The Buffalo Bills opened the season by winning three straight games. Two of them were remarkable come-from-behind wins. One of them was a win over a division rival for the first time in eight years.
However, the Bills return home after losing a 23-20 decision to the Bengals in a game that Buffalo led 17-3 at halftime. And with an Eagles team coming to town this Sunday looking to get their season back on track, the Bills want to prove that their 3-1 start wasn't any sort of fluke.
"In the NFL, you've got to earn respect. It's never just given to you," Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said on a conference call with Philadelphia reporters. "We feel like we want to go out there and earn people's respect on the field. I think we opened some eyes in the first few games, but I don't think it's still there. I think you have to go out there every week and grab it."
Buoyed by the league's fourth-highest scoring offense, the Bills have the City of Buffalo buzzing about its team. The Bills are 2-0 at home this season and won both of those games in dramatic fashion. They trailed Oakland 21-3 at halftime before rallying for a 35-31 win. The following week, they beat New England for the first time since 2003 despite trailing 21-0 and 21-10 at halftime before winning 34-31.
"We know it's still early in the season. Three-and-one, it doesn't mean anything if you don't keep winning," Fitzpatrick said. "For us, our fans have been great this year. We've done a good job playing at home and they've done a great job for us in terms of being into the games, making noise and really helping us out."
Fitzpatrick's name should sound familiar to Eagles fans. He was the Bengals quarterback during the infamous 13-13 tie back in the 2008 season. Yes, the season that eventually ended with a trip to the NFC title game. In his first full year as the Bills quarterback, Fitzpatrick has completed 63.4 percent of his passes for 1,040 yards with nine touchdowns against three picks.
"I remember how weird it was to actually tie a game," Fitzpatrick said of the 2008 affair. "It wasn't a high-scoring game. Both offenses were struggling to move the ball."
The most important thing for the Bills is that they are protecting Fitzpatrick. He has only been sacked twice all season. That will be something to watch against the league's best pass rush as the Eagles are tied for first with 15 sacks in 2011. The Bills will not have their starting left tackle against the Eagles in Demetrius Bell due to a shoulder injury. Look for the Bills to augment their pass protection with running back Fred Jackson, whom Fitzpatrick called the "NFL's best kept secret."
"He's such a complete football player," Fitzpatrick said of Jackson. "His running style, very hard-nosed, downhill, but he can also make guys miss. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. He's probably one of if not the best blocking backs in the league in terms of protection stuff. He means so much to our team. He's our inspirational leader out there. He's a guy that runs hard on every play. ... He's going to fight for every yard and he really is through what he does on the field a leader for us."
From a numbers standpoint, Jackson is eerily similar to the Eagles' LeSean McCoy. Jackson has 64 carries for 369 yards and four touchdowns in 2011. McCoy has 66 rushes for 363 yards and four scores.
The Bills will be looking to get a step closer to league-wide respectability. However, the Eagles want to make a statement and what better way than against one of the league's best stories of the early season.
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