Lindell Seals Bills’ 35-32 OT Win Over Jaguars

Lindell’s kick came after Jacksonville’s Josh Scobee missed a 53-yard attempt. It was a back-and-forth game in which Buffalo squandered a 17-point first half lead and had to overcome a 15-point second-half deficit.

With much of the crowd gone by halftime, Tyler Thigpen forced overtime by hitting Paul Hubbard on a 4-yard touchdown pass with 38 seconds left. The two hooked up again for a 2-point conversion.

Not that many were left watching in a game in which much of the crowd had left by halftime, the starters sat the bench and the game was approaching its fourth hour.

Both teams are 1-2.

It was the NFL’s first preseason overtime game since Aug. 16, 2008, when Seattle beat Chicago 29-26. That one was at least decided early, when Brandon Coutu hit a field goal 3:28 into the extra frame.

The Bills appeared ready to blow the game open in the first half when their Ryan Fitzpatrick-led offense finally showed spark — and a quick-strike dimension — in building a 17-0 lead.

In completing his first 11 attempts, Fitzpatrick threw touchdowns passes on consecutive plays — an 11-yarder to Marcus Easley and a 52-yarder to Stevie Johnson — 65 seconds apart in the second quarter. He finished going 11 of 12 for 165 yards passing in four series, and a kneeldown, through the first half.

That more than doubled the 88 yards Fitzpatrick had in six series through Buffalo’s first two preseason. The two touchdowns were the first scored by the Bills’ starters this preseason, and the 17 points in the first half were 4 more than Buffalo managed in its first two weeks.

“We’ve said all along, we wanted to carry over what we’ve been doing in practice onto the game field, and I think we did a good job of that today,” Fitzpatrick said.

Jacksonville quarterback David Garrard overcame a slow start by producing 17 points on his final three series. Playing mostly against the Bills second-string defense, Garrard scored on a 4-yard run and then engineered a 10-play, 76-yard scoring drive capped by Brock Bolen’s 2-yard run to open the third quarter.

Garrard finished 11 of 21 for 106 yards in his second start, while both touchdown drives where helped by lengthy pass-interference penalties — a 20-yarder against Drayton Florence and a 31-yarder against Reggie Corner.

The Jaguars took 24-17 lead with 4:53 left in the third quarter when linebacker Jacob Cutrera intercepted Thigpen’s pass and returned it 16 yards.

Rookie first-round pick Blaine Gabbert had an inconsistent outing for Jacksonville. He went 6 of 13 for 52 yards with an 11-yard touchdown pass to DuJuan Harris and an interception.

Linebacker Paul Posluszny had six tackles in his first game against the Bills since signing with Jacksonville in free agency last month. Though Posluszny was beaten by Jackson on a 30-yard catch up the left sideline in the first quarter. Posluszny responded by stuffing Jackson for a 1-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 1 to force the Bills to settle for Rian Lindell’s opening 21-yard field goal.

Bills running back Fred Jackson backed up his off-the-field comments with a strong showing. He finished with 33 yards rushing and a 30-yard catch to cap a week that began with Jackson questioning whether the Bills had disrespected him by starting C.J. Spiller in a 24-10 loss at Denver last weekend.

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N.F.L. Players Charge, Violently but Carefully, Into a New Era

Ray Anderson had a quiet day. Anderson, the ’s executive vice president for football operations, watched from the press box Sunday as the .

Anderson had spent the past week in the eye of the hurricane as the N.F.L. made an unexpectedly swift stand against violent hits.

The previous Sunday was a crunching one, distinguished by a succession of heavy hits: DeSean Jackson, Josh Cribbs, Mohamed Massaquoi and David Garrard were knocked out of their games with blows to the head. Jackson sustained a concussion and Atlanta cornerback Dunta Robinson injured his head in a head-on collision. Pittsburgh linebacker James Harrison knocked out Cribbs and Massaquoi in the same quarter. safety was penalized 15 yards for a helmet-to-helmet hit.

The hits were so hard that Anderson, after huddling with Commissioner , issued an edict: beginning immediately, players would face suspensions — possibly for multiple games — for “devastating hits” and “head shots.”


Sunday was Day 1 of life in a new era.

The looming question was whether normally aggressive defensive players would hold back. Baltimore’s Ed Reed, who made his season debut Sunday after sitting out with a hip injury, said he thought the Ravens’ defense played a tentative first half. Baltimore trailed at intermission, 24-20.

“I don’t think we were as physical in the first half as we could have been,” Reed said. “We touched on that at halftime.”

Reed certainly wasn’t tentative. He forced a fumble and made two interceptions.

“With all the fines coming out, at the end of the day, you’ve got to play football,” he said. “And you’ve got to be smart playing it.”

Smart and fearless.

Many of us have been turning all this over in our minds. What exactly is the N.F.L. trying to do? Make the game safe? Make the game safer so that a wider cross-section of people can play?

Football at the N.F.L. level is a game only a fraction of people can play — or even want to play. By the millions, the rest of us watch the collisions in awe and wonder: Who would do this to their bodies?


The essential quality in the game is fearlessness: the running back who blasts through a hole, the quarterback who waits until the last second to throw a pass, the receiver who goes across the middle to make a catch in traffic.

Is the N.F.L. trying to legislate the intimidation factor out of the game so fearlessness is no longer a primary requisite? This is an exercise in futility. The game has become so extraordinarily physical that the only way to ratchet it down is to eliminate it. The league clamps down on blows to the head; now watch an increase of knee, thigh, hip and chest injuries.

Nearly 40 minutes after Baltimore’s victory Sunday, Todd Heap, the Ravens’ veteran tight end, stood in the middle of the locker room patiently answering questions about how he felt. Heap became a primary catalyst for the N.F.L.’s crackdown on heavy hits last week.

In a game against New England, he sustained a serious neck injury when New England safety Brandon Meriweather launched himself into Heap and delivered a jarring blow to Heap’s head, neck and shoulder. Meriweather’s hit was a clear violation of the rules, and he was . Under the new guidelines, he probably would have been suspended.

Heap felt the effects of the Meriweather hit twice on Sunday. In the third quarter, after the Ravens scored on a flea-flicker play, Heap was on his back writhing in pain, the result of a stinger that shot up his injured neck and shoulder.

Near the end of regulation, Heap was injured again after making a hard block.

Asked how he felt after the game, Heap said he was in a lot of pain. Asked if he was angry with Meriweather, Heap said: “This is football. You know what you signed up for. At the same time, I understand what the league is doing and I agree with it. There is a right way to hit someone and a wrong way. The league has to walk a fine line to make that distinction but still allow the game to be football.”

Asked specifically about Meriweather’s hit and his subsequent fine, Heap said, “It’s not my job to monitor how justice is done, but I’m glad something was done.”

On Wednesday, Goodell sent a memo to all teams warning that players who strike an opponent in the neck or head in violation of the existing rules could be suspended. The league also sent a video showing what it considered naughty and what it considered nice.

That was all well and good, but Goodell must acknowledge that he presides over a great but violent game. Not a rough game, not a tough game. A violent game.


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Bills Get Their First Win, to the Lions’ Dismay

“Holy cow! We won a game!” Wood yelled, his voice echoing in the tunnel at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Ten weeks in, the Bills have their first victory. And the have the league record for futility on the road.

Fred Jackson ran for a season-best 133 yards and scored twice in leading the Bills (1-8) to a 14-12 win over the Lions on Sunday. Detroit (2-7) lost its 25th straight road game, breaking the record it set from 2001 to 2003. The Lions have not won outside Detroit since a 16-7 victory at Chicago on Oct. 28, 2007.

In a game billed as a Futility Bowl, something had to give in a contest that was not at all pretty. It was played under rain-soaked conditions, befitting the sloppy — and sometimes laughable — performances of two perennial losers.

The most comical play came late in the second quarter, when Buffalo linebacker Arthur Moats tipped Shaun Hill’s pass into the air. Three Bills players converged on the ball, only to crash into each other and drop it.

The Lions were equally inept. They were penalized 11 times for 60 yards and had difficulty getting their offense going until the fourth quarter. Detroit’s chances to pull off a comeback ended after Hill hit Calvin Johnson for a 20-yard touchdown pass to cut the Bills lead to 14-12 with 14 seconds left. Hill could not find an open receiver on the 2-point conversion, eventually overthrowing tight end Brandon Pettigrew in the back of the end zone.

Bills safety George Wilson recovered the ensuing onside kick and immediately ran to the sideline to hug Coach Chan Gailey, who earned his first win since taking over in January.

Wild Finish in Jacksonville

Mike Thomas hauled in a 50-yard touchdown pass from David Garrard that Houston cornerback Glover Quin batted into his hands on the final play in regulation, giving the Jaguars a 31-24 win over the visiting . The play is called Rebound, and Thomas always serves as “the scoop guy.” The Jaguars never actually run it during practice; Garrard always fakes the deep throw and teammates act out the results. But it rarely ends the way it did Sunday, with the 5-foot-8 Thomas catching a deflection at the half-yard line and then stepping across the goal line.

“We definitely lucked out on that one,” running back Maurice Jones-Drew said.

The Jaguars (5-4) went into a frenzy and drew a celebration penalty that could not be enforced because they never kicked off. The Texans (4-5) trudged off the field in disbelief. It was their third straight loss, dropping them from the top of the A.F.C. South to the bottom.

¶The overcame ’s season-low 185 yards by scoring 17 points off five Cincinnati turnovers and stopping the visiting twice in the final 2 minutes 40 seconds to preserve their 23-17 victory. The Colts (6-3) regained sole possession of first place in the A.F.C. South when Tennessee lost at Miami, but their injury problems may have finally caught up to the offense against the Bengals (2-7). Playing again without the All-Pro tight end Dallas Clark, running back Joseph Addai, the short-yardage specialist Mike Hart and receivers Anthony Gonzalez and Austin Collie, the Colts’ only offensive touchdown came on a 3-yard run by the undrafted rookie Javarris James. With Manning off his game, Indianapolis relied on its defense. Cornerback Kelvin Hayden scored on a 31-yard interception return, the backup linebacker Tyjuan Hagler nearly scored on another interception, and Antonio Johnson’s fumble recovery set up for a short field goal late in the first quarter.

Quarterback Troubles

Anything-goes play-calling helped the compensate for the loss of quarterbacks and Chad Henne in a 29-17 victory over the , Miami’s first win at home in four tries. Pennington sustained a right shoulder injury that could be career-ending, and Henne was on crutches after the game because of a left knee injury. Miami’s Wildcat offense proved a capable substitute, netting 41 yards in five straight snaps to buy time until the fourth quarter when Tyler Thigpen — the emergency third-stringer — led an 85-yard touchdown drive for the game’s final points. “They beat us with basically no quarterbacks,” Titans defensive tackle Jovan Hayes said. had only one catch in his first game with the Titans (5-4), and takeaways by Miami (5-4) led to two touchdowns.

¶Barely in postseason contention when the day began, and the (3-6) could be just about out of it after their 27-13 loss to the Bears at Soldier Field. Jay Cutler passed for 237 yards and 3 touchdowns as Chicago (6-3) held Adrian Peterson to 51 yards rushing and tied for the N.F.C. North lead. Favre passed for 170 yards a week after posting a career-best 446 in a comeback win against Arizona. Asked if he would keep playing this season if Minnesota was mathematically eliminated, Favre said, “Let’s not worry about that.”

Pour It On

Kyle Orton threw a career-high four touchdown passes and Knowshon Moreno had his first 100-yard rushing performance as the Broncos routed the visiting , 49-29. Ending a four-game losing streak, the Broncos (3-6) kept alive their thin hopes of getting back into the playoff race by handing the Chiefs (5-4) their second straight loss. The Broncos jumped out to a 35-0 lead behind three touchdown passes from Orton, a 1-yard run by and a 75-yard fumble return for a touchdown by linebacker Jason Hunter. Tebow also threw his first pass, a 3-yard score to fullback Spencer Larsen.

¶Josh Freeman threw two touchdown passes and the rookie LeGarrette Blount ran for a score to lead the Buccaneers, the league’s youngest team, to a 31-16 victory over the struggling . Freeman threw scoring passes to Kellen Winslow and Arrelious Benn, one of seven rookies in the starting lineup as the Buccaneers (6-3) rebounded from a 6-point loss to Atlanta that knocked them out of first place in the N.F.C. South. Visiting Carolina fell to 1-8.

In Other Games

Matt Hasselbeck, back after a one-game absence, passed for 333 yards, and Mike Williams had the biggest game of his rejuvenated career in the ’ dominant 36-18 victory over the Cardinals. Williams, who spent the past two seasons out of the league after flopping in Detroit, caught 11 passes for 145 yards, both career highs, for the Seahawks (5-4). Host Arizona (3-6) lost its fourth in a row.

¶Joe Nedney kicked a 29-yard field goal with 9:38 left in overtime after Troy Smith passed for 356 yards while leading the 49ers’ late rally in a 23-20 victory over the visiting . Smith, who earned his second straight victory as the starter for the 49ers (3-6), threw a go-ahead 16-yard touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree with 2:10 left in regulation. After Sam Bradford and Steven Jackson led the Rams (4-5) back for Josh Brown’s 33-yard field goal as regulation ended, St. Louis failed to get a first down after winning the overtime coin toss.

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