It took four seasons, but the Buffalo Bills earned their first regular season win of the five-year Bills Toronto Series.
Looking unlike the Buffalo squads that lost to the Chicago Bears, New York Jets and Miami Dolphins in the first three instalments in Toronto since 2008, the Bills shut out the Washington Redskins 23-0 and improved to 5-2, which bests the number of wins they had all last season.
Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick tossed two touchdown passes to tight end Scott Chandler, while kicker Rian Lindell added three field goals to hand Washington its third straight loss and a 3-4 record.
Fitzpatrick completed 21 of 27 passes for 262 yards and one pick, while running back Fred Jackson had 26 carries for 120 yards and caught three passes for 74 yards.
Fitzpatrick also fumbled once – just the third the Bills have had all season, and the first they lost. They handed the ball over at the Buffalo 30-yard line, but the defence prevented the Redskins from tallying points off the mistake with a big defensive stand followed by a blocked field goal by defensive end Spencer Johnson.
The Bills defence held Redskins quarterback John Beck to 208 passing yards and safeties George Wilson and Jairus Byrd both recorded interceptions.
The dominant performance was a pleasant surprise to Bills coach Chan Gailey, who said he felt "scared to death" coming off a loss and a bye week.
"You're not in your routine, and you don't know if your guys are back into it or not," Gailey said. "We had a couple guys late for meetings because they weren't back into the routine, so it makes you nervous as a coach."
Many NFL teams have not played well this year following the four mandatory off days of a bye week, but it didn't seem to bother the Bills.
"We didn't believe in that," Fitzpatrick said. "We believed we could start fast, play well. And the effort our defence had today, all we needed was three points to win that one."
Sudden Sack Attack
Before Sunday, the Bills had just four sacks in total through six games, ranking dead last in the NFL. But Gailey insisted the pass rush was a top priority coming out of the bye week, and the Bills sacked Beck a stunning nine times Sunday. Marcell Dareus, the Bills' 2011 third overall draft pick, led the way with a pair after moving from left defensive end to nose tackle for Sunday's game.
Jackson passed the 3,500 career rushing yard mark in this game and surpassed 100 yards for the third consecutive game, which hasn't been done by a Bills running back since Thurman Thomas in 1994. The Bills now have a 10-2 record when Jackson rolls for over 100 yards. "When you got 22 [Jackson]on your team, you always have a chance," Fitzpatrick said.
Bills appreciated better Toronto atmosphere
After questioning Toronto's commitment to the Bills earlier this week, safety George Wilson said of the announced crowd of 51,579, "This was definitely the most exciting crowd we've had since we played up here." Washington even called a timeout because of the noise. Gailey echoed the sentiment but had one plea for Toronto fans: "I have to teach them when it's third-and-one not to do the wave though. But the crowd was really into it, and it helped us."
Fitz shakes it off
Fitzpatrick was hit as he completed a 46-yard pass to Jackson, which knocked him breathless to the ground in the second quarter, but he was okay. While down on the turf, the quarterback did not know his running back caught the pass and was making a big gain, but thought the cheering was for the hit. "I thought boy, Toronto does not like me," Fitzpatrick laughed. "I was thinking that's a lot of excitement for a hit on the quarterback."