ORCHARD PARK - Apparently the Buffalo Bills do want interim head coach Perry Fewell to retain that job next season.
For the second straight game they managed an inspired effort, but this time without the fourth-quarter fold.
The result was an impressive 31-14 AFC East victory over the Miami Dolphins on a 49-degree, late November Sunday afternoon before 70,155 witnesses at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Don’t be confused by the final.
The Bills (4-7) actually trailed 14-7 going to the final period in a battle of the NFL’s two worst teams in the last stanza.
Coming in, Buffalo had been outscored 109 to 40 in the fourth and the Dolphins (5-6) had given up even more 110-74.
But on this day, the Bills outscored Miami 24-0 in the final 14 minutes.
They used a pair of touchdown runs by Fred Jackson (3 and 7 yards), a career-record field goal by Rian Lindell and another long touchdown connection from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to Terrell Owens to win at home for only the second time in the past nine games at “The Ralph”.
Jackson, with 15 carries for 73 yards, affirmed that he’s the Bills’ feature back over former first-round draft choice Marshawn Lynch (6 yards on 3 tries).
And Fitzpatrick, who had a franchise record (for a quarterback) 31-yard touchdown run, tightened his grip on the starting job by going 17-of-26 for 246 yards through the air, with that 51-yard TD to T.O. and a 92.8 passer rating.
BUT THE real winner was Fewell who the players have embraced for his upbeat personality, positive attitude and willingness to get in their faces if needed.
When asked about getting his first win as an NFL head coach, he admitted, “Man, how sweet it is.
“The players played hard (and) we fought, offense, defense and special teams … we finished in the fourth quarter (and) we made the big plays.”
Ah, the fourth quarter.
Buffalo trailed, 14-7, when the period started, before Jackson tied it from three yards out.
Then, with 3:40 to play, and the score still 14-14, the Bills’ faced 4th-and-9 at Miami’s 38.
Without hesitation, Fewell sent in Lindell - who had already missed a 44-yarder at the scoreboard end - to try a 56-yard field goal.
It was a decision Fewell’s predecessor, Dick Jauron, likely would never have made. After all, a miss would have given the Dolphins the ball at their own 46, a mere two first downs from a potential game-winning field goal try.
“It was a gut,” Fewell said the decision. “I had confidence in him and I said, ‘Hey Bobby (April, special teams coach), let’s go kick that thing.’”
Lindell’s boot was perfect with a couple yards to spare.
“Good job coach for giving me the chance,” Lindell said with a laugh. “I knew 56 was in my range (heading toward the administration building), the other way would have been a bit more iffy.
“It’s funny, I didn’t think of the implications if I missed … I just felt confident.”
So did Fewell.
“I knew the ramifications,” Fewell said of the decision, “but I thought at that point we could turn the tide.”
He was right.
Four plays later, cornerback Drayton Florence got the second of Buffalo’s four interceptions, the first off Dolphins’ QB Chad Henne.
Then, on Buffalo’s next snap, Fitzpatrick caught Miami’s defenders anticipating a a time-eating running play, and lofted the TD toss to Owens, pretty much clinching the game with 2:33 to play.
“Our thing this week was to be aggressive and attack and dictate,” Fewell said. “Ryan saw something where he could be aggressive, he got the green light and let it go.”
“You have to think three points is going to be good enough because our defense is good enough to stop them,” he said. “At the same time, if we have the opportunity to put the dagger in, and hit a big shot down the sideline … it’s nice that it worked out and something that kind of iced the game.”
HIS FEELING is understandable.
Before Sunday, the Bills were ahead or tied in the fourth quarter eight times and managed to lose five of those games.
In the final period against the Dolphins, Buffalo had a 24-0 scoring edge, a 3 1/2 minute advantage in time of possession, a 135-58 edge in offensive yardage and forced three turnovers in a span of two minutes.
“The biggest thing is that we finally finished in the fourth quarter,” Fitzpatrick said. “It’s been our downfall all season. We’ve played hard, we’ve hung on into the fourth quarter, then let it slip away. Hopefully we can use today as a turning point for the way that we played and finished the game.
IT WAS a particular relief for safety Donte Whitner , who had one of his team’s four interceptions, leading to Jackson’s second TD.
“All this season, all we heard was that we fall apart in the fourth quarter … we get weak in the fourth quarter” he said. “We’ve been in the majority of games going into the fourth quarter and they run the ball on us and we’ve collapsed. If our offense goes three-and-out, three-and-out and three-and-out, that’s when teams try to pound us in the run game. But when we’re fresh, which the offense let us be today, we do a pretty good job.
“Finishing the game the way we did makes you want to do it every week.”