ORCHARD PARK - Ten years from now nobody will remember the asterisk.
A look at the Buffalo Bills’ 2009 season will show that, in the finale, they beat the Indianapolis Colts, 30-7 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Few will remember that the Colts were 14-1 coming in, the No. 1 American Football Conference playoff seed, and had rested most of it starters, including running back Joseph Addai, and that its three best offensive players - quarterback Peyton Manning, tight end Dallas Clark and wide receiver Reggie Wayne - were on the field for a mere three series.
Besides, the Bills were playing out the string of a bleak season, coming in at 5-10 and having lost three of the last four.
And on a cold, snowy Sunday afternoon, more suited to sled-dog racing, Buffalo impressed a listed gathering of 69,848 - though the count was more like half that - by putting running back Fred Jackson in the record book and handing the Colts (14-2) their second straight loss after 14 consecutive wins to open the season.
JACKSON, the third-year pro from Division III Coe College, came in needing 150 yards to become the 11th Bill to have a 1.000-yard rushing season … and only 22 yards to surpass his first two seasons combined.
Having easily displaced last year’s No. 1 draft pick, Marshawn Lynch, as Buffalo’s feature back, Jackson outdid himself.
He carved up Indy’s reserve defense for 212 yards on 33 carries, becoming only the sixth Bill to rush for over 200 in a game while recording the seventh highest total of the 11 efforts to exceed that figure.
Jackson didn’t score on the ground, but did catch an 11-yard scoring pass from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had his best day as a pro with three TD tosses (21 yards to Lee Evans and 41 to Terrell Owens were the others), no interceptions, no sacks and a glittering 120.8 passer rating in weather conditions that hardly invited throwing the ball.
AFTERWARD, interim coach Perry Fewell, who went 3-4 in the seven games after Dick Jauron (3-6) was fired, gave some credit to the weather that featured a wind chill of two-below zero, snow squalls and winds gusting to 25 mph.
“It was a Buffalo day,” Fewell said with a smile, “I loved it … it was absolutely awesome.”
Of Jackson reaching 1,000 yards he added, “that was the goal. I’ve got to give (the offensive line) credit … they wanted to block for him.
“Fitz wanted to block for him, Terrell wanted to block for him, (Evans) wanted to block for him.”
And Fitzpatrick admitted, “We were going to do whatever it took to get him 1,000 … the guys up front played great.
“All year Fred hasn’t gotten the national attention, but the effort he plays with - you guys see it every week - he’s such a good football player. I don’t think there are a ton of people who give him the respect he deserves, but he’s been amazing for us this year.”
AND, ON this day, Fitzpatrick was amazing too.
“I think we had a lot of fun out there,” he said. “It might have had a lot to do with the score, too.
“The wind is usually the worst thing, especially for the passing game, (but) the wind was not terrible today, so I think we caught a break in that sense. But I’ve never played in a game with that much snow … never. It was fun though.”
And one could reasonably speculate that Fitzpatrick’s passing success was a byproduct of the Bills’ productivity on the ground.
“I have to give all the props to my teammates,” Jackson said. “The offensive line did a great job of blocking today. Lee and T.O. did a great job of getting on safeties.
“They wanted it as bad as I did, so not only for myself but to get it for those guys (is big).”
But to get that milestone on a slippery field was particularly impressive.
“More than anything, it was the footing,” Jackson said. “The sharp cuts weren’t there that you normally get … that’s the biggest adjustment we had to make. But other than that, it was a running day … it had to be with the weather.”
And while the cuts weren’t there, Jackson’s unique ability to get extra yards after contact was there in full.
“One of the things me and Marshawn pride ourselves on is being able to break that first contact and get extra yardage. It was something I heard from (Colts’ defenders), they were saying, ‘You got held down on that first contact.’ Anytime you hear that from a defensive guy, it makes you want to continue what you’re doing.”
But he also admitted, “The win today (was the big thing).”
To which Fitzpatrick added, “It’s been a long year, obviously, for everybody. To get the touchdowns early, to put points on the board, to get Lee and Terrell and Freddie into the end zone, it was good for us.
“It helps out a little bit after a long season just because of what a nice finish it was.”