The Bills knocked the New England Patriots playoff hopes for a loop Sunday as they smashed the Pats 17-7. The Bills defense played another outstanding game as they sacked Patriots quarterback Drew Bledsoe 6 times and shut them out until the final couple minutes of the game.
By winning, the Bills became only the second team of the decade to win 100 games. They join the San Francisco 49ers as being the only teams to crack the century mark in the 90s.
Doug Flutie, coming off one of his poorer performances of his Bills career, came back against the Patriots and tossed two touchdown passes. Flutie completed 9 of 16 for 207 yards and didn't have any interceptions. His biggest strike was a 54 yard bomb to Eric Moulds and Sam Gash took a swing pass and turned it into a 31 yard TD play.
"It gives us good separation from New England and keeps us within striking distance of the AFC East title," Flutie said. "We won't lose next week and maybe some other teams will."
Drew Bledsoe gets tackled by Phil Hansen for one of the Bills 6 sacks |
"I'm pretty down," Bledsoe said. "To lose three in a row and to feel like you're ultimately responsible for that is a very depressing thing. I'm the quarterback of this team. I'm responsible for scoring points and we don't score enough of them."
"It's still a tough, tough division," said Bills head coach Wade Phillips. "This was certainly an important game for us as far as playoff implications. It gets us right in there and we get to sit back for a week."
Phillips' counterpart, Patriots coach head Pete Carroll's coaching position is on the line and losing isn't helping his job security.
"We're not making plays on offense, and we're putting ourselves in tight situations," said Carroll. "We're not playing good enough football."
The game started off with both teams not being able to do much. Taking the ball at their own 20 with almost 7 minutes gone by in the first quarter, the Bills marched down to the Patriots 8 thanks in large to an interference penalty to Chris Carter when he prevented Eric Moulds from catching a bomb from Flutie. Antowain Smith picked up 5 yards on two straight carries after that call to set up a third and three from the 3. On a designed play, Flutie took off to the left hoping to catch the Pats off guard. Instead, he was met by a swarm of Patriots and was finally tackled by Kato Serwanga for a 7 yard loss. Steve Christie came in and kicked a 28 yard field goal to put the Bills up 3-0.
"The wind was tricky," said Flutie. "I tried to put a little extra zing on the ball and one pass went over Eric's head; but on the pass interference call, I laid the ball out there and Eric had to fight for it."
The Patriots drove down into Bills territory after the field goal, but the drive was halted when Ken Irvin picked off Bledsoe.
In the first half, the Patriots were called for three pass interference infractions. One was an offensive interference on Ben Coates when he interfered with a Bills defender and that voided his catch at the Bills 5 yard line.
With around a minute and a half left in the first half, the Bills took over on their own 42. Jonathan Linton ran for four yards and then the Bills struck pay dirt. With the blitz coming, Flutie threw deep down the left sideline to Moulds, going against Steve Israel. Israel slipped while covering Moulds and Eric caught up to Flutie's pass and raced in all alone for the score. The play covered 54 yards and the Bills were suddenly up 10-0.
"I just fell," Israel said. "I believe I got tangled up with his legs. That's the tough thing about this position; one mistake, and it's six points."
"I saw Eric get an outside release on him so I tried to lay it up and over the top." Flutie said. "As I was releasing it, he started to stumble. The ball got halfway there, he was on the ground and Eric looked up and he ran into his ‘I gotta go get it speed.' I thought, ‘Oh my God, he fell down. This might be overthrown - go get it,' and he just ran it down and got to it. He had a good step on him, he got outside on him quickly and when Israel tried to turn and run there was no way he was going to keep up with Eric."
Phillips said that Moulds was the primary receiver on that 54-yard TD strike. "Doug saw the coverage. He knew he was man-to-man on him, and once they are man-to-man on Eric then we're going to go after them."
In the second half, tight end Bobby Collins, replacing the injured Jay Riemersma, turned a Flutie pass into a 45 yard completion. After that play, Flutie went back to pass, looked right and threw a little screen to Sam Gash. Gash plowed ahead and did a turn around move that broke away from Andy Katzenmoyer and he ran all the way down the right sideline for the touchdown. It was payback time for Gash, who feels that he was not given fair treatment by the New England management when he was let go by the Patriots. The score came at the 10:21 mark of the third quarter and put the Bills up 17-0.
Flutie said he told Gash, "You don't get your hands on the ball very often so you've got to make it last as long as you can when you get it."
Sam Rogers stops Drew Bledsoe on quarterback sneak |
The Patriots were finally able to convert with only 2:41 left in the fourth quarter when Bledsoe threw deep to Terry Glenn who was covered by Thomas Smith. Glen leaped up and caught the pass near the ten and broke another tackle to go in and break the Bills defensive shutout. In all the play covered 45 yards.
"I hated to see our defense get scored on at the end there when we really had the game locked away, but it happened," said Phillips.
In all, it was another solid home effort for the Bills. This was the eleventh win in their last 13 home games. They are 5-1 at home this year and the defense has been at its stingiest at Ralph Wilson Stadium, allowing only 54 points those contests.
Eric Moulds only caught one pass, but it was a game-breaker. His 54 yard reception of Flutie's bomb made it 10-0 and set the tone of the game. Bobby Collins also caught only one pass, a 45 yarder. Then there was Sam Gash's only reception, for 31 yards and a TD. The only Bill to catch more than one pass was Linton with 3 for 37 yards.
Linton carried 17 times for 67 yards while Lennox Gordon picked up 18 on 3 carries, a 6.0 average. Smith, obviously still bothered by his turf toe, ran 9 times for 21 yards. Terry Allen was the top Patriot rusher with 47 yards on 13 carries.
"They did play us tough," Flutie said about the Pats run defense. "They get their safeties up in there and they always have an extra man lurking around, trying to stick his nose in and someone you may not be able to block."
Flutie had some high praise for former Patriot fullback Gash. "He's one of the great leaders on this team. He keeps his mouth shut, works hard, he motivates guys, he's always got that intensity level about him and he does all the dirty work. He's humping it up in there, and butting heads with linebackers all day long. He doesn't complain about not carrying the ball, doesn't complain about anything. He gets his hands on the ball once and awhile on those little play action passes and that's about the extent of him carrying the football."
Once again, the Bills defense gets the game's top billing. They came on strong from start to finish and didn't let Bledsoe get any big yardage until the very end during mop up time.
Marcus Wiley falls on top of Bledsoe|
"The difference in the game," said Bills linebacker John Holecek, "is that we made two big plays on defense when they were driving the ball in our territory. We got the interception, and then stopped them inside our 10 when we (forced a) fumble. They were driving the ball on us, and we didn't think they could do that to us. They had us a little off-balance. In the second half, we made some adjustments."
Robert Hicks who suffered a sprained ankle said, "I don't think it's that serious (to have a MRI). I think it's just a sprain. They've already X-rayed it. We're just going to nurse it, and ice it."
The Bills get to rest their wounded next week as they have a bye in the schedule and don't play again until two week from now when they host the New York Giants.
"I think we are the only team with a winning record that's going to have an open date here," said Phillips. "I think all the teams at the end of the year haven't made it through as well as we have. To be at this point, 8-4 and have some rest - we need it. Robert Hicks has a sprained ankle, Antowain is still banged up a little bit, Jay Riemersma (is still out). We've got some guys injured and this rest is going to help us."
Copyright © 1999 Bills Thunder & Rick Anderson, all rights reserved.
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