Bills Take Everything That Vick Gives Them

Running back Fred Jackson had a combined 196 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown, and the Bills’ defense had four interceptions to secure a 31-24 victory over a slow-starting, underachieving, far-from-elite opponent that had been billed the Dream Team only weeks ago.

“Containing Vick is a hard job for anybody,” linebacker Nick Barnett said. “We were trying to make him uneasy, make him think too fast.”

Barnett returned an interception 31 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter, then sealed the victory by picking off Vick with 1 minute 49 seconds left.

“The ball just popped right into my hands,” Barnett said. “I tried to get me another touchdown, but I don’t have that Deion Sanders speed.”

Barnett and the Bills can laugh because they are showing no signs of playing their familiar role as an N.F.L. pushover.

Bouncing back from a 23-20 loss at Cincinnati, Buffalo (4-1) has already matched last year’s win total, is off to its best start since 2008, and looking nothing like the team that opened last season losing eight straight en route to a 4-12 finish.

“I think what we went through last year, nobody wanted to go through again,” Coach Chan Gailey said. “I think we learned we could play in the big ballgames.”

The Eagles (1-4) are foundering, and not even Vick’s suggestion of dropping their Dream Team label last week has put a stop to their slide. Philadelphia has lost four in a row — its longest skid since 2005 — and is off to its worst start since 1999, Coach Andy Reid’s first season.

¶ Kept out of the end zone for almost three quarters, Aaron Rodgers finally broke out with a 70-yard touchdown pass to James Jones and led the Packers to a 25-14 victory over the Falcons in Atlanta. Rodgers finished with 396 yards passing for the Packers (5-0), who trailed, 14-0, early in the second quarter and were held without a touchdown in the first half by Atlanta (2-3), which was trying to make up for an embarrassing 48-21 loss to Green Bay in the playoffs last season.

Broncos Turn to Tebow

Philip Rivers overcame an interception and a fourth-quarter fumble to lead the Chargers to a 29-24 win over the Broncos despite Tim Tebow’s best efforts to rally host Denver from a 16-point deficit. Tebow ran for a score and threw for another after replacing Kyle Orton to start the third quarter — the cheers for Tebow’s entrance were so loud that he could not hear his first play call from the coaches in his helmet — but his last pass fell incomplete in the end zone on the final play. Despite the disappointment, some fans chanted “Tebow! Tebow!” as the crowd filed out.

Steelers and 49ers Roll

Limping slightly on his sprained left foot, Ben Roethlisberger threw five touchdown passes as the Steelers thumped the visiting Titans, 38-17. Roethlisberger worked efficiently, getting rid of the ball quickly to keep Tennessee’s defense at bay. It was a major style change, since he has built a career by holding on to the ball until the last moment while looking to make big plays, sometimes taking a beating in the process. The Titans (3-2) rarely got close to him; he was sacked once while completing 24 of 34 passes.

¶ Alex Smith threw two of his three touchdown passes to Vernon Davis, Frank Gore ran for a score in his second straight 100-yard rushing game and the 49ers beat the visiting Buccaneers, 48-3, for their best start in nine years. It was the third win in a row for N.F.C. West-leading San Francisco (4-1) since it blew a late lead in an overtime loss to the Cowboys on Sept. 18.

Raiders Win

The Raiders held off the Texans, 25-20, to win the day after the death of their maverick owner, Al Davis. Jason Campbell threw two touchdown passes for visiting Oakland(3-2), but Houston (3-2) had a chance to win with less than a minute left. Facing a third-and-29 from the Oakland 39, Matt Schaub scrambled and found tight end Joel Dreessen at the 5. Schaub spiked the ball with seven seconds left, then lobbed a pass to Jacoby Jones in the end zone on the final play, but Michael Huff intercepted it.

¶ Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston each caught two touchdown passes, and the Chiefs beat the Colts, 28-24, after rallying from a 17-point deficit. With Bowe breaking tackles and Breaston eluding the Colts’ coverage, host Kansas City (2-3) tied the largest comeback in team history. Bowe had seven catches for 128 yards and Breaston finished with four catches for 50. The Colts are 0-5 for the first time since 1997, the year before they drafted Peyton Manning.

In Other Games

Drew Brees found Pierre Thomas wide open on the right side for a 6-yard touchdown with 50 seconds left, helping the visiting Saints rally past the Panthers, 30-27. Brees passed for 359 yards and 2 touchdowns, including a nearly flawless final drive in which he completed 8 of 9 passes for 80 yards to take back momentum after Cam Newton and the Panthers (1-4) had taken their first lead early in the fourth quarter. It was Carolina’s fourth loss by a touchdown or less. “There’s a reason we keep losing,” Newton said. “And I want to know the reason.”

¶ The Vikings routed the visiting Cardinals, 34-10, and ended their troubling habit of stumbling down the stretch by building a lead so big even they couldn’t blow it. Adrian Peterson rushed for three first-quarter touchdowns and Minnesota (1-4) went ahead, 28-0, less than 13 minutes into the game. Kevin Kolb had three turnovers for the Cardinals (1-4), who had six possessions in the first quarter but crossed their 30-yard line only once.

¶ Andy Dalton threw two touchdown passes, Bernard Scott scored with 1:56 remaining and the Bengals beat the Jaguars, 30-20. A series of errors, including Matt Turk’s 22-yard punt that set up the go-ahead score, sent the Jaguars (1-4) to their fourth straight loss and raised more questions about Coach Jack Del Rio’s future with the franchise.

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Smith Set to Go for Bills

Smith, who signed with the Bills as a free agent last week, can run like a running back, throw like a quarterback, and catch like a receiver, and with his new team he’ll be doing all three under the guidance of coach Chan Gailey, who tutored the original “Slash,” Kordell Stewart, while the two were together in Pittsburgh in the mid-1990s.

“I see him being used in a similar role,” Gailey said about his Smith. “He can play some receiver and quarterback, and gives you a lot of versatility. He can play special teams, cover kicks and return kicks. He can do a lot to help a football team win games.”

Winning has certainly been the problem the past decade for a Bills team that hasn’t qualified for the postseason since 1999.

Smith, meanwhile, has gone to the past two AFC championship games with the New York Jets after being drafted out of Missouri as a dynamic quarterback in the fourth round of the 2006 draft.

That winning mentality is yet another item he’ll be bringing to the Bills, who have lagged behind the rest of the AFC East in recent years.

“I think we’ve got a group of guys that may not be the most respected group of guys because of whatever reason, but we’re so talented right now that we’re going to prove a lot of people wrong,” Smith said. “We’re in a tough division, but you wouldn’t want it to be any other way. It’s going to bring out the best in us. It’s not about who you have on the roster, it’s about what you do with it.”

Smith and the rest of Buffalo’s key free agents — linebacker Nick Barnett, quarterback Tyler Thigpen, and cornerback Drayton Florence — have been participating in team meetings the past few days, but had yet to hit the practice field due to the collective bargaining agreement not being ratified.

“I’ve never been this excited for a practice so I just can’t wait,” Smith said Thursday morning after the team’s walk-thru session. “Being out here with this hard working group of guys, I’m just excited to try and bring something to the table for them.”

Smith finally got the chance to hit the field with his fellow free agents during the Bills’ practice on Thursday night. Smith participated with the quarterbacks, but did not don a red jersey.

“It was great to see everybody and most everybody played some kind of play out there, which is great,” Gailey said after practice. “It’s good to see those guys.”

After becoming a free agent following the lockout, Smith talked at length with Gailey and liked what he heard. After accumulating 767 rushing yards and 557 receiving yards with the Jets, Smith is anxious to build upon those numbers after primarily returning kicks the past two seasons.

“Coach Gailey’s passion for this team and his vision for where he wants this to go, I want to be a part of it,” Smith said.

Smith will spend most of his time during training camp with the quarterbacks, but he said he’ll also be running some routes with receivers, returning kicks, and playing some special teams.

“The quarterback stuff is so I can grasp the entirety of the offense, and then kind of expand from there,” he said. “It’s a great plan by Coach Gailey and I want to keep growing on it. I try to earn everything that’s given to me, and that’s the way I’m approaching it.”

Along with starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, Smith will be spending plenty of time with Thigpen, who also signed as a free agent last week due in large part to his past relationship with Gailey while the two were in Kansas City.

“He’s been a great mentor for me,” Thigpen said. “Last year when he started winning some games at the latter part of the season, I would text him congratulations. So we definitely have a good relationship.” Notes: TE David Martin sat out the night practice with a toe injury but Gailey expects him to be back soon. … DT Marcel Dareus, the team’s first-round draft pick, hobbled off the field toward the end of the night practice but Gailey expects him to be back Friday. … WR David Nelson left the field after some breathing problems according to Gailey, but he is expected to be fine. … TE Shawn Nelson, WR Marcus Easley and LB Kelvin Sheppard also sat out of night practice.

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