Atlanta with a few hundred fellow ex-pat Buffalonians. When Ryan Lindell’s field goaled sailed through the uprights, the Bills had erased a 21-point first half deficit to defeat the New England Patriots juggernaut. Pandemonium ensued at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Word from the non-Bills patrons on the first floor of the Atlanta Bills bar was that the ceiling looked to sag from the collective jumping, stomping and general chaos of the celebration on the second floor. Random people were kissing. Folks were taking shots, then just chucking the glasses.
For fans of perennial winning franchises – or just most franchises in general, almost all of which have witnessed at least one playoff season in the past ten years – this might seem pathetic. I was there, though, and it felt 1,000 percent warranted. Such is life when you’re a fan of a team that has been not much more than putrid to inconsequential for the past 15 seasons.
Sunday’s last-minute, 24-23 win over the Carolina Panthers – engineered by rookie quarterback EJ Manuel – elicited similar euphoria for Bills fans. This time, I watched the game in the solitude of my Harlem apartment, yelping alone and high-fiving myself; but I got text-dispatches from all over the country. Bills fans can feel it.
Those are the types of games – close, back-n-forth, tense – Buffalo always loses. New era? Manuel makes one thinks so. He nearly led the Bills to a Week 1 win over the Pats and he continues to exude steel that belies his youth. And whereas Buffalo’s defense has been Charmin-soft the past few deplorable seasons, the front seven, all of a sudden, looks formidable. That was Mario Williams – the Bills 96 Million Dollar Man – with his second dominant performance in-a-row, this time continuing his return to form with five sacks. What did Jay Z say at the beginning of Rick Ross’ “Three Kings”? Word. “It’s just different.”
The Bills win was just one of a crazy afternoon of crazy last-minute wins. (NFL Redzone was on fire!!) Aside from the Packers foot-stompin’ Washington (38-20) thanks to Aaron Rodgers’ cartoonish dopeness, every 1 p.m. game was a nail biter. Texans-Titans went into OT. The Chargers snatched a 33-30 vic’ fron Philly thanks to a late, 46-yard Nick Novack field goal. Kansas City held off Dallas 17-16 after it seemed like Dez Bryant was going to "viideo game" them all afternoon in a dominant first quarter,
And the Bears-Vikings game was just an absolute, wonderful circus. We’re talking seven combined turnovers – each a seeming game chnager. The Jay Cutler-to-Martellus Bennet TD with ten seconds left on the clock (and ensuing extra point) gave Chicago the 31-30 win.
Wildness all around.
The Bills’ win may prove to be a meaningless victory by year’s end – just one mediocre squad beating another mediocre squad. But Buffalo looks to be emerging, finally defended by a game battalion and shepherded by a young rook’ on his way to “some thangs.” With that in mind, the win might also prove to be one of the most important of this young season.
Quite an afternoon.