Niners' 'D' keeps the Bills at bay in road triumph
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — If misery loves company, the Buffalo Bills can now appreciate what San Francisco 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis has felt like for much of the past month, sitting on the outside of the playoff hunt looking in.
With little more than pride on the line, Willis took out his frustrations in helping San Francisco all but dash the Bills' playoff hopes with a 10-3 win on Sunday.
Just don't call the 49ers spoilers.
"Right now, it's all about us being the best we can be," said Willis, the second-year player who finished with a game-high 14 tackles and also forced a fumble. "If that means somebody else not making it to the playoffs, that's for them to worry about."
The 49ers (4-8) won for only the second time in nine games, and also prevented the Arizona Cardinals from clinching the NFC West and their first playoff berth in 10 years — the longest active playoff drought in the NFL.
The 49ers became the first West Coast-based team to win in the Eastern time zone this season and finally beat an opponent with a winning record after previously beating lowly Seattle, Detroit and St. Louis.
Isaac Bruce, with a 12-yard catch, scored the lone touchdown — the 90th of his career — by capping a 72-yard drive on San Francisco's opening possession.
The 49ers defense then did the rest in bending severely — by allowing 350 yards — but never breaking in limiting the Bills to a field goal on four trips inside the red zone.
"It's big to come into an environment like this and win a football game," said linebacker Takeo Spikes, the former Bills star who played his first game against his former team. "Then, you add on top of it they're a potential playoff team, closer than ever. This really shows our true character."
What's it say about the fading Bills (6-6), who have lost five of six and seem destined to extend their playoff drought to nine seasons?
Buffalo players heard about it from their once-loyal fans, who vented their frustrations as the team left the field.
Kicker Rian Lindell drew the most ire after having two field-goal attempts bounce off the uprights. Fans angrily called for him to retire as the placekicker walked slowly up the tunnel without looking up.
Lindell blamed himself, discussing an uncharacteristic performance after he had hit 53 straight attempts from 40 yards or closer.
"There's plenty of room for it to go through. I just ..." Lindell said, his voice trailing off. "Today, that's ridiculous."
Left tackle Jason Peters stopped at one point and began shouting something back at the fans. And several cups were thrown down, one nearly hitting receiver Roscoe Parrish.
It wasn't a pretty sight, especially for a team that had significantly raised hopes after a 5-1 start. None of the players discussed the ugly send-off they got from the fans, but they were clearly frustrated.
"It's going to be hard to sleep and hard to get this taste out of your mouth," defensive end Chris Kelsay said.
The Bills had only themselves to blame.
Aside from Lindell's missed field goals, Marshawn Lynch had a season-best 134 yards rushing, but his fumble at midfield late in the second quarter led to Joe Nedney's 50-yard field goal that put San Francisco up 10-0.