About 28 miles from Ralph Wilson Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y., is Niagara Falls, where awe-struck tourists flock to watch an amazing spectacle of nature, an unstoppable, raging torrent.
Or, as they’re calling it in upstate New York today, the Buffalo Bills.
The Raiders were swept away, blowing a 21-3 halftime lead, as the Bills flowed over and through Oakland’s defense for five touchdowns in five possessions – the last coming on a fourth-and-goal play with 14 seconds remaining – to take a 38-35 victory.
The bullies of head coach Hue Jackson were bullied themselves. Instead of being 2-0 with an impressive road victory over an up-and-coming team, the Raiders drop to 1-1, with a date against the New York Jets coming up.
It was a crushing loss for Oakland, which had dominated the first two quarters and built its lead on rushing touchdowns by Michael Bush, Darren McFadden and Jason Campbell.
It appeared the Raiders were on their way to starting the season 2-0 for the first time since 2002, and doing it by crushing a team that had dominated Kansas City 41-7 in Week 1.
But the Bills’ balanced attack and some horrible mistakes by the Raiders combined to kill Oakland’s hopes. Just as in 2010 when the Raiders dominated the AFC West and stumbled outside it, Oakland was beaten after opening with a win over Denver on Monday night. Last season, Oakland was 0-3 on trips to the East Coast.
The loss – which wasn’t official until about 10 minutes after the game, once a review determined that Campbell’s long, final-play heave was intercepted, and not snagged by Moore -- the Raiders’ seventh straight road loss to a non-AFC West team.
After halftime, Buffalo reeled off three straight TDs to take a 24-21 lead, before the teams traded touchdowns, with the Raiders eventually taking a 35-31 lead when rookie Denarius Moore made a terrific, 50-yard scoring grab between two Buffalo defenders with 3:50 remaining.
That just set the stage, however, for Ryan Fitzpatrick to lead the Bills on an 80-yard march, ending with a 6-yard TD pass to David Nelson for the game-winner.
While the Bills were efficient – with Fitzpatrick passing for 264 yards, Fred Jackson rushing for 117 and receivers Nelson (10 catches) and Stevie Johnson (eight) consistently finding seams – the Raiders’ mistakes proved costly.
McFadden’s fumble in the third quarter on Oakland’s first drive after taking the kickoff, stopped Oakland’s momentum and set up Buffalo’s first TD. And Oakland committed eight penalties for 85 yards, with cornerback Chris Johnson, in particular, flagged three crucial times while trying to keep up with Stevie Johnson, keeping Bills scoring drives alive. Even Jackson was flagged 15 yards for challenging an un-challengeable play.
After the game, Jackson – who said this week he was worried about the matchup with Buffalo – told reporters his team needs to “learn how to finish.”
That, and beat teams outside the AFC West.