ORCHARD PARK — It was the game that wouldn’t end.
When the Bills and Jaguars pretty much breezed through the first half of Saturday night’s pre-season meeting at “The Ralph,” deadline was of no concern for we print-types, especially with our focus on the opening 30 minutes when it was starters vs. starters.
But, after intermission, the game moved at a glacial pace.
The third quarter wasn’t bad, but period No. 4 took some 67 minutes and it merely set up an overtime that didn’t end until nearly a half hour later with a 35-32 Buffalo victory.
Elapsed time was three hours and 48 minutes, mostly because of that nightmarish fourth period that featured a quartet of challenges and reviews, three touchdowns, a pair of two-point conversions and a couple interceptions.
The game’s 10:53 finish was perfect for TV’s 11 o’clock news ... print guys, not so much, especially in a game nobody will remember 12 days from now.
AFTERWARD, though, Bills’ coach Chan Gailey was decidedly upbeat.
“We’ve played a bunch of overtime games at home and we haven’t won any,” he said. ”It was good to win an overtime game and to have that feeling and know what that feels like.
“For the guys to fight back, I don’t care if it was a pre-season game, I like to see that fight. If we’ll keep fighting good things will happen to us down the road.”
And, for awhile, Buffalo actually dominated, leading 17-0 in the first half ... until falling behind by 15 on the first play of what was supposed to be the final quarter.
“If we hadn’t missed a couple tackles, it would have been a really good half for the defense,” Gailey maintained. “I thought we did some good things on both sides of the ball. It was good for us (and) it was great to win in overtime.
“We fought hard to get back to that point and for them to be able to go out and win the game ... that’s good.”
The Bills’ opening half highlight was the play of its first-team offense.
Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had the highest-possible passer rating (158.3) courtesy of going 11-for-12 on throws for 165 yards with no interceptions or sacks and TD tosses of 52 yards to Steve Johnson and 11 to Marcus Easley.
Easley, last year’s fourth-round draft pick who missed the entire season with a knee injury, finished with five receptions for 51 yards, all but one with the first team.
“Marcus is slowly coming back,” Gailey said. “We had high hopes for him going into camp last year, he got hurt early and was on the IR, then he got hurt early again this year. He just hasn’t had that many opportunities.
“Finally he’s working his way back into it (so) it’s great for him to have that kind of night. I’d expect more things from him in the future ... he’s good for our football team.”
“I think (Saturday’s game) helps with confidence ... especially for a young guy like Marcus Easley, who hasn’t played a lot,” the QB said. “For him to get in and get some catches in a game-like situation definitely helps. He tweaked his knee a bit at the beginning of camp and kind of lost some of that confidence he had gained through the stuff that we did in the off-season. As he got more confidence in his knee, you could see confidence in him in practice ... his route-running ability, the way he was catching the ball.
“Today was a good day for him to get out there and show everybody what he’s been doing. To have a game like this where we targeted him several times and for him to come down with them, it was good.”
THEN THERE was the maligned starting offensive line that permitted no sacks and nearly four yards a carry on running plays in the first half.
“I don’t know if there was anybody ever near me,” Fitzpatrick said of the lack of pressure he faced. “The guys up front did a great job in terms of last game maybe getting a few too many quarterback pressures and this game not even getting touched. Those guys have got to be pretty confident after today.”
Even Gailey was impressed.
“I thought the protection was good from every group that was out there,” he said. “From the first group, the second group, and even those last guys that were out there, they did a good job of protection and that was a real positive for us.”
(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)