Bills Use All-Around Effort to End Skid

Jairus Byrd and Spencer Johnson returned Tebow interceptions for touchdowns on consecutive plays from scrimmage in the fourth quarter to seal Buffalo’s 40-14 rout of the Broncos on Saturday. The Bills snapped a seven-game slide and stalled the Broncos in their bid to secure their first playoff berth since 2005.

Tebow finished with a career-worst four interceptions as the Broncos (8-7) lost their second in a row and fell into a tie with Oakland for first place in the AFC West. The Broncos close the season at home against Kansas City next week, while Oakland hosts San Diego.

The Bills, meanwhile, will close out their 12th consecutive season without a postseason berth next week at New England.

“We’ve been well overdue for a big game as a team,” Wilson said. “To come out with the offense, defense, and special teams all hitting on all cylinders, it’s a great feeling to have.”

C.J. Spiller scored on a 4-yard run and Leodis McKelvin busted an 80-yard punt return for a touchdown to help the Bills to their first win since blowing out Washington at the end of October in Toronto, a victory that made them 5-2.

“Guys came out and played hard,” said Spiller, who surpassed the 100-yard mark for the first time in his two-year career by gaining 111 yards on 16 carries. “That was the team that was 5-2 that performed out there.”

Byrd scored on a 37-yard return with 8:03 left and Johnson had a 17-yarder just 18 seconds later as Buffalo (6-9) won its home finale.

Dave Rayner shook off two missed field-goal attempts — and a booing crowd — to hit his final four, all from within 29 yards.

The Bills held the Broncos to 293 yards.

“I thought our guys played extremely well,” Buffalo coach Chan Gailey said. “I thought we kept the pressure on the run game the whole game. It was a great job of planning and playing by our defense.”

The Bills set a single-season franchise record with five interceptions returned for touchdowns.

“When we had opportunities to get our hands on the ball, we took advantage of them and pulled down interceptions,” Wilson said.

Tebow finished 13 of 30 for 185 yards with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Fells. He added 34 yards rushing, and scored on a 1-yard plunge.

“My confidence is just fine,” Tebow said. “I have to do a better job of not giving them opportunities. I tried to make something happen, and I tried to force it.”

While Tebow was struggling, his Bills counterpart, Ryan Fitzpatrick enjoyed his most efficient game in two months by going 15 of 27 for 196 yards with no interceptions. Fitzpatrick took plenty of heat during the seven-game skid, in which he threw eight touchdown passes versus 12 interceptions.

“I think the losses that piled up motivated us,” Fitzpatrick said. “It was fun to be on the sidelines to see the guys jumping around. (The defense) smelled blood out there in the water, and they were going after that.”

Tebow had generated a national buzz for his ability to produce in the clutch. Entering the game with two interceptions all season, he was picked off four times in the second half as his record dropped to 7-3 since taking over the starting job.

“We did a good job of keeping (Tebow) in the pocket and making him throw from the pocket,” Johnson said. “Everybody did a great job of being disciplined in that area.”

Buffalo will attempt to sweep the season series from the Patriots in the regular-season finale. The Bills defeated New England 34-31 in Week 3.

“There’s a lot of good football left to be played with the guys in the locker room,” Kelsay said.

NOTES: After McKelvin scored, Denver’s Eddie Royal returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, but it was negated by a block in the back penalty against Dante Rosario. … Broncos RB Willis McGahee had 64 yards rushing to give him 1,054 this season. He became the second NFL player to reach 1,000 yards rushing with three teams. He previously did it with Buffalo and Baltimore. Ricky Watters rushed for 1,000 yards with San Francisco, Philadelphia and Seattle. … The Bills finished 5-3 at home (including a win over Washington at Toronto), matching their best record since going 5-3 in 2004.

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THE FIFTH DOWN; Bills (5-5) at Jets ( 5-5)

1 p.m. Eastern, CBS

Matchup to Watch: –Jets Receivers –vs. Bills’ secondary

Despite the Jets’ inconsistent passing game, this is, in theory, a favorable matchup for them. Buffalo placed the starting cornerback Terrence McGee on injured reserve, and his potential replacement, Aaron Williams, is a rookie coming off a serious collarbone injury. The Jets victimized this unit on Nov. 6, when Santonio Holmes drew two pass-interference calls and Plaxico Burress picked on the nickel back Leodis McKelvin, who did not play on defense last Sunday against Miami.

Number to Watch: 38.8

The percentage of Buffalo’s offense provided by running back Fred Jackson, who was placed on injured reserve last week. Think the Bills will miss him? Taking over will be C.–J. Spiller, their first-round pick in 2010, who has yet to make much of an impact in the N.F.L. Spiller forces the Jets to adjust a few of their packages, but their goal remains what it was on Nov. 6: stop the run and disrupt Buffalo’s short passing game.

Quotation of the Week

”I’m sure the brothers talked.”

Buffalo Coach CHAN GAILEY, when asked whether the Bills’ last two opponents, Dallas and Miami, had borrowed from the Jets’ defensive blueprint from their Nov. 6 meeting. The Cowboys’ defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, and Jets Coach Rex Ryan are twins.

This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.

GRAPHICS

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Johnson Leads Titans to 23-17 Win Over Bills

Johnson rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Titans to a 23-17 win over the slumping Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Held to under 100 yards seven times in his first eight games, Johnson now has topped the century mark three times in his last four outings.

He scored on runs of 48 and 4 yards to match his season touchdown total. Kicker Rob Bironas did the rest, hitting three field goals, including a 44-yarder midway through the fourth quarter to put the Titans ahead 23-10.

The Bills (5-7) have lost five straight and are suddenly in jeopardy of going from first in the AFC East to a battle with Miami for last place in the division.

C.J. Spiller had a career-best 83 yards rushing and scored on a 35-yard touchdown run in his second start since Fred Jackson broke a bone in his leg. Receiver Stevie Johnson toned down his touchdown celebration after scoring on a 2-yard catch with 2:58 left to make the game close.

Johnson had been criticized for much of the past week over his celebration in a 28-24 loss to the New York Jets. Johnson was fined $10,000 by the NFL for mocking Jets receiver Plaxico Burress, pretending to shoot himself in the thigh. He was also flagged 15 yards for going to the ground in pretending to be a crashing plane.

This time, Johnson kept his arms to himself and politely handed the ball to the nearest official.

The Titans (7-5) converted two Bills turnovers into 10 points.

Rookie linebacker Colin McCarthy stripped Ryan Fitzpatrick on a fourth-and-3 scramble and recovered it at the Titans 43-yard line. Six plays later, Chris Johnson scored on a 4-yard scamper up the middle to put Tennessee up 17-7.

McCarthy also recovered tight end Scott Chandler’s fumble at the Titans 37 to end the Bills’ first possession of the second half. That set up a time-consuming 11-play, 64-yard drive capped by Bironas hitting a 27-yard field goal to give Tennessee a 20-10 lead.

Johnson had 190 yards rushing in a 23-17 win over Tampa Bay last weekend. Three weeks earlier, he had 130 yards in a 30-3 victory at Carolina.

Johnson rushed for 106 yards in the first half alone Sunday, more than his output in all but two other games this season. His best run came on the 48-yard touchdown, when he found a crease off right tackle, raced up the right sideline and outran defenders Aaron Williams and Da’Norris Searcy to the end zone.

The Bills ran out of time to manufacture a comeback. Getting the ball back at their own 15-yard line with 62 seconds left, their final drive ended with Fitzpatrick throwing three straight incompletions from his 46.

Fitzpatrick finished 29 of 46 for 288 yards.

The back-and-forth first half featured some electrifying and bizarre plays.

Spiller gave the Bills a 7-3 lead midway through the fourth quarter when he beat the Titans to the left corner and cut it up the sideline. He was chased down from behind by Michael Griffin, who punched the ball loose inside the 10-yard line. The ball ricocheted off Spiller’s left knee and was bouncing out of the end zone when the running back made a diving attempt to secure it before sliding out.

Officials initially ruled it a touchback, before reversing the call to a touchdown after replays showed Spiller had control of the ball while inbounds.

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