New look Bills hope to improve by leaps and bounds

Head Coach Chan Gailey has a simple plan for this upcoming season. Find as many good players as you can and let them battle it out for a position.  If you win, you play.

“We made some good additions to our football team. We said at the end of the season, our biggest challenge was to improve our pass rush, and that’s what we have done to this point. We haven’t done it on the field, but at least we’ve done it on paper. We’re excited about that. And when you help your football team in one area, you help your football team – there’s a ripple effect in a lot of different areas. So help your team in a lot of ways.” – Coach Chan Gailey on Buffalo upgrading its pass rush with free agents Mario Williams and Mark Anderson.

But the key for the year will be a defense that ranked the  third worst in the NFL giving up 27.1 points a game.

New Defensive Coordinator Dave Wannstedt is looking to switch the Buffalo Bills defensive scheme from 3-4 to 4-3 and, with the help of former Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly, they are keying in on and signing the right players.  That was evident when the team offered former Houston Texan Mario Williams a 6-year deal worth over $100 million.  Williams will most likely switch back to his natural DE position.

On the opposite of Williams will be Mark Anderson who also signed a long term deal.  The former Patriot had fantastic  2011 season and finished with 10 sacks on the year.   Both players are expected to make such an impact for the team that the Bills are already being proclaimed the “unofficial season champs.”

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Bills Rally to Beat Raiders 38-35

After a wild back-and-forth fourth quarter, Ryan Fitzpatrick found David Nelson wide open on fourth down for a 6-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds left to secure a 38-35 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.

“I don’t know what happened, but I think they misaligned to be honest,” Fitzpatrick said, in noting how wide open Nelson was over the middle. “I was lucky enough to see it.”

Chalk it up to luck, pluck and resilience, because the Bills are showing they’re improved.

A week after a convincing 41-7 win at Kansas City, the Fitzpatrick-led offense had a 35-point second half in overcoming a 21-3 first-half deficit.

Buffalo scored touchdowns on each of its five second-half possessions as the teams traded the lead five times in the final 14:10.

Fitzpatrick went 28 of 46 for 264 yards and three touchdowns, while running back Fred Jackson scored twice in the Bills’ home opener.

“I can’t recall one quite like that,” Bills coach Chan Gailey said. “It was an amazing gut-check by our football team. What they did coming out of halftime was really amazing.”

The Raiders (1-1) saw the result from a different perspective in squandering a chance to open a season at 2-0 for the first time since 2002.

“Not a whole lot to say other than that effort isn’t going to be good enough,” defensive tackle Richard Seymour said. “We didn’t seem to give the offense any help in the second half. That’s on us. It isn’t good enough.”

The 38 points were the most allowed by Oakland in a loss since a 43-37 defeat to Seattle in 1998. And they allowed 481 yards — 326 in the second half — and 34 first downs.

“Good job by them, bad job by us,” Raiders coach Hue Jackson said. “When it’s all said and done, we did not finish the game.”

And yet, the Raiders nearly pulled off an improbable comeback of their own.

From his own 44, Jason Campbell threw a desperation pass into the end zone, that was intercepted by rookie cornerback Da’Norris Searcy, who outwrestled receiver Denarius Moore for the ball.

Campbell went 23 of 33 for 323 yards and two touchdowns. Darren McFadden scored twice in finishing with 72 yards rushing and 71 receiving. Moore had five catches for 146 yards and a touchdown in filling in for an injury-depleted receiving group that was down three starters, including Darrius Heyward-Bey (knee).

As if the game needed any more drama, officials required 10 minutes to review the final play — Searcy’s interception — to determine the call on the field was correct. Referee Mike Carey returned to a near-empty stadium to announce the interception had in fact stood.

Seymour didn’t think the call would be overturned, and then lamented: “We had opportunities and didn’t take advantage of them. That’s the bottom line.”

Two plays before Nelson’s decisive score, cornerback Chris Johnson dropped an interception in the Raiders’ end zone on a pass intended for Donald Jones.

“The game would’ve been over,” Johnson said. “I take this loss for the team today.”

There was also no excusing how the Raiders left Nelson to slip free over the middle.

The Bills looked down and out after a dreadful first half which ended with Oakland’s Tyvon Branch blocking Rian Lindell’s 39-yard field goal attempt.

Buffalo then came out running in the third quarter, as Jackson opened the scoring on a 43-yard run.

Then came the offense from both teams at the start of the fourth quarter.

Jackson gave the Bills their first lead, 24-21, on a 1-yard run 50 seconds into the fourth quarter.

The Raiders responded five minutes later, as McFadden caught a swing pass to the right and rumbled in from 12 yards.

Buffalo went up 31-28 with 4:48 left when Fitzpatrick capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a 6-yard pass to tight end Scott Chandler.

Back came the Raiders, who regained the lead 1:07 later when Campbell hit Moore on a 50-yard pass over the middle.

Fitzpatrick then led a 14-play, 80-yard drive in which he twice converted on fourth down.

“Determination,” said receiver Stevie Johnson, who scored on a 7-yard catch. “We had the determination. Everybody was just a unit. We came out and did what we had to do.”

Searcy, certainly wasn’t going to let anyone take the interception away. Not Moore, who got a hand on the ball, or the officials.

“Once I grabbed it, I told myself nobody’s going grab it away from me,” Searcy said.

Notes: Bills owner Ralph Wilson was unable to attend his first home opener in the team’s 52-year history because he’s recovering from a broken hip. Wilson watched the game from his home in suburban Detroit. … Wilson did provide a videotaped tribute at halftime, when former defensive lineman Phil Hansen was inducted on the Bills’ Wall of Fame. … According to STATS LLC, the 35 points were the most allowed by the Raiders in a second half. … Discipline continues to play a factor against the Raiders. After being flagged 15 times for 131 yards against the Broncos, they had eight penalties for 85 yards against Buffalo.

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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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