Bills Thunder

Bills 2002 Season Results

Bledsoe comes to Buffalo with much fanfare

By Rick Anderson

Bills new No. 1 quarterback Drew Bledsoe signs autographs at pep rally given in his honor.
[AP Photo]

The Buffalo Bills finally have their quarterback they have been seeking since Jim Kelly retired. After years of having a quarterback controversy, they know for sure that their new leader will not have any part in what plagued the Bills when they suffered through the infamous Flutie-Johnson ego battles.

Drew Bledsoe keep his nose to the grindstone throughout the entire 2001 Super Bowl season for the New England Patriots. He didn't want to take his teammates off their main focus, and that was winning the Super Bowl. Deep inside, everyone knew his competitive fires were burning and he was dying to get into the games. Bledsoe was able to come in during the playoff game against the Steelers when Tom Brady went down with an injury and played exceptional in helping to guide the Patriots beat Pittsburgh. However, Brady was back at the controls during the Super Bowl victory over the St. Louis Rams and Bledsoe was a consummate team player giving all the credit to Brady.


Big events leading into the 2002 season

Kelly's HOF Induction - A day Canton will never forget

It was a day that Jim Kelly dreamed of since childhood. In fact, getting into Pro Football's Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio probably was beyond the wildest of young Kelly's dreams when he was roaming the streets of East Brady, PA.

Jim Kelly with his bronze bust after his very emotional Hall of Fame enshrinement.
[AP Photo/Ron Schwane]

On a sunny and a hot August afternoon in Canton's Fawcett Stadium, ESPN's Chris Behrman made the opening introduction for the 5 inductees who were to be ushered into Pro Football's shrine. When Kelly's name was announced before the record HOF crowd of 17,700, the Buffalo contingent of over 15,000 started chanting "Kelly, Kelly, Kelly."

Trying to scream over the chants of the Bills fans, Behrman said, "I think you know who this is. 35,000 yards and 237 touchdown passes. The author of the K-Gun, 4 straight Super Bowls. From the Buffalo Bills.....Jim Kelly!"

Kelly was overwhelmed with emotion as he came up after being ushered and embraced the famed ESPN personality who had been to several of Kelly's Bills post-game celebrations at his Orchard Park home. Behrman was a huge Kelly supporter ever since he was drafted originally by the Bills in 1983. He would become a sports version of a campaign manager for the Bills and Kelly through their 4 straight trips to the Super Bowl.


Special team meltdowns ruin opening day for Bills

Eric Moulds clutches the ball with the tying touchdown against the Jets late in the game. The Jets won in overtime on a 96-yard kickoff return.
[AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli]

It was Heartbreak City all over again. Shades of that "Homerun throwback" wildcard game with the Tennessee Titans a few years ago. The Bills came storming back but their special teams let them down as two "homerun" kickoff returns did them in as the New York Jets won a wild shootout 37-31 over the Bills to open the 2002 regular season.

The packed house at Ralph Wilson Stadium sure got their money's worth this time. If only the Super Bowl could be this exciting!

The Bills put together almost a complete package. However, it was the special teams that was their Achilles Heel, not once but twice.


Bledsoe has career day in overtime win

By Rick Anderson

Drew Bledsoe broke Joe Ferguson's Bills record by throwing for 463 yards in Bills 45-39 overtime victory over Minnesota.
[AP Photo/Paul Battaglia]

Two straight overtime games. Two wild shootouts. The Buffalo Bills came out on the winning side at last on Sunday as Peerless Price took a Drew Bledsoe pass 48 yards for the winning score in sudden death overtime to beat the Minnesota Vikings 45-39. Speak about excitement, this game had a season's worth of exhilaration. There were more fireworks in Minneapolis than the Fourth of July.

Bledsoe shines

The Bills finally have a quarterback who can get the job done. For the first time since Jim Kelly retired, they have a real leader who never gives up, no matter the odds. Bledsoe broke the Bills single game franchise mark by passing for 463 yards and he led the Bills down the field with only 26 seconds left in regulation to get them in position for Mike Hollis' 54 yard field goal to send the game into overtime. Hollis' kick hit the crossbar and bounced over for the tying points.


Bills fireworks fizzle in Denver

By Rick Anderson

Bringing it down. Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith hauls in a pass with Bills cornerback Chris Watson all over him in fourth quarter action.
[AP Photo/Jack Dempsey]

There weren't as many fireworks as the previous two weeks, but the Buffalo Bills kept their game with the Denver Broncos entertaining right up until the end. The Bills scored with around a minute left in the game and tried unsuccessfully to recover an onside kick. The Broncos ran the clock out and beat the never-say-die Bills 28-23.

The Bills had plenty of chances to gain the momentum of this game, but crucial mistakes cost them dearly. A fumble by Travis Henry at the Bills 24 yard line was recovered by Chester McGlockton and turned into the first Broncos touchdown. The defense had stood tall all day until the last two Denver drives resulted in 14 points. This was a case of a young upstart team taking on an NFL powerhouse. Goliath won over David on this day.


Bledsoe delivers again in Bills OT win over the Bears

By Rick Anderson

Bills receiver Eric Moulds had a big day as he caught 8 for 119 yards and one touchdown. Here he comes down with a pass against the Bears Jerry Azumah in first quarter action.
[AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli]

Call them the sudden death Bills. The Buffalo Bills once again had to go to overtime in their game with the Chicago Bears, their 3rd sudden death game in 4 weeks. A dramatic 26-yard Drew Bledsoe to Travis Henry touchdown pass capped yet another roller coaster game as the Bills downed the Bears 33-27.

Things started off as bright as this late September day for the Bills. They took the opening kickoff and drove straight down the field on an impressive drive to score. After stopping the Bears, the offense took over again and drove down the field once again. Travis Henry got the handoff and did what he did the last three games, fumbled the ball. Rosevelt Colvin had stripped the ball from Henry's grasp, got up and flipped it over to Mike Brown, who ran it back 70 yards for a touchdown. A Henry fumble resulting in a Broncos TD had turned the game around the previous week.

Henry was greeted to boos when he went to the sidelines. He had received much criticizism during the week for his 3 fumbles in 3 consecutive games. He was never going to hear the last of this.


Raiders 4th quarter explosion subdues Bills

By Rick Anderson

Bills QB Drew Bledsoe fails to make a tackle on Raiders' cornerback Phillip Buchanon after he intercepts a Bledsoe pass. Buchanon converted the pick into a long touchdown in the fourth quarter.
[AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli]

Drew Bledsoe is human after all. After throwing 176 straight passes without an interception, Bledsoe threw three of them and those changed the course of a wild game with the Oakland Raiders. The Raiders blew open the game in the 4th quarter, coming from a 31-28 deficit to win this game going away, 49-31.

Shootout in Wilson Corral

This game was touted as a potential offensive shootout between two of the most explosive offensives in the league. It exceeded all expectations. For the first 3 quarters of the game, it resembled a basketball game as both teams took the ball up and down the field to score touchdowns. Rich Gannon, the league's leading passer, went 23-of-38 for 357 yards and two scores. He also ran the ball in for a touchdown from a yard out.

While the Raiders were all over Bledsoe, pressuring him the entire game, the Bills could hardly get a sniff of Gannon. He was sacked once for only 4 yards. Outside of that, Gannon had all day to find the open receiver. Any defense that gives a quarterback that kind of time, will be eaten alive. That's what Gannon did.

His favorite receiver was Jerry Porter, who had 7 receptions for 117 yards and one score. The famed Jerry Rice and Tim Brown had four receptions apiece. The surprise element in this game was running back Charlie Garner, who rushed for 94 yards and a combined total of 177 yards. He spurt around right end for a 36-yard gallop to paydirt and took a screen pass 69 yards up the middle for another touchdown.


Bills escape Houston with their lives

By Rick Anderson

Bills' Travis Henry sprints around end for 23 yards to score his second touchdown of the game as Texans' Matt Stevens fails to stop him. Henry scored 2 touchdowns and ran for 159 yards. He also fumbled deep in Bills territory, which led to a Texans touchdown.
[AP Photo/George Wong]

Travis Henry was tearing up the Houston Texans defense. He had already scored a touchdown and was having his best game since the opener. With the ball deep in Bills territory, Henry tried to stretch to make more yardage on a carry. The ball came out of his hands and the Texans recovered at the Bills 8. Henry had now fumbled in 5 out of 6 games. Two had been returned for touchdowns. This fumble would lead to running James Allen's touchdown pass to Billy Miller, giving the Texans a 24-17 in the fourth quarter. Things couldn't have been more depressing for Henry, but he more than made up for it in the Bills come from behind 31-24 win over Houston.

Henry recovered a fumble by Drew Bledsoe and made a long run to put the Bills in position for the tying touchdown, which was a 23-yard Bledsoe to Moulds pass. In all, Henry had a spectacular day except for his one costly fumble. He ran for 159 yards and had two touchdowns (1 and 23 yard runs). It was his running and Bledsoe finally connecting in the second half that gave the Bills their third win of the season and put them at the .500 mark.

"The line just blocked great," Henry said. "All week we knew we had a chance to run the ball up the middle and to the outside."

Even though Henry had his best game of the season, there are a lot of critics saying that he costs the Bills too much by fumbling so much. Three fumbles in 3 games resulted in 21 points. Not good even if he were Barry Sanders. But the coaches had confidence in him and Henry was out on the very next series running the ball.


Bills D devours Dolphins

By Rick Anderson

The Bills put the heat on Dolphins quarterback Ray Lucas. Here Ron Edwards gets into Lucas' face in third quarter action.
[AP Photo/ Gary I. Rothstein]

Nate Clements knew that the Bills secondary had to step it up big time. With Antoine Winfield not playing and the opposing quarterbacks making mince meat of the secondary for the first 6 games, Clements knew this would not be an easy game. Clements not only was up to the challenge, but he had a career day, picking off three passes and taking back one for a touchdown as the Bills upset the first place Miami Dolphins 23-20.

The Bills had to make some adjustments in their secondary to compensate for Winfield, who had gone done in practice in a collision with Bills receiver Eric Moulds. With the Bills not having one interception in six games, they were hoping to finally get one against the Dolphins. Clements did the honors to finally getting a pick and he had two more, one which went for a 29-yard touchdown.

"I forgot what it felt like, almost,'' admitted Clements. "We said that when they come, they're going to come in bunches, and they did today.''


Bills D covers for Henry's fumble

By Rick Anderson

Play of the game! London Fletcher (59) stuffs Lions running back James Stewart in a late 4th quarter 4th and inches attempt. Eddie Robinson helps out and Cory Wire (not pictured) comes in to force Stewart back, giving the Bills the ball and the game, which they won 24-17.
[AP Photo/Don Heupel]

Travis Henry was on the sidelines, hoping that his latest fumble didn't cost the Buffalo Bills the game. With the Bills leading the Lions 24-17, Henry was given the ball and was about to be tackled on the Bills 29 when Bracy Walker came flying in and rammed his helmet smack into Henry's jaw, jarring his head 90 degrees and the ball out of Henry's grasp. The Lions recovered and the fourth overtime of the season looked imminent for the Bills.

"I don't know what happened," said Henry. "All I know is that the play was called to go to the right. I already knew, 'two hands on the ball, two hands on the ball.' Next thing you know I got hit on the mouth and the ball came out."

Now it was up to the defense. Lions quarterback Joey Harrington got a 8-yard pass completion to Germane Crowell after the Bills stuffed James Stewart on first down. Harrington went to Stewart on with a sideline pass and it appeared as if Stewart got beyond the first down marker. However, the refs ruled he got an elbow down before the marker and the Lions were faced with a 4th and half a foot. Once again, the Lions went to Stewart to keep the drive alive, and once again the Bills D stuffed the run. London Fletcher was the first to greet Stewart, slowing down his progress right at the line of scrimmage. Eddie Robinson was also hanging onto Stewart, but the 6 foot 1, 224 pound running back was winning the law of momentum and was starting to fall towards the yardage he needed to make first down. In came Cory Wire and he slammed into Stewart with as much force as Walker had hit Henry. That pushed Stewart behind the line of scrimmage and the Bills took over on downs. From there, the Bills ran out the clock and won their third game in a row, 24-17.


Pats ruin Bledsoe's party

By Rick Anderson

Patriots Richard Seymour puts the heat on Drew Bledsoe and sacks him in second quarter action.
[AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli]

It was deemed the "Bledsoe Bowl." It should have been labeled the "Belichick Bowl." Once again, New England head coach Bill Belichick stuck it to the Buffalo Bills with a slick game plan and outwitted the Buffalo coaches hands down. It what was supposed to be Drew Bledsoe's statement game, it turned into a Tom Brady redemption day as the Patriots walked all over the Bills 38-7.

All the hype leading up to the game was better than the game itself, at least for the Bills fans. While the fans were circling the wagons around Belichick and his Patriots all week, the Pats coach had game strategies circle in his head during that time. He devised a spectacular game plan again (just like he did in Super Bowl XXV when his Giants shutdown the Bills no huddle) and put a straight jacket around Bledsoe.

"There was a lot of hype for all of you guys [the media] on that," related Belichick. "But what's important for us is that we won the game. I'm glad that we played well against a division team; beat a division team on the road. That's what's important. I know everybody else wants to hype the rest of the story, but the important part of the story for us is that we beat Buffalo in Buffalo."


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.


Jets wreck havoc on Bills again

By Rick Anderson

Jets running back Curtis Martin soars over the Bills. Here he jumps over Bills safety Pierson Prioleau on his way for an 11-yard pickup and a first down.
[AP Photo/Bill Kostroun]

Has the league caught on to Drew Bledsoe? Or has he just come back down to earth. It's a little of both as Bledsoe continued to be play way below the high standard he set in the beginning of the season as his mediocre performance helped the New York Jets blast the Bills 31-13. The Jets swept the season series with the Bills 2-0 and this game wasn't anywhere as close as the season opener when the it took overtime to decide it.

Bledsoe has not been as accurate the past few games as he was in the beginning of the season when he set the league on fire. Now his passes aren't reaching their mark as often and he is having his passes picked off with more frequency. That was the case Sunday as the Jets came up with two of Bledsoe's passes and made his life miserable the whole afternoon in East Rutherford as he was also sacked twice and fumbled once. He completed 21 out of 23 for a mere 181 yards and no touchdowns. Certainly not the kind of game that Bledsoe had at the beginning of the year. That leads to this question: Has the league caught up to Bledsoe? It seems that defenses have found ways to stop the formerly hottest QB going in the league.


Dolphins get buried in Bills avalanche

By Rick Anderson

Drew Bledsoe sneaks in from 2 yards out for the Bills first score.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

Suddenly the sky opened up and unleashed a tidal wave of snow. The 73,287 lifted their hands to the heavens and rejoiced. It was party time and the Miami Dolphins felt like unwelcome guests. With the winds swirling the blinding snow in circles around Ralph Wilson Stadium, the Buffalo Bills were circling the wagons.

With the help of Old Man Winter, timely Dolphin penalties and an aerial circus by Drew Bledsoe, the Buffalo Bills came from behind and upstaged the Dolphins 38-21 before frozen and delirious Bills fans. The thousands of Dolphins fans in the stands left with a further reminder of how cruel playing December games in Buffalo can be for opponents.

This was a wild and wacky game reminiscent of old AFL shootouts. There were enough game-breaking plays for an entire season. The Dolphins opened up the game as if they were going to blow the game wide open. Ricky Williams had a career and a Dolphin record-breaking game by galloping 228 yards before he had to leave with a leg injury.


Belichick checkmates Bledsoe again

By Rick Anderson

Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe felt the heat all day from his ex-teammates. Here Richard Seymour comes in on the Bills quarterback, forcing Bledsoe to throw one of his 4 interceptions.
[AP Photo/Elise Amendola]

Bill Belichick didn't think twice about Drew Bledsoe coming back and haunting him twice a year when he traded his quarterback to the Buffalo Bills. He knew that he could devise schemes to keep him in check and also knew that he had a way of getting into opposing quarterbacks' heads. Belichick was the one who devised schemes to stop Doug Flutie after he had taken the league by storm. Now he has put Bledsoe in checkmate in two meetings this year between the Bills and the New England Patriots.

The Patriots routed the Bills in Bledsoe's Boston homecoming, 27-17. It could have been worse if the Pats didn't have 3 touchdowns called back because of penalties. As it was, Belichick once again was in Bledsoe's head as the Bills quarterback had a miserable day despite his impressive 328 yards. The Pats picked off 4 of Bledsoe's passes and ripped the ball from Bills receiver Peerless Price on another occasion for a 5th turnover. The turnovers were the difference in this game.

Tom Brady, the Pats quarterback who replaced Bledsoe last year and led them to the Super Bowl, once again out-dueled his former mentor. Brady and Bledsoe both threw for two scores, but Brady was perfect where turnovers were concerned. Brady completed only 15 out of 27 passes for 183 yards.


Travis ruins Flutie's return

Former Bills QB Doug Flutie is as calm as a cucumber as the Bills try to put a little pressure on him. Flutie was unsucessful in getting the Chargers back to tie the Bills late in the game.
[AP Photo/David Duprey]

Everything was in place for a storybook finish. The former Buffalo Bills players were in the game and making a strong statement to the team that had cut them loose two seasons ago. Steve Christie, the Bills all-time scoring leader had kicked field goals for 39 and 53 yards. Now it was Doug Flutie's turn to produce some magic.

Flutie, seeing his first action of the year, had guided the San Diego Chargers down the field for Christie's 53-yarder that tied the game at 13. Now he had 50-yards and under a minute to tie the game up again after the Bills scored in the last minute. Could pull another rabbit out of his hat as he had so many times while a Buffalo Bills?

Things just didn't turn out the way Flutie wanted them to in his glorious return to Ralph Wilson Stadium. A dropped pass and a gaffe by a receiver who did make a catch hurt Flutie's chances of turning in another miracle in the Stadium that he helped get renovated. With just under half a minute to go, Flutie had to air the ball out similar to his famous Hail Mary pass of his Boston College lore. Unfortunately for him, both were over thrown and the last one was tipped by a Bills defender and the time ran out. As a result, the Bills beat the Chargers 20-13 and moved back to .500 with a 7-7 record.


Bledsoe falls flat on Frozen Tundra

The Packers' Vonnie Holliday sacks Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe and forces a fumble in fourth quarter action. Holliday had 5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles on Bledsoe.
[AP Photo]

By Rick Anderson

Drew Bledsoe had the Green Bay Packers right where he wanted them. Having the ball in the red zone twice gave the Bills a glorious opportunity to break the ice in Green Bay. Unfortunately for Bledsoe and his Bills, he failed miserably both times to get the Bills any points and as a result, the Packers shutout the Bills 10-0 in a cold, windy day in the land of the Cheese Heads.

Bledsoe's play has deteriorated ever since the first New England game and Bill Belichick devised a scheme to throw his game off. Ever since, the book on Bledsoe has been available for all the other NFL coaches to copy.

The Bills started off the game with a huge opportunity to take an early lead. With Green Bay taking the opening kickoff, Brett Favre was intercepted on the Packers third play from scrimmage when Kevin Thomas picked it off at the Packers 40 and ran it back 31 yards to the 9. That perfect setup was ruined when Bledsoe had a pass into the endzone picked off by Darren Sharper, who ran it back to the 14.


Bills clobber Bengals to close season

By Rick Anderson

Bills corner Antoine Winfield delivers a helmet jarring hit on Packers wideout Terry Glenn in Bills 10-0 loss in Green Bay.
[AP Photo/Kevin Rivoli]

Now it's time to reflect. The Bills topsy-turvy 2002 season ended with a victory Sunday as the Bills trounced the Cincinnati Bengals 27-9. The Bills coaching staff will have plenty of time to find out what went right and things they could have improved on.

It was a like two different seasons for the Bills. They came out with the top offense in the league as Drew Bledsoe was ripping off 300-yard games like he was the second coming of Jim Kelly. Unfortunately, the league caught up with Bledsoe and he went into a tail spin the rest of the season. However, against the Bengals, Bledsoe showed some of his early season form as he threw for 231 yards, completing 23 out of 31 passes and one touchdown. Bledsoe also ran for a 7-yard touchdown on a quarterback sneak.

Bledsoe capped a roller coaster season himself when he broke all the Bills passing marks with 4,359 passing yards. That topped any season that Kelly and Joe Ferguson ever had. Bledsoe would like to have a more games like he did against the Bengals rather than the highs and lows he had most of the season.


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


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