ORCHARD PARK ã ItÞs amazing what one blown coverage and a tipped ball can do for a football team.
SundayÞs 24-10 final makes it sound very much as if the Bills controlled the game in downing the Packers at ßThe Ralph.à
In fact, this game was a glorious gift presented by Green Bay.
Buffalo led 10-0 thanks to a 61-yard kickoff return by Terrence McGee that set up a field goal, and a 17-yard interception return for a touchdown by middle linebacker London Fletcher.
Well into the fourth quarter, the BillsÞ offense had done squat.
WITH THE game tied at 10 and just over eight minutes to play, Buffalo quarterback J.P. Losman, who had been sacked five times, was being booed virtually every time he walked off the field.
Wide receiver Lee Evans had just been called for a holding penalty and the Bills had 21 net passing yards ã subtracting the sacks ã when Losman lined up facing 2nd-and-20 at the Green Bay 43.
ThatÞs when Evans put an out move on the PackersÞ Al Harris, who took the fake, then went long, wide-open.
Losman, who barely got enough time to throw, floated a pass toward Evans, who had enough time to hesitate and make the catch, before completing a 43-yard TD connection.
But, barely three minutes later, Green BayÞs Brett Favre had the Packers at the Buffalo 1-yard line ready to tie it at 17.
Then came the tipped ball.
Favre, who has 407 career touchdown passes, 13 behind Dan MarinoÞs all-time record, tried to thread a pass to wide receiver Donald Driver in the end zone, as he had done one period earlier.
But the pass, Driver and BillsÞ defender Nate Clements converged simultaneously with the cornerback tipping the ball in the air where it was grabbed by rookie free safety Ko Simpson who returned it 76 yards to set up the clinching touchdown for Buffalo.
In one play, the Packers went from going in for the tying score to the Bills starting a short drive for the clincher.
The beloved Hall-of-Fame-bound Favre has 11 touchdown passes in the first eight games, meaning he needs a longshot 14 in the final eight to take MarinoÞs record.
Otherwise, heÞll have to return next season to set it.
On Sunday, the Packers had just run for 35 yards on three carries during the drive.
Still, BillsÞ coach Dick Jauron wasnÞt about to criticize what appeared to be a dubious decision by PackersÞ counterpart Mike McCarthy.
ß(FavreÞs) got great confidence in his abilities and they have great confidence in him and they should,à he said. ßHeÞs spent his career putting them right on the money. It wasnÞt behind (Driver), it was just out in front of him and Nate got his hand in there and made a terrific play.
ßIÞve seen that guy play for 16 years and seen him stick it in tight spots like he did the touchdown in the other end (also a 1-yarder to Driver)… that was an unbelievable throw and catch.à
But Fletcher was a bit more quizzical.
ßI donÞt understand it, but thatÞs their prerogative,à he said of the decision. ßThey had been running the ball with success and I donÞt know if it was even a yard to go … it was real close.
ßI was thinking run and probably all the other linebackers were thinking run … Nate and the corners were probably the only ones thinking pass.à
So was it a bad call?
ßWe had the look we wanted,à Favre said. ßWhen Mike called the play, at worst, it falls incomplete. Had it worked, it's a great call.à
But Simpson wasnÞt sure
ßI was kind of surprised,à he admitted ßPeople say (it was an odd call), but they tried to get it to their best player … Driver, and we just made a good play.à
Whatever, FavreÞs ill-fated throw helped hand the Bills a victory in which they were outgained by over 240 yards, out-possessed by nearly nine minutes and trailed in first downs, 26-11.
And Buffalo fans can stop complaining, the Bills just stole back the game they gave to the Jets.
But is it enough?
(Chuck Pollock is sports editor of The Olean Times Herald.)