By Mary Pesarchick // @HeyMom418
Bills 34 – Raiders 14
When head coach Sean McDermott finally hangs up his whistle at the end of his football career, he should take a job in marketing. McDermott has a slogan for every situation. He has them printed on signs hanging around the locker room. They are sprinkled throughout his speeches to the players and the media. For home games, McDermott came up with the catchphrase, “Defend Our Dirt,“ and went so far as to give each player a little glass jar containing some of the rubber fibers from the playing field at New Era stadium mixed with sand from training camp.
As corny as that may be, the message was received. The Bills are a perfect 4-0 at home following Sunday’s 31-14 win over the Raiders. This is the first time they have been perfect at home since 1995.
Also, for the first time all season, Sunday’s win was a complete team effort–offense, defense, and special teams contributed to the win. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor threw for 165 yards and a touchdown. Wide receiver Andre Holmes made a couple of spectacular toe-dragging catches, including one for the Bills’ first touchdown of the day. The running game didn’t disappoint as running back LeSean McCoy ran for 151 yards including a beautiful 48-yard touchdown run to put the game away.
And, then, there is the defense, that wonderful, ball-hawking defense. If they were at all stunned by the trade of defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to Jacksonville last Friday, it certainly doesn’t show. The Bills’ D created four turnovers against the Raiders to increase their league-leading takeaway margin to an incredible +14. And it wasn’t only the veterans making the plays.
Rookie linebacker Matt Milano recovered a fumble and returned it for a go-ahead touchdown. Another rookie, safety Trae Elston, intercepted quarterback David Carr to end the game. While he didn’t get a turnover, rookie cornerback Tre’Davious White blanketed Raiders’ wide receiver, Amari Cooper all day, and held him to 5 catches for 48 yards.
With Sunday’s win, the Bills improved to 5-2, a record the team hasn’t achieved since 2011. The surprised and utterly delighted fans are wondering just how far this team can go. Up to now, general manager Brandon Beane and McDermott rarely used the word “playoffs,” emphasizing instead another P-word –”process.” It’s been all about draft picks and patiently taking the time to build a structure. So, on the trade deadline day, it was anybody’s guess whether the Front Office was willing to take advantage of the Bills’ unexpected success and shoot for the post-season.
The answer came loudly and clearly on Halloween afternoon, and it was no trick and all treat for Bills fans. Thanks to a (literally) last-minute deal with the Carolina Panthers, the Bills traded for veteran wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin, giving up two of their precious 2018 draft picks, a third and seventh round, in return. The addition certainly addresses a glaring need for the offense. In the big picture, though, many see adding Benjamin to be a signal the Bills are making a push to win this season, and finally end the tortuous 17-year playoff drought.
The next step in that “process” takes place on Thursday in the Meadowlands against the Jets. The Bills beat the Jets in Week One, 21-12, but the combination of a short week and the national spotlight will make this a tough matchup. No doubt, fans will be eager to see if the Bills can not only defend their dirt, but stake out a claim in enemy territory and keep their playoff momentum going.
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