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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AP Source: NFL Fines Bills WR Johnson $10,000

A person familiar with the league’s disciplinary action informed The Associated Press of the fine on Wednesday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the league has not made an announcement.

Johnson declined to confirm whether he had been punished except to say he had an overnight courier envelope from the NFL waiting for him at his locker when he arrived for practice. Johnson left the envelope unopened because he expected to find inside formal notification of his fine.

Johnson said he was done discussing the celebration — and the national criticism he received as a result of it — and is instead focusing on looking forward to helping the Bills (5-6) end a four-game slump on Sunday when they host the Tennessee Titans (6-5).

“If I do, I get fined. But we’ve got to move on,” he said. “It’s the Tennessee Titans. I’m not really worried about a fine right now. It’s part of the game. People get fined. But we’ve still got a football game on Sunday.”

The Bills’ leading receiver got into hot water immediately after putting Buffalo up 14-7 by catching a 5-yard touchdown pass with a little over two minutes left in the second quarter of a 28-24 loss at the Jets on Sunday.

Using his hands as pistols, Johnson pretended to shoot himself in the thigh, a move that was directed at Burress, who wound up serving 20 months in prison for shooting himself in a New York City nightclub in 2008.

Johnson didn’t stop there. He then imitated a jet in flight before crashing to the turf. That proved particularly costly, because he was flagged 15 yards for going to the ground.

The Bills blew a squib kick on the next kickoff, leading to the Jets capitalizing on a short field to tie the score a little over a minute later.

Johnson said he was unaware he would be penalized, and added he regrets making fun of Burress and has apologized to the Jets player. He also said he plans to stop performing touchdown celebrations.

This isn’t the first time Johnson has been fined for his over-exuberance.

Last year, he shelled out a combined $15,000 after twice being fined by the NFL. He was fined $10,000 for falling back to the ground after pretending to shoot off a rifle — mimicking what the Patriots’ Minutemen do following a New England score — in a 38-30 loss at New England on Sept. 26.

Eight weeks later, he was fined $5,000 for showing off the message — “Why So Serious?” — Johnson had written in black marker on his T-shirt after scoring the first of three touchdown catches in a 49-31 win at Cincinnati.

Though he finished with eight catches for 75 yards, Johnson didn’t help his cause against the Jets on Sunday. He had two passes go off his hands — including one in which he was wide-open over the middle at the Jets 20-yard line — on the Bills last drive in the final minute.

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Jets Face Tough Path After Losing to Broncos and Patriots

In the small hours of Monday morning, left MetLife Stadium as a humbled team, humiliated at home, on national television, with the A.F.C. East lead at stake, by the rival , 37-16.

It was not even their worst defeat of the week, and it was not close, either. That distinction belongs to their flop on Thursday night against the , a fiasco that left the Jets panting and wheezing — and not because of the altitude. The 17-13 last-minute loss knocked them to the outskirts of the A.F.C. playoff picture, a place where other imperfect teams reside, but none that have done more than the Jets to sabotage their own seasons.

Even if the enduring memory is of ’s game-winning touchdown, which capped a 95-yard drive, the Jets did as much to lose this game as Tebow did to win it.

, who directed an offense that was 3 of 14 on third down and handed the Broncos 7 points with a critical third-quarter interception, called his night embarrassing. Awful special- teams play — a fumbled kickoff, a shanked punt, a long return allowed — underscored a systemic breakdown.

A defense that had allowed 75 yards on Denver’s previous 10 possessions suddenly forgot how to tackle, how to maintain assignments, how to win. It also collapsed on the Patriots’ final drive on Oct. 9, but at least then the Jets had to safeguard against the pass while they were being trampled by the run.

On Thursday, they knew the Broncos would rush, and so did everyone else at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. In hindsight, said Friday, he wished he did not call the all-out blitz on third down that Tebow recognized, processed and evaded, darting outside the Jets’ poor containment for a 20-yard touchdown. “Any bad feeling, we all had,” safety Eric Smith said.

In the stunned silence produced by such a crushing loss, the Jets did not want to think about the defeat’s impact on their playoff chances. Just worry about the next game, Santonio Holmes said. Without question it will be the Jets’ most important of the season. Buffalo (5-4) visits MetLife Stadium on Nov. 27, and the loser — especially if the fall Sunday at Miami — may as well start booking tee times.

When they played two weeks ago, the Jets won because they thwarted Fred Jackson, pressured Ryan Fitzpatrick and created three turnovers. They will need a similarly inspired performance from their defense again, if Sanchez’s play the last two games is any indication. Anyone watching him Thursday night could look beyond his 252 yards, his 60 percent completion rate (24 of 40), and see someone who struggled under pressure, made poor throws and bad decisions, and was upstaged by his counterpart.

When questioned about Sanchez’s development, Ryan often concludes his answers by referring to the past: the four road playoff wins, in particular, as if they grant him immunity from reproach. Sanchez’s good moments, like his 11 consecutive completions at one point on Thursday, are overshadowed by his critical mistakes, like the two interceptions returned for touchdowns in two games.

“This is our quarterback, he’s going to be our quarterback for as long as I’m here, which I hope is a long, long time,” Ryan said in a conference call. “He can make all the throws, he’s a competitive guy. Has it been perfect? No, absolutely. But it hasn’t been perfect for our entire team.”

The Jets’ imperfections have probably cost them a chance at the division title and the home playoff game they have long coveted. Their best hope of reaching the postseason, as things stand now, is to sneak in as the second wild-card team.

Over the last nine seasons, the A.F.C.’s wild-card teams have averaged 10.9 victories, with only 4 of the 18 winning as few as nine games. This season, in a conference that is competitive but not top-heavy, nine victories could be enough. More likely, the Jets would need 10. And to finish 10-6, they must win five of their final six games, a task that at present seems more daunting than the Lincoln Tunnel at rush hour.

On the surface, their schedule is favorable: their remaining opponents — Buffalo, Washington, Kansas City, Philadelphia, the Giants and Miami — have a combined winning percentage of .426 (23-31); among the A.F.C.’s 12 playoff contenders, only New England (.338) and Houston (.382) have a friendlier setup the rest of the way. In all likelihood, the second-place finisher in the A.F.C. North will capture one berth, leaving the Jets competing with Buffalo, Tennessee, the third-place team in the North and, for the moment, all four teams in the West.

What truly hurts the Jets is that all of their losses have come against contending A.F.C. teams, ceding the head-to-head tiebreaker to presumptive division champion New England (6-3), Baltimore (6-3), Oakland (5-4) and, now, Denver (5-5).

“I don’t see any breathing room,” Ryan said. “We’ve already used that up.”

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