GLENDALE, Ariz. — Aeneas Williams made his mark on the Arizona Cardinals organization.
The decorated defensive back’s name is in the Ring of Honor here at University of Phoenix Stadium. Ten of his 14 NFL seasons were spent with the Cardinals. Williams was first-team All-Pro three times and was selected for eight Pro Bowls.
Williams was a fabulous playmaker, finishing with 55 interceptions, 23 fumble recoveries and 12 defensive touchdowns.
On Sunday, his legacy lived on — and left another mark on the Cardinals.
The player Williams helped mold into a future NFL standout practically won the game for the Buffalo Bills in overtime against the Cardinals.
Bills safety Jairus Byrd did a fine impersonation of the man he still calls “Uncle Aeneas,” intercepting Kevin Kolb in the fourth quarter and John Skelton in overtime to set up the winning field goal in a 19-16 victory.
“It certainly put a smile on my face,” Williams told The News by phone. “I wanted him to do extremely well, but he didn’t have to do it against my old team like that, especially not with my name up in the stadium.”
Byrd is the son of former NFL defensive back Gill Byrd, but Williams perhaps mentored Jairus Byrd about the game just as much. Williams took a teenage Byrd under his wing while playing for the St. Louis Rams, where Gill Byrd was an assistant coach.
On both of Jairus Byrd’s interception returns, he ran directly toward the end of the stadium where Williams’ name is on display.
“Two big plays, just in the nick of time,” Bills linebacker Nick Barnett said. “We expect that from Jairus. He’s been making plays for this team since he’s been here.”
Byrd’s first interception came with about six minutes left in the fourth quarter at the Bills’ 34-yard line.
His game-clincher came three plays after the Bills passed up an opportunity to try a 53-yard field goal on the opening overtime series. The Bills punted instead.
“It put a lot of pressure on us, but we were ready for it,” Byrd said. “We already had it in our minds that it was going to come down to us to win the game.”
Byrd and Williams spoke on the phone Saturday night about the Bills’ recent struggles and how to deal with them. Williams gave his “nephew” some advice.
“I reminded him ‘Just get around the ball,’ ” Williams said. “Sometimes when things aren’t going well, leaders need to get around the ball and good things will happen.
“Jairus’ position allows him to be a ball hawk. A good safety with good range has the ability to cover up a lot of deficiencies. Hopefully, this will be a game that really propels them and reminds them they can come through when it counts.”
The Wildcat formation put the Bills in position to win the game and almost lost it for them.
With the offense struggling and Ryan Fitzpatrick inaccurate, Chan Gailey called a Wildcat run for Brad Smith on first-and-10 from Arizona’s 17-yard line late in the third quarter. Smith scrambled 16 yards to set up Fred Jackson’s go-ahead touchdown at a time when a field goal probably wouldn’t have done much good.
Then with about four minutes left in the fourth quarter and the Bills apparently headed for a victory, Gailey made a Wildcat call that backfired.
On second-and-9 from the Cardinals’ 36-yard line, Gailey got cute and had Smith pass it. Smith hung the ball into the end zone, where it was intercepted by Patrick Peterson.
Fred Jackson fumbled on the game’s first play from scrimmage. It was the sixth time the Bills have lost a fumble this year, one more than their total from the entire 2011 campaign.
Buffalo’s defense stopped Arizona on the next three plays, but Jay Feely kicked a field goal for a three-point spot to start the game.
Jackson and C.J. Spiller have lost two apiece. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and tight end Scott Chandler each have given up one.
Gailey challenged his first call of the season and lost it.
Gailey threw the red flag to contest a spot in the second quarter. On a third-and-2 play, Kolb tossed left to Andre Roberts, who appeared to be tackled short of the first-down marker.
Officials awarded the Cardinals a first down. The call stood. Seven plays later, Kolb found Larry Fitzgerald on a crossing pattern for a touchdown that gave the Cardinals a 10-9 lead.
The Bills made four roster moves to bolster their roster in advance of Sunday’s game. They waived running back Johnny White and safety Delano Howell to make room for offensive lineman David Snow and defensive tackle Jay Ross, both from the practice squad.
Snow was promoted as insurance for the banged-up offensive line. Ross was summoned because defensive tackle Spencer Johnson did not make the trip because of an ankle injury and defensive tackle Kyle Williams missed two practices this week with an ankle injury.
White was superfluous on the Bills’ roster because Jackson and Spiller are back from their injuries. Howell, the lone undrafted rookie to make the team out of training camp, has been active for only one game.
Newly signed offensive lineman Reggie Wells was among the players Buffalo deactivated Sunday. Also scratched were quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (healthy), right guard Kraig Urbik (ankle), left tackle Cordy Glenn (ankle), defensive end Mark Anderson (knee), Johnson (ankle) and linebacker Kirk Morrison (healthy).