|Roscoe Parrish of the Buffalo Bills runs the ball after catching a pass against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at Ralph Wilson Stadium. (Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - You are one of 68,191 gathered in Ralph Wilson Stadium for a Sunday ritual that has been more pain than pleasure in recent years and your rear hasn’t hit the seat for the entire second half.
On a perfect afternoon for football, you have watched the home team score touchdowns on each of its five possessions in the half to erase a 21-3 deficit.
After all you have been through with this team, you can’t believe what you are seeing.
The Bills have taken a 38-35 lead over the Oakland Raiders with 14 seconds left and you still have to sweat it out?
After a Hail Mary pass by Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell was picked off in the end zone as time ran out — a verdict not made official until a delayed video review confirmed it — the undefeated Bills were suddenly 2-0.
And better yet for all who sat through so many miserable afternoons the past decade, they are easy on the eyes for the first time in forever.
“This sends a message to everybody that we’re not the old Buffalo Bills,” said receiver David Nelson, who found himself so wide open in the end zone for the dramatic winning score that not even the worst of the Bills quarterbacks of the past could have missed him.
“We’re here to compete. We’re taking it game by game, but we’re here to make the playoffs,” Nelson added.
A 2-0 start and making it to the post-season for the first time since the 1999 season may be a leap, but you have to start somewhere.
Perhaps in Ryan Fitzpatrick, so tentative in the first half, but in clear command in the second, they have a quarterback who can lead them to respectability.
“He did not panic on that last drive,” head coach Chan Gailey said of the 14-play, 80-yard march that began with 3:27 left on the clock. “He knew exactly where we were trying to attack them. He sees it. He’s a winning quarterback.”
Five touchdown drives in a half and a second consecutive week leading his team to 30 points or more would suggest the Harvard grad is at least pointed in the right direction.
The money one was that last possession, complete with a pair of fourth-down conversions inside the Raiders 25. It ended with a six-yard pass to Nelson, who romped free to the middle of the end zone leaving Fitzpatrick with a gimme putt.
“Every time we got the ball, the guys had 100% confidence we were going to put the ball in the end zone,” Fitzpatrick said. “I was pretty fired up about that.
“That was probably a lot of last year’s frustration coming out. I was pretty fired up about that.”
For the Bills, it goes much deeper than last year, of course.
There are signs that fans are getting fed up, season-ticket numbers are down and on Sunday many fumed at the team’s new traffic and parking policies which slashed their tailgating time.
“If it wasn’t for the way we were the last few years, we wouldn’t be able to be the way we feel we are right now,” said Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson, who had eight receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown. “Our memory (of all those losses), it helps us.”
We’ll save our opinion on just how much they have improved for the same time next Sunday when the New England Patriots head for the team bus.
Wins over the Raiders and the gutless Kansas City Chiefs are one thing, beating sizzling Tom Brady and the Patriots offence is quite another.
“We know something is different, but we also know it’s only the second game,” veteran Bills linebacker Chris Kelsay said. “It’s nice, but we’re not going to just be satisfied with two wins.
“I’m going to enjoy this one for 24 hours before I start worrying about (the Patriots). We know what we are going to get from them.”