By Brandon Koch
ORCHARD PARK —
After struggling to hold back tears following last week’s loss to Miami, Chris Kelsay was all smiles following Buffalo’s 40-14 win over Denver Saturday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The veteran defensive end finished with a team-high nine tackles, two sacks and a pass breakup that led to Spencer Johnson’s interception return for a touchdown against the Tim Tebow-led Broncos.
“Things just happened to fall into place where I was in position to make some plays and I made some” Kelsay said. “We fought them hard and our defensive coordinator (George Edwards) did a great job of calling the game.”
Tebow finished 13 for 30 with 185 yards, one touchdown and a career-worst four interceptions.
“I don’t know if I’ve had one quite like this,” said Tebow, who noted this was his worst game at any level.
Both Johnson and Jairus Byrd returned their interceptions for a score while rookies Justin Rogers and Aaron Williams each picked up their first-career interceptions. Johnson and Byrd’s touchdowns set a new single season franchise record for interception returns with five.
The Bills held the Broncos’ top-ranked rushing attack in check for most of the game, and stymied Denver on third down (2 of 13) all game. After the Broncos stormed down field on an 11-play, 73-yard drive on their opening possession, the Bills came through on 11 consecutive stops on third-down.
Edwards has been under fire during the Bills’ recent seven-game skid, and there was even speculation that assistant coach Dave Wannstedt called the plays a week ago against Miami.
“Defensively, as a unit, we take the bulk of the responsibility on our own shoulders because ultimately, we’re the ones out on the field playing the game,” Kelsay said.
While the Bills were better in most phases of the game, the red-zone offense punched it in just once on six tries.
“It just was not a good situation for red zone today,” head coach Chan Gailey said. “We did a poor job of planning and getting it executed on my part.”
Buffalo also struggled on third down, converting just 2 of 12 on the day.
C.J. Spiller eclipsed the 100-yard mark for the first time in his career, finishing with 111 yards (6.9 yards per carry) and a touchdown.
Still, Spiller came off the field at key moments in the game, particularly in the red zone, for backup Tashard Choice.
“First of all, he made about three long runs in a row a couple times and he was dead tired, so we were trying to get Tashard in there,” Gailey said. “Then on goal line we have Tashard. He’s a bigger, stronger back and that’s why we put him in there in goal line packages.”
The Bills were worn thin at wide receiver and tight end on Saturday. Brad Smith was declared out midway through the game with a hip flexor injury, while tight end Mike Caussin left the game with a knee injury. Kamar Aiken also sustained an injury, while Stevie Johnson was hobbled by a nagging groin ailment.
Buffalo was also down to its third center after Kraig Urpik went down with a knee injury on the Bills’ second possession. Colin Brown stepped in as the pivot and struggled with a pair of errant s snaps on his first two plays. Demetrius Bell also left with a leg injury and did not return.
Leodis McKelvin recorded Buffalo’s first punt return for a touchdown since Roscoe Parrish did it against Seattle on Sept. 7, 2008. His 135 punt return yards set a new Bills single-game record.
“Special teams have a role too in this game,” said McKelvin, who became the fifth player in team history to score touchdowns on three different types of returns (interception, kickoff, punt return). “We did a great job on kickoff return and punt return.
Rogers also helped Buffalo win the field-position battled, averaging 33.7 yards per return.
After missing an easy 25-yard field goal last week, Dave Rayner’s struggles continued in the first quarter Saturday, missing wide left on attempts from 45 and 31 yards out.
He soon silenced boos from the home fans by going perfect on his next four field goals from 28, 25, 25 and 29 yards.
“That’s kind of the business and that’s our job,” Rayner said. “So being able to focus in and hitting good balls is all I’m trying to do.”
Contact Tonawanda News sports editor Brandon Koch at firstname.lastname@example.org