Bills Thunder

Bills become unglued in KC

By Rick Anderson

Play of the Game! Chiefs DB Eric Warfield leaps high to intercept a pass out of Bills wideout Peerless Price's hands late in the 4th quarter to ice the game for the Chiefs.
[AP Photo/Ed Zurga]

All the ingredients were there. It was only a matter of piecing them all together to produce a victory. Unfortunately for the Buffalo Bills, they could not solve the puzzle and the resulting 17-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs put a serious dent in Buffalo's playoff aspirations.

The play of the game came late in the fourth quarter when Drew Bledsoe's pass to Peerless Price was intercepted deep in Chiefs territory by cornerback Eric Warfield. That put the nail in the coffin for the Bills comeback hopes.

The Bills had the right mixture to win, however the pieces fell apart at the most crucial time, dropping Buffalo out of a first place tie and back to .500. The Bills offense churned up 344 yards and the defense came up big most of the game. Undisciplined play resulting in 139 yards in penalties along with using up their timeouts early in the second half helped do in the Bills.

Defensive showdown

In what was supposed to be shootout, the game between the league's top two offenses turned into a defensive struggle instead. The Bills defense came up with one of its biggest games yet in face of the mighty KC offense. For three quarters, the Bills D shut down Priest Holmes and prevented him from ripping them apart. However, the Chiefs stuck to their game plan and continued to run Holmes until he was finally able to take over the game in the fourth quarter.

Holmes, who was held in check for most of the first half, really cranked it into gear in the fourth quarter. Homes ripped off runs that not only helped produce the winning touchdown, but also kept the Bills offense off the field in the last 3 minutes of the game. Holmes ran for 104 yards on 31 carries.

The Bills could have blown this game wide open if they had converted on all 4 of their trips into the red zone. However, three times the Chiefs put the brakes on Bills drives and Buffalo had to settle for 3 field goals by Mike Hollis. The only touchdown came when Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe connected with Eric Moulds on a 7-yard pass for a score. The Bills thought they had another Moulds touchdown, but the Bills receiver got his second step on the chalk line and the play was ruled out of bounds on a challenge by the Chiefs.

Henry assault

The Bills during their bye week decided that it would be advantageous to run Travis Henry a lot more than they had during their loss against the New England Patriots. Henry not only gained 126 yards on 24 carries, but he was used as a receiver coming out of the backfield. Henry caught 4 passes for 38 yards and is quickly becoming a double threat in the Bills arsenal. The only problem is that the Bills decided once again to abandon the run in the fourth quarter.

An example of how the Bills overlooked Henry when they should have employed their most effective weapon was in the second quarter. After a Bledsoe pass to Josh Reed gave the Bills a first and goal at the KC 5, the Bills decided to air it out in a futile attempt to reach paydirt. A couple of misdirected Bledsoe tosses forced Hollis to kick a 23-yard field goal. This was clearly a case where the Bills should have given Henry a couple of cracks to score.

Penalties kill

The Bills killed themselves with penalties in this one. They had a total of 13 for 139 yards. Meanwhile, the Chiefs only had 5 penalties for 34 yards.

Peerless Price is going to be a free agent after this season. After this game, a lot of Bills fans won't be too upset if the goes. Price made some critical infractions that could have cost the Bills the game. During the same third quarter drive, Price wiped out a 9-yard Henry run when he was called for holding. Two plays later, he nullified a nine-yard pass that he caught at the Kansas City 32 when he decided to push off on a Chiefs defenseman after the play was over. He was charged with unnecessary roughness and 15 yards.

"The guy grabbed me and I shoved him off of me," explained Price. "You're going to call that when there's a lot of other stuff that goes on? If that's a personal foul, then this game has gotten real soft."

Two back-to-back interference calls on the Bills helped the Chiefs score the winning touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Bills stopped the Chiefs on third down on the KC 37 when Trent Green threw an incompletion. However, Eddie Robinson was charged with interference, giving the Chiefs a first down. On the very next play came yet another flag when Green threw deep to Eddie Kennison and it was broken up by Chris Watson. It was ruled that Watson bumped into Kennison and that resulted in a 36-yard pickup to the Bills 21.

"That's just the call the ref made," insisted Watson. "I can't sit here and dwell on it. I thought I looked back on it. I saw the ball. But I could have played better. I have to go back and work on how I can play better."

The Chiefs got down to the Bills 10 and the defense stopped Holmes on a third and one. However, Kansas City went for it on 4th down and Holmes made the first down with 2 yards to spare. With a third down at the Bills 9, Green went back to pass and decided to take up the middle and he strode in untouched for the score.

"A lane opened up, so I took off,'' Green said. "Then I saw those guys closing hard. So I just closed my eyes and dove as hard as I could.''

Bledsoe off target

Through the first 7 games, Bledsoe was the talk of the league. The Bills were scoring over 30 points a game. However, the last four games, the Bills put up only 23, 24, 7 and 17 points. Defenses have caught up with Bledsoe and Kansas City, which had one of the weakest defenses in the league, was able to limit Bledsoe to the short passing game.

Chiefs QB Trent Green scores the winning TD on a 9-yard in the fourth quarter. Bills defenseman Grant Irons puts his head down after Green passes him.
[AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann]

"They kept playing so much Cover Two and just trying to keep us in front of them," Moulds said about the Chiefs defensive scheme. "We just kept giving it to Travis until we got some one-on-one situations and we try to make some plays that way. But the Chiefs played well and came in with a good scheme."

The three trips into the red zone were a prime example of how Bledsoe could not finish the job. His passes were not on target on the first drive the Bills had deep. Overall in the red zone, Bledsoe completed only 5 out of 11 attempts. That simply is not good enough if this team wants to advance to the playoffs.

"We've got to make those plays," commented Moulds. "Those guys did some things schematically to try to take away the fade routes. We just have to get better and come up with something different to throw teams off a little bit."

The most crucial mistake was when Bledsoe threw his only interception with 4:14 remaining in the fourth quarter. With the Bills on the Chiefs 40, the call came in to throw deep. Bledsoe thought he had Price open, but Warfield leaped up and grabbed the slightly underthrown pass for the pick.

"Instead of trying to make a break earlier, I let Drew think he had the lead on me," said Warfield. "Right at the last minute, I just broke underneath. He thought he thought he had a step on me. Yet he didn't.''

"I kind of knew his speed from covering him throughout the game,'' Warfield continued. "I didn't figure he would run past me. That's when I gave him the step.''

Bledsoe agreed that Warfield's play was the game-breaker.

"I should have brought Peerless across the field more than I did, rather than taking him straight up the field,'' Bledsoe said. "That guy made a great play on the ball.''

Part of the blame for the loss has to go to Bills offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride. When the Bills had a first and goal at the Chiefs five, the Bills should have continued to employ the great running of Henry. Instead, they tried to air it out and Bledsoe's passes failed to reach their mark. The late interception should not have been thrown at all. With over 4 minutes remaining, the Bills should have tried to take time off the clock and gotten in position for at least a field goal. Running Henry would have done the trick. Instead, Gilbride once again wanted to get it all in one flick of Bledsoe's wrist.

Bills Talk

The Bills were trying to express their shock over losing a game they should have won.

"It's hard to find something to hang your hat on after a loss like this," mentioned Ruben Brown. "We had the momentum and we lost it. It's a tough loss at this point and time of the year. I've been around long enough to know a game like this can come back to haunt us. Hopefully, we'll dig ourselves out of this situation."

"It feels like one got away," admitted Chidi Ahanotu.

Larry Centers looked at the scoreboard and used that as the bottom line.

"Ultimately, we didn't outplay them," said Centers. "But we felt we had the better football team, and we didn't make the most of the opportunities."

As for 4 trips into the red zone producing only one touchdown, Gilbride said, "To our credit, we gave ourselves a lot of chances, but winning teams take advantage of those chances. We didn't."

Bledsoe wish he had some of his passes back.

"We had our shots," said Bledsoe. "One time I had Eric on a slant for a touchdown. Another time Eric almost made a spectacular catch but apparently didn't quite get his foot down. It's just one play here, one play there in the red zone."

Talking about his interception, Bledsoe said, "It was an outstanding call by Kevin (Gilbride). It was something we had talked about at halftime. We felt like we could get Peerless deep. Peerless broke open on the post and I turned it loose. I really thought I might have overthrown it. In retrospect, I should have brought Peerless across the field more than I did rather than taking him straight up the field. I didn't know exactly where the backside safety was, so I tried to keep it up the field. The guy came in and made a great play on the ball."

As for the penalties, Williams was none too pleased.

"Yes, some of them were costly," admitted Williams. "We overcame many of them. We emphasized that coming out of the bye week. It's disappointing. We have to do better than that. We got to improve in that area"

With Henry having another outstanding game, the Bills are getting more balanced in their attack. What they have to do is to balance their game plan to use the running game more often, especially in the red zone.

Ruben Brown had all compliments for Henry.

"When we give him the opportunities, he steps up," said Brown. "That's the thing about him. He wants those shots and the offensive line wants him to have those shots. That speaks highly of him and the type of player and competitor he is. He did a great job today and all season."

Thinking over the bitter defeat and how the Bills should have won, Brown said, "It's tough. We did some good things today, especially running the ball. We just have to figure out a way to do enough to win."

Copyright 2002 Bills Thunder & Rick Anderson, all rights reserved.

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