ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP)—With each carry Sunday, Travis Henry delivered a message to Willis McGahee: I’m still the starter.
All at once, Henry made a case for himself and defused the criticism directed at Bills coach Gregg Williams, who attracted much of the blame for his team’s recent poor efforts.
And the Bills (4-3) were in need of help after having lost three of their previous four, including last weekend’s 30-3 defeat against the previously winless New York Jets.
Best of all, Henry’s performance came after a week in which McGahee practiced for the first time with the Bills. The University of Miami star was Buffalo’s first-round draft pick and has been heralded as the heir apparent to Henry.
Not so fast.
“I come out every week to play hard to help this football team. It’s got nothing to do with Willis McGahee,” Henry said. “It’s all about the Buffalo Bills.”
Whatever the reason, this game was all about Henry.
It was Henry’s first 100-yard rushing performance this season, re-establishing a Bills ground attack that was limping, averaging a league-worst 57.5 yards per game.
Now the negative attention turns to the Redskins (3-4), who are suddenly reeling having lost four of five.
“We have to regroup and find out who really wants to play,” Redskins coach Steve Spurrier said. “I don’t know how much fight we had in our team out there.”
The game’s outcome was determined at the start of third quarter, after the Redskins cut the Bills’ lead to 10-7 on Ramsey’s 25-yard touchdown pass to Rod Gardner.
The Bills responded on their next drive, marching 80 yards on six plays, capped by Drew Bledsoe’s 10-yard pass to Reed. Henry keyed the drive with runs of 21 and 13 yards.
The Redskins had no reply, managing only one first down the rest of the game.
Henry then sealed the victory by scoring on a 14-yard run five minutes into the fourth quarter.
Bills receiver Josh Reed had a breakout game, finishing with a season-high eight catches for 109 yards, including a 10-yard TD.
It was a promising performance for Reed, who dropped several easy catches earlier this season and had so far failed to fill the void left by Peerless Price’s offseason departure.
“It felt good to get back on track,” said Reed, whose performance was particularly important because the Bills played their second game without leading receiver Eric Moulds (groin injury).
Even Bills owner Ralph Wilson was pleased, one week after he criticized his team for “sleepwalking.”
“Any team would’ve had a hard time beating the Bills today, the way they hustled,” Wilson said. “They had so much emotion.”
Bledsoe finished 19-of-26 for 244 yards. Rian Lindell rounded out the Bills’ scoring with a 20-yard field goal.
Washington managed just eight first downs and a mere 169 net yards.
An error-filled first-half stretch summed up the Redskins’ troubles.
Washington’s best drive ended at the 2-inch line when offensive lineman Derrick Dockery, pulling across the middle, tapped the ball out of Ramsey’s hands. The ball was recovered by Buffalo’s Lawyer Milloy.
Ramsey then fumbled twice on a single play on Washington’s next possession. After fumbling the snap, Ramsey picked the ball up but had it stripped from behind by Buffalo’s Jeff Posey.
That fumble was recovered for a 4-yard gain by Laveranues Coles.
“It was embarrassing the way we played,” Spurrier said.
Already missing starter Trung Canidate (sprained right ankle), the Redskins lost RB Ladell Betts, who hurt his left forearm and didn’t return for the second half. Spurrier said the arm might be broken. … Redskins DE Bruce Smith had a solid outing in his first game at Buffalo since leaving the Bills in 1999 after 15 seasons. Despite getting several shots at Bledsoe, Smith failed to get a sack, leaving him two shy of breaking Reggie White’s NFL career record. … Bledsoe passed former Bills great Jim Kelly for 12th on the NFL’scareer list with 35,611 yards.