The Bills got a huge emotional lift with the visit from Kevin Everett before the game. The so called special teams, that has been less than special this year, and poor run defense gave the momentum back to the Giants as the visitors clinched a playoff spot with a 38-21 win over the Bills at rainy, windy Ralph Wilson Stadium. It was a game of many momentum shifts and the Giants pulled away thanks to three fourth quarter interceptions thrown by Trent Edwards, two were returned for touchdowns to put what had been a close game away.
Everett met with his teammates a couple of hours before kickoff and the Bills came out motivated with the wind at their back in the first quarter. They drove to back to back touchdowns to gain a 14-0 lead. Dick Jauron attributed the quick start to the visit from Everett. Once the wind went against them special teams made two huge gaffes that led to two 2nd quarter touchdowns by the Giants to tie the game.
Edwards seemed comfortable early throwing with the wind hitting Josh Reed for 21 yards on the first play to get the Bills going. Marshawn Lynch was used in the passing game on the opening two successful drives. His 30 yard completion setup a 3 yard touchdown pass to Michael Gaines. On the next possession he hit a 42 yard bomb to Roscoe Parrish to setup a four yard scoring pass to Lee Evans to make it 14-0. (Warning: You may not want to read further if you aren't a gluten for punishment.)
Things went downhill from there as the Giants had the heavy winds in the 2nd quarter and the special teams made it easy for them. A bad snap by Ryan Neill for the second straight game setup the Giants deep in Buffalo territory. Brandon Jacobs ran it in up the middle for a six yard touchdown run. They would tie the ball game one play after Donte Whitner was called for roughing the punter on the Giants next series. Jacobs made them pay for that mistake by rumbling 43 yards virtually untouched to quiet the crowd and make the Giants spell blood.
The Giants would add a field goal to take a 17-14 lead and looked for more when Aaron Schobel forced a fumble by Eli Manning and recovered it to keep the Giants from getting more as the first half expired.
The Bills knew they needed to score early and often in the third quarter since they were going against the wind in the fourth and they needed a lead going into the final period. They did score early but not often. Keith Ellison picked off a tipped pass on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter and two plays later Marshawn Lynch was in the end zone to give the Bills the lead back.
The Giants marched down the field into the wind as they took valuable time off the clock with a fantastic running game to take up much of the quarter. The Bills managed their bend but don't break defense with a huge goal line stand stopping them on four straight runs after they had a first and goal at the one.
Any momentum the Bills had was short lived when they went three and out with the wind and a conservative gameplan from inside their own 10 yard line. The Giants had good field position and picked right back up where they left off as Brandon Jacobs started running well again as he rifled through the Bills defense most of the game on his way to a career high 145 yards. He left the field on the previous drive but his backup Ahmad Bradshaw had some nice runs himself. The Giants controlled the clock and the game in the third quarter and that was the difference as they entered the fourth quarter down by 4 but deep in Buffalo territory. The Bills likely needed a two touchdown lead entering the final period to win.
This game of momentum swings wasn't done yet. Eli Manning struggled with the snap from center all game long. His 5th fumble, 2nd lost of the game was recovered by Larry Tripplett to give the Bills the momentum back...for two plays. That is when a slant pass by Edwards was knocked into the air by Evans and picked off and returned for a touchdown. The Giants now had the lead back and the wind.
Edwards went right back to Evans after the ensuing kickoff and hit him for 18 yards. Lynch followed it with a 13 yard run but the Bills went three and out from there with the help of a non call against the Giants for what could have been called pass interference on third down. The Bills defense really stiffened in the fourth quarter to keep the team in the game. Terrence McGee picked off a pass near midfield to give the Bills another chance.
At this point the rain had turned to snow and the wind and snow was blowing in the face of Edwards who really struggled after a solid first quarter. All the Bills could try to do was run and the Giants keyed on it well enough to keep the Bills from doing anything offensively into the wind. You realized that no matter how well the defense played the Bills weren't going to find a way to score again in the weather conditions to win it.
The defense seemed to know it as well as the three and out after the big takeaway seemed to take the wind out of the sails of the defense and the little known 7th round pick Bradshaw rumbled 88 yards for a touchdown to put the game away. A 2nd Edwards pick was returned for a touchdown and a third pick allowed the Giants to run out the clock.
The Bills did play inspired ball early and never gave up until Bradshaw's back breaking touchdown The Giants finished with a whopping 291 yards rushing as Bradshaw finished 151 yards to go along with Jacobs career high. In a game with so many twists and turns and momentum changes that was the ultimate difference along with the fact that they did more with the wind then the Bills offense did.
Here are our exclusive gameballs and goats from the Bills game against the Giants: