After exciting come-from-behind wins, both the Buffalo Bills and the Detroit Lions are sitting at 3-0 and have captured the headlines that are usually set for the likes Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Kyle Orton (kidding!). The games these two teams have been in have been the best games of the weekend, most notably when the Bills stole a 34-31 win over Brady-cakes and the Patriots last Sunday.
Led by former by Ivy Leaguer Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw 27 for 40 for 369 yards and two touchdowns, the Bills somehow came back from a 21-0 second quarter deficit. An impressive win for the Bills (in which the Patriots’ quarterback threw a whopping four interceptions), it broke a 15-game losing streak to the Patriots and put the Bills atop the AFC East. The party that broke out in the Bills stadium after the win, I’m positive, was one for the ages.
The Bills had the same impressive performance the previous week against the new-and-improved Oakland Raiders, when Fitzpatrick led them back from a 21-3 deficit, scoring touchdowns on their final five possessions of the game. According to ESPN.com and STATS LLC., the Bills became the only team to overcome deficits of at least 18 points to win in two consecutive weeks. Furthermore, only five teams had previously won twice in one season when trailing by 18 or more points.
Perhaps not as exciting but just as impressive are the Detroit Lions, who also remain undefeated after a come-from-behind win against the Vikings on Sunday. Down 20-0 at halftime, quarterback Matthew Stafford threw two touchdowns in the second half to force overtime, where longtime kicker Jason Hanson won the game 26-23 with a 32-yard field goal. This was the first Lions win in the Metrodome since 1997. More impressively, the Lions are 3-0 for the first time since 1980.
In fact, for both the Lions and the Bills, the last time both teams went 3-0 was in 1980. That’s eight years before Stafford was born and two years before Fitzpatrick was born.
Of course, being 3-0 is no end-all goal of any team on any level. It’s a great start, but both teams admit they haven’t won anything yet. And while everybody in the NFL wants to win a Super Bowl, I believe these two teams have really set their goals on making the playoffs this year. And since 75.9 percent of teams that start 3-0 make the playoffs (since 1990), the chances are good both of these teams will do just that – but that doesn’t make it a certainty. Both have an uphill battle as both are in tough divisions, and both may have to play for wildcard spots.
That’s because the Bills will have take their division from either the Patriots or the Jets. The Bills’ rematch against the Patriots on Jan. 1, 2012, in Foxborough, will undoubtedly be one of their toughest games of the season, especially if there are serious playoff implications.
For the Lions to make the playoffs, it looks like they will have to look for a wildcard spot, as well as they must go through Chicago and the reining Super Bowl champion Packers to win that division. We’ll have to wait until Thanksgiving to see how well the Lions will match up against the Packers, but by then they will have played Chicago twice and we should have an idea if the Lions are for real.
I would like to throw a bit of caution to those enjoying the Lions and the Bills victories though. As a Bronco fan, I still feel the pain of former head coach Josh McDaniels who led the Broncos to an impressive 6-0 start in 2009 but crashed and burned after that, going 5-17 during the rest of his two-year tenure in Denver. I remember how excited I was when we were 6-0, and then I remember how depressed I was at the end of the 2009/2010 season when the Broncos couldn’t win a home game against a dismal Chiefs team to make the playoffs.
If I were a Bills or Lions fan, I would be excited about my quarterback. Both Fitzpatrick and Stafford have shown a will to fight to the end, no matter how deep a hole their teams dig themselves into. As a fan, that’s what I want to know. Do we have a chance of coming back, even if we are down by three touchdowns? Can a quarterback win the game for his team? That’s what Stafford and Fitzpatrick have done so far in this young season.
Here in Bronco country, fans hunger for that same feeling. We want to know that there’s a chance to come back even if Denver’s down by three touchdowns. Visions of John Elway winning games from behind are not too distant in our hearts. We know the feeling. As it is right now, with Kyle Orton under center, there’s little hope that we can win even the close games.
All the ESPN football talking heads reiterate over and over again that Orton isn’t Denver’s problem. He’s not the reason Denver is a mediocre team. They say he’s not losing these games for Denver. Well, maybe not.
Here’s what he’s not doing. He’s not winning the game. He’s not giving the team the spark it needs to make a comeback. Perhaps Orton needs to take a closer look at both Fitzpatrick and Stafford during the last two quarters. He’ll see leadership and a will to win despite the odds.
How many losses must Denver endure before Orton is benched?