A Raider Return Trip to the Victory Column
Cornerback Phillip Buchanon wasn’t going to miss the same pass twice.
Moments after allowing a pass by Drew Bledsoe to slip through his hands, Buchanon intercepted the next one and ran it back 81 yards for a touchdown, sparking the Oakland Raiders to a 49-31 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Oakland (4-0) is the NFL’s only unbeaten team, following San Diego’s 26-9 loss to Denver. The Raiders matched the best start in franchise history, last going 4-0 in 1990.
They have Buchanon to thank.
“The first time it happened, I dropped the ball, and I was like, ‘Dang, that was the play,’ ” Buchanon said. “Then something told me, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ ”
Buchanon’s interception, the second of his rookie season since taking over for injured starter Charles Woodson, was the key in a matchup between two of the NFL’s most potent offenses, which combined for 974 yards.
The interception came with Oakland clinging to a 35-31 lead and Bledsoe orchestrating another scoring threat with eight minutes left.
After almost being intercepted by Buchanon on the previous down, Bledsoe tried the same play on third and eight at Oakland’s 27. Bledsoe rolled to his right and had Peerless Price open in the flat when Buchanon leaped and grabbed the ball. He ran it back along the left sideline.
On Oakland’s next possession, Rich Gannon passed to Jerry Rice for a 20-yard touchdown to seal the victory.
Gannon completed 23 of 38 passes for 357 yards. Charlie Garner had 94 yards rushing and scored two touchdowns.
Bledsoe and the Bills (2-3) finally ran out of late-game dramatics after becoming the first team to open an NFL season by having three of their first four games decided in overtime.
Bledsoe was 32 for 53 for 417 yards and two touchdowns, recording his second 400-yard passing game of the season and sixth of his career. But he was undone by three interceptions, two of which led to touchdowns.
“It was just a poor play on my part,” he said of Buchanon’s interception.
Price led Buffalo with 126 yards receiving and a touchdown. Dave Moore, Travis Henry and Larry Centers also scored touchdowns, while Mike Hollis made a 30-yard field goal for a Bill team that’s averaging almost 33 points a game.
But Buffalo wasn’t helped by a defense that has yet to show it can contain an opponent.
After allowing the Raiders 495 yards, Buffalo is giving up averages of 358 yards and 36 points a game.