Bills make Ford Field their dome away from home, dominate hapless Jets
DETROIT -- Some 270 miles away from his team's snowed-in home stadium, Scott Chandler caught a touchdown pass. Then he started shoveling.
The imaginary work of Chandler's celebration was easy enough. When Chandler and teammates return home, following a 38-3 rout of the Jets Monday in this displaced road game, the real task begins again.
"I broke two shovels this week -- one was mine and one was my neighbors'," Chandler said after the game. "I've got to go to Home Depot tomorrow and get two more."
Sure, the setting proved a little awkward at first. The Bills' logo was plastered over top of the Lions' field while the fans who received free general-admission seats were told to "please move to the middle of the rows" as if they were boarding a shuttle.
By the end, were it not for the obvious variable of being in the Motor City, this one felt like any other successful Bills home game. More than 55,000 fans filed into Ford Field, the majority of them taking up "Let's Go Buff-a-lo" chants in raucous voice, then taunting Michael Vick, Geno Smith and the Jets.
It was not a home game for the Bills, but like celebrating Christmas at your grandma's, it wasn't all that far off either.
"The crowd was awesome," said Buffalo running back Fred Jackson. "Definitely exceeded my expectations."
The Bills did a little of that themselves as well. Remember, this was a team that had been unable to practice for days because of the arctic-like conditions on the Lake Erie shores. Several players had to be picked up on snowmobiles and transported to Ralph Wilson Stadium, from where they then left as a team for Detroit.
The move indoors to Ford Field also threatened to give Vick, Percy Harvin and some of the speedier Jets an edge they would not have found out in the elements.
Instead, little slowed the Bills once the game actually began.
"The good thing about playing football is when you're here," QB Kyle Orton said, "you're preparing for a game and you're with your teammates. There's probably no place you'd rather be.
"So for us, we probably had the easy part, you know? Everybody back home probably had the tough part, so I'm excited to get here and get a big wins for us."
Buffalo's victory, its second blowout win over the Jets this season, kept alive what had been dwindling playoff hopes. Now sitting at 6-5, the Bills likely need at least four wins -- and possibly five -- in their final five games to crack the playoff field. They now face a short week, with a tough Cleveland team up Sunday and a trip to Denver to follow.
Those headaches can hold off for at least 24 hours. The goal in the interim is much simpler.
"It's been a long week," Bills head coach Doug Marrone admitted. "I just want to go home."
When Marrone and his team arrive, they'll find their own stadium finally cleared of the estimated 220,000 tons of snow that fell there last week. The surrounding area may not be as lucky in the coming days, with rising temperatures and rain threatening to turn those massive snowpiles into melting flood waters.
"A lot of our thoughts and prayers are with those people," DT Kyle Williams said. "We have friends and family that are really under the gun with what's gone on the last week. I'd be lying if I told you it wasn't what we talked about all week."
This was yet another example of sports at once carrying little importance and offering a release.
The Bills played less like a group flustered by disrupted practice schedules and unusual game settings and more, as Orton said, like they were happy just to be doing something -- anything -- other than trying to dig themselves out from under winter's grip.
Outside the stadium Monday the wind howled in excess of 40 miles per hour, a biting cold cutting through the night. Inside, it was business as usual.
Buffalo has the odd distinction of being 2-0 in Detroit this season. Way back in Week 5, Orton's first start after taking over for EJ Manuel, the Bills rallied for a 17-14 victory over the Lions. That result stopped a two-game losing streak.
So did this one, though the circumstances were far removed.
"I've been in this league a long time," said Williams, "and one thing I've learned is you enjoy all of the victories -- home, road, you enjoy them all. But this one had a different feel considering all that we had going on."
Detroit played emergency host to the Vikings in 2010, when the Metrodome's roof infamously collapsed after the Twin Cities suffered its own winter snowstorm. Still, although this was charted water, nothing about moving a team's home game to another franchise's stadium ever will feel normal.
But this was pretty close. And the coming days could be even better.
"They said the weather's going to be in the 60s so that's exciting," said Duke Williams, who picked off Vick in the game. "Guys are not going to be stuck in the house for three or four days. We'll be able to practice in our own stadium, sleep in our own beds and get back to football."