As Van Miller would say: 'Do you believe it?'

October 29, 2017

The Bills have been 5-2 during the playoff drought before. That was their record in 2011 after seven games. That Bills team promptly lost its next seven games in a row. I feel very safe in saying that won’t happen again. There’s something about this team that just feels different. All the usual Buffalo sports fan defense mechanisms are running through my head, but how could you not feel this team isn’t like any other that showed a glimpse of promise in these last 17 years.

Maybe all this talk about culture, buying in, and trusting the process is for real. The Bills thumped Oakland in this game. As opposed to many Bills victories over the years where you had to sweat it out while praying they didn’t blow it, this fourth quarter was easy.  

Even when the Raiders pulled within 27-14, the Bills were never in danger of letting this huge win slip away from them. The offense didn’t score on their drive after Oakland pulled within 13 points, but they managed to take six minutes off the clock. The defense then forced a turnover on downs and for all intent and purposes, the Bills had wrapped up their fifth victory.

Last week, the offense won the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and while they did their part in this win, the defense is why the Bills upped their home record to 4-0 this season.

I didn’t have a good feeling going into this one. With E.J. Gaines and Jordan Poyer sidelined, I was fully expecting Derek Carr to shred the Bills all of a sudden beleaguered pass defense. The first drive of the game made me think "and here it comes". But give the Bills defense credit because it shut down Carr from that point on. Oakland totaled 81 yards and six first downs while scoring a touchdown on that initial possession. Over the next seven drives, the Bills gave up just 133 yards and six first downs. They forced four punts, one fumble, had an interception and stopped Oakland on the final drive going into halftime.

The Bills' run defense was top-notch as has been the case all season, so it was up to Carr and company to carry the day and the defense made sure that would not happen. There were contributions from numerous players including rookie cornerback Tre'Davious White, who won’t have to beat himself up after his performance. White found himself matched up with Amari Cooper more often than not, and just 10 days after Cooper torched Kansas City for over 200 yards receiving, he ended up with just 48.  

Linebacker Preston Brown came up with a couple of pass breakups on the same drive, the second of which created a Micah Hyde interception. The offense cashed that turnover in for a touchdown giving them a 17-7 lead. Hyde, who is the Johnny on the spot guy on defense, had his league leading fifth interception.

We used to have "The Legend of Kiko Alonso" around here. Do we now have "The Legend of Matt Milano"?  Pressed into duty after Ramon Humber’s injury, the rookie linebacker played his third straight strong game. Milano had a big interception in the win over Tampa, but he topped that performance with a 40-yard fumble recovery/return for a touchdown. It broke a 7-7 tie and sent the New Era Field crowd into a frenzy. For good measure, Milano added a forced fumble on special teams.

The defense took the ball away three times, marking the fourth straight game Leslie Frazier’s crew has forced at least three turnovers. Buffalo now has 17 takeaways on the season, and just three giveaways, giving them an eye popping plus-14 differential in that category.

The heroes weren’t only on the defense for the Bills. Tyrod Taylor didn’t have big stats, but made a handful of beautiful and clutch throws. His six-yard touchdown toss to Andre Holmes was exactly where it needed to be on the side of the end zone.  

Speaking of Holmes, he had his best game as a Bill. On that touchdown catch, he started on the right side of the formation and while Taylor was buying time with his legs, Holmes ran all the way across the back of the end zone and pulled off a great stutter step to keep both feet in bounds. Holmes repeated his top footwork ability on a 36-yard catch that helped produce the Bills first touchdown in the game.

Brandon Tate had a marvelous spin move after a catch that allowed him to pick up 24 yards on a second and 20 play that came on the TD drive which put the Bills up 27-7. I couldn’t believe the reaction he received on the Bills sideline. It exploded with joy and they mobbed Tate. You would have thought they just clinched a playoff spot. It was one of my favorite moments of the game and you could just tell these players really believe in what this team is doing right now.

The Bills running game was productive for the second straight week. After recording 173 yards in the win over the Buccaneers, the Bills churned out 166 yards on the ground. LeSean McCoy was a busy man with 27 carries for 151 yards and an icing on the cake 48-yard touchdown that sent some fans off for a celebratory post-game tailgate.

The win does a number of things for the Bills. It leaves them alone in second in the AFC East and they stay just a half game behind New England. It allows them to stay in a wild card playoff spot and it gives Oakland, a team many felt were a playoff lock, a fifth loss on the season. If the Raiders do get back in the wild card race, the Bills now have a head-to-head tie breaker on them as they do with Denver. 

It's been so long that you forget how much fun winning is and this Bills team is doing its best to make fans believe this will be the year that nasty drought comes to an end. I’m enjoying the ride so far and hope it keeps going.