ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)—Lee Evans felt an overwhelming sense of relief when the clock hit triple-zero and the Bills were still ahead on the scoreboard.
Finally, Evans and his Buffalo teammates found a way not to squander a lead, hanging on for a 19-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday.
“No question, you have to watch it count all the way down,” Evans said with a wide grin. “It’s 60 full minutes, not 59:59. … It’s good to finish one.”
What a difference a win makes in a season in which the Bills (2-4) have mostly known frustration and last-second despair.
The Bills entered their bye week last weekend stung by a 25-24 loss to Dallas, a Monday night meltdown in which they squandered an eight-point lead in the final 20 seconds.
Before that there was the season opener against Denver in which Jason Elam hit a field goal as time ran out to secure the Broncos’ 15-14 win.
Not this time, in a performance that upstaged the return of Willis McGahee in the running back’s first game against his former team since Buffalo traded him to Baltimore in March.
“We didn’t want to let history repeat itself,” safety Donte Whitner said. “We played too hard and too well to let them win. We just game together and got the win.”
Buffalo was in jeopardy of giving this one away after going up 19-7 on Marshawn Lynch’s 1-yard plunge late in the third quarter.
Suddenly, though, an eerie sense of deja vu came over the sold-out crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium when a Trent Edwards pass to Evans was intercepted by Samari Rolle at the Bills 14 midway through the fourth quarter. The Ravens responded when Kyle Boller hit Derrick Mason for a 15-yard touchdown pass to convert a fourth-and-11.
The Bills defense, however, held up, limiting the Ravens to no first downs on their final two possessions. The victory was sealed when Boller failed to convert a fourth-and-1 from the Buffalo 49, his pass falling just out of the reach of Musa Smith with 1:49 remaining.
The Ravens (4-3) now limp into their bye weekend, hoping to get healthy after being forced to start six backups on offense. That included three rookie linemen and Boller, who was making his second straight start filling in for Steve McNair (back and groin).
“We didn’t bring our `A’ game,” said Boller, who was 21-of-36 for 191 passing yards. “It’s emotional. It’s a tough loss.”
The Ravens’ popgun attack produced two scores despite six drives into Buffalo territory. Baltimore was also undone by 11 penalties for 91 yards.
“It’s hugely frustrating,” coach Brian Billick said. “We’ve gotta stick together. Obviously, everybody is very vulnerable in there. Very upset.”
Even McGahee had little to crow over after he scored on a 46-yard run that cut the Bills’ lead to 9-7 early into the third quarter.
“I thought it would be,” McGahee said, when asked if he took satisfaction from quieting a booing crowd that had been on him from the first snap. “But, man, I really didn’t care about it to tell you the truth.”
McGahee finished with a season-high 114 yards. His scoring run was his longest play of the season and longest since a 57-yard touchdown run against the New York Jets last December.
The Bills continue to move ahead with two rookies leading their offense, Lynch, who had 84 yards rushing, and Edwards.
Despite his miscue, Edwards continued to make a case for remaining the starter ahead of J.P. Losman. The third-round draft pick was 11-of-21 for 153 yards and is 2-1 after making his third consecutive start, and first since Losman had recovered from a sprained left knee.
Coach Dick Jauron still isn’t saying whether Edwards will remain his starter, but was pleased with how the quarterback managed the game.
“I would say he’s more mature than a normal rookie,” Jauron said. “He handles things very well. We trust him.”
Edwards and the offense still have trouble finishing. The Bills settled for four field goals from Rian Lindell, including a 41-yarder, and a touchdown despite five drives inside the Ravens 25.
“If you look back at our season, we could be sitting here at 4-2, but fortunately we were able to finish this one off today,” Edwards said. “We just beat a really good football team. But we still have a lot to improve on.” ^Notes: Lynch has now accounted for four of five touchdowns scored by the Bills’ offense. … McGahee missed part of the third quarter because of dehydration. … The Ravens lost in their first visit to Orchard Park, and dropped to 2-2 against the Bills.