On a wet and windy afternoon, McGahee ran for 102 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Bills to a 38-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
McGahee’s two scores were the first of his career, and the first touchdowns rushing in 10 games for Buffalo. His performance inspired a breakout performance for an offense that was averaging less than 13 points a game this season, and matched its best offensive total since a 38-17 over Jacksonville in Week 2 of last season.
“It feels great,” McGahee said. “We had a challenge on our shoulders, and that was getting us a rushing touchdown. I didn’t care who it was. That was the goal.”
His efforts certainly inspired Buffalo’s offensive linemen.
“When you see him shucking guys downfield, it gets you excited,” guard Chris Villarrial said. “You just want to keep pounding the ball. … I’m proud of Willis stepping in.”
The performance came the week Mularkey announced that McGahee had supplanted four-year veteran Travis Henry as the team’s starter. And it made McGahee’s long-awaited comeback complete, after the 2003 first-round pick missed his entire rookie season recovering from reconstructive surgery on his left knee.
Count Emmitt Smith among the impressed.
“The kid’s back,” said Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. “The way I see it, that young man has fought his way, he’s fought a long road and it’s paying dividends.”
In two starts this season, McGahee has two 100-yard games and has led the Bills (2-5) to both of their victories.
The Cardinals (2-5) continue to struggle away from home, after a big 25-17 win over Seattle in Arizona last week. The loss was Arizona’s 17th straight on the road, the worst current streak in the NFL, dating back to its win at Carolina on Oct. 6, 2002.
Not much appears to have changed since the Cardinals last visited Buffalo, losing 45-14 on Nov. 11, 1990.
On Sunday, the Cardinals were undone by their own mistakes and plagued by the weather. Smith had 64 yards rushing and Arizona managed just 213 yards of total offense in a game played in a persistent rain and 20-plus mph winds gusting in off of nearby Lake Erie.
The Cardinals also had 14 penalties for 101 yards.
“I know one thing, I have a newfound respect for Jim Kelly and what he did here,” McCown said, referring to the Bills Hall of Fame quarterback. “It was the toughest conditions I’ve ever played in.”
McGahee put the Bills ahead 10-0 when he scored on a 5-yard run 11 minutes into the game. The score capped a 55-yard drive in which McGahee accounted for 50 yards rushing.
The Cardinals cut the lead to 10-7 on Obafemi Ayanbadejo’s 4-yard run midway through the second quarter.
Buffalo responded immediately when Terrence McGee returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown.
The game was all but decided with six minutes left in the third quarter. Trailing 17-7, the Cardinals failed on fourth-and-7 at the Bills 43, when Anquan Boldin had a pass fall out of his hands.
The Bills followed the failed drive with three touchdowns in the span of eight minutes in the fourth quarter, capped by McGahee’s 1-yard plunge.
The Bills were down to three receivers after Josh Reed left the game after injuring his left knee returning a punt two minutes into the game. Reed will have more tests Monday. … McGahee presented the football with which he scored his first career touchdown to fullback Daimon Shelton—a reward for springing the run with a big block. “It was a great feeling,” Shelton said. “It was very classy for him to do that.” … Boldin, the NFL’s rookie of the year last season, finished with 50 yards receiving in his season debut, back after hurting his right knee last August.