By Rick Anderson
It took the Buffalo Bills two enormous plays to dethrottle the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday in Arrowhead Stadium as the Bills beat the Chiefs 21-17. A spectacular diving touchdown by Bills quarterback Rob Johnson and a key interception by Keion Carpenter late in the game sealed the Chiefs fate and practically eliminated them from one of the playoff spots the Bills are after.
Rob Johnson leaps towards the pylon at the goal line as Chiefs defenders Marvcus Patton (53) and William Bartee (24) attempt to stop him from scoring. After a review, the officials ruled that Johnson broke the plane of the goal line and was awarded a touchdown.|
[AP Photo/Charlie Riedel] |
Both the Johnson TD dive and the Carpenter pick were crucial in the victory, but the absolute killer as far as the Chiefs were concerned had to be the Johnson touchdown run. The Bills were facing third and goal from the KC 12 and the Chiefs were up 17-14 late in the fourth quarter. Johnson went back to pass, saw the pocket collapsing on both sides of him and decided to take it up the middle. The Bills quarterback dashed through the crowd at the line, saw daylight, and veered towards the left corner. As he approached the goal line, Johnson saw two KC defenders (Marvcus Patton and William Bartee) he would have to get past in order to score. Instead of plowing through them, Johnson suddenly leaped up as if he were going to slam-dunk a basketball. As the two defenders converged on Johnson, he was sailing high over them while holding the ball out in front of him. As Johnson glided in mid-air towards the pylon, he held the football out in front of him to break the plane as he fell out of bounds. It was almost like Michael Jordan leaping high to make one of his patented soaring slams. Johnson decided to take to the air when he reached the three yard line and no one was to detain him from reaching his final destination.
Originally, the referees ruled that Johnson was out at the one yard line, but Wade Phillips made one of his few correct challenges of the season when he asked the officials to review the play. After the head official reviewed it, the call was reversed and the touchdown counted.
"The receivers were covered, and he just found a way," said Bartee, one of the defenders Johnson leaped over. "He did it. Did he get the ball across?"
"It was a great athletic play, great determination, great awareness to stick the ball out," said Bills quarterback coach Turk Schonert.
The other play of the game came on defense when the Chiefs were threatening to retake the lead. Elvis Grbac drove the Chiefs down the field with ease, slicing the Bills secondary like a skilled surgeon. There were two minutes left in the contest and the Chiefs had gotten to the Buffalo 25. Grbac saw Gonzalez all alone at the 10 yard line. When the pass was about to reach his hands, Keion Carpenter suddenly stepped in front of him and picked off the pass, ending another KC drive and at the most critical time.
Keion Carpenter gets congratulated by teammate Henry Jones after Carpenter intercepted a late 4th quarter pass near the Bills goal line.|
[AP Photo/Charlie Riedel] |
"Right before the play, Henry Jones said to look out for the 7-cut, because Gonzalez is their go-to man and they were trying to get the ball to him all day," explained Carpenter. "I trusted Henry Jones and his judgment and made a good break on the ball."
The pick was the third interception by Carpenter in two games. In a game where the Bills secondary was being shredded by Grbac for a total of 341 yards, this turnover saved the day. Grbac had completed 28 of 48 passes and had 2 touchdowns before Carpenter's pick.
The Bills came out of the chute smoking. Johnson led the Bills down the field on a 10-play, 71 yard drive that consumed 5 minutes. Moulds capped off the drive by catching a 9-yard pass from Johnson to open the scoring. During the drive, Moulds had caught a 6-yard pass to get a first down and that reception marked the 45th consecutive game in which he had caught a pass. The reception broke the mark shared by former Bills greats Thurman Thomas and Andre Reed. In the game, Moulds caught 8 passes for 67 yards and that put him over the 1,000 mark for the second straight year.
Other key plays in the opening touchdown drive were a 12-yard pass to Peerless Price and a 20-yard Johnson run to the Chiefs 23.
Bills head coach Wade Phillips pulled some magic out of his hat when Chris Mohr lined up to punt deep in Bills territory. Instead of punting, Mohr took the snap and threw a pass to Daryl Porter who turned it into a 44-yard play and was finally downed at the Chiefs 39. On the very next play, Johnson threw to Jay Riemersma who had gotten all alone in the endzone. However, the play was wiped out because of a Marcus Spriggs hold, and the Bills went backwards from there with another penalty and a sack. When Mohr came out to punt again, the Chiefs were half-expecting another trick pass, however this time he drove a punt down to the Kansas City 10.
After the Riemersma touchdown had been voided because of Spriggs holding, the Bills offense went to sleep until late in the game.
In the second half, the Chiefs opened their offense up with the arm of Grbac. Grbac hit Gonzalez for two touchdowns, the first one from 13 yards out, the second for 9 yards. Sandwiched between the two Gonzalez strikes was Riemersma's 18-yard touchdown reception that capped a 9-play, 63-yard drive for the Bills in the fourth quarter. The Buffalo defense could not hold the 14-10 lead after Riemersma's TD as Grbac engineered a 13-play drive that drove the Chiefs 63 yards and a Gonzalez score.
They say the Law of Averages evens out bad breaks. That doesn't always happen and may take a few years for a incremental happenstance to even out. Take for example that Home Run Throwback in last year's wild card game against Tennessee and the bad calls the refs made two years ago in New England that cost the Bills that game. Then there were the "No Goal" and "Phantom Goal" playoff games the Sabres were involved in. The Bills and Sabres are still waiting for their breaks to come there way to even those cataclysms out.
It is rare when a bad break evens out in the same game. This happened Sunday in Arrow Head Stadium. Tony Gonzalez coughed the ball up at the Chiefs 21 and Porter recovered the ball. Immediately the refs ruled the Bills had possession. But suddenly they reversed their ruling and said that Gonzalez was "down by contact." The Bills could not ask for a review on the play because that is not allowed after an official rules a player down by contact. The Chiefs drove all the way down to the Bills 4-yard line before the defense stepped up and forced Kansas City to kick a field goal.
Chris Watson breaks up a pass intended for Chiefs receiver Sylvester Morris in the second quarter.|
[AP Photo/Jim Barcus] |
The Bills could have had the ball at the Chiefs 21 if the officials had ruled correctly. However, luck swung 180 degrees in the Bills favor when almost the same thing happened on the Bills winning touchdown drive. On 3rd and 5, Johnson threw a sideline pass to Moulds who caught it at the Bills 43, but as he was being hauled down, fumbled it. Ex-Bill Marvcus Patton recovered the ball for the Chiefs. The officials, however, ruled the ball was down by contract, but replays showed that the ball was coming out before he hit the ground. Chiefs coach Gunther Cunningham argued with the refs that he wanted that play reviewed, but just like in Gonzalez' fumble early in the game, this play could not be reviewed. What goes around comes around.
"The down by contact (rule) is a tough call," Cunningham said afterwards.
The Bills defense, which was stung by Grbac for 343 yards and another 103 yards on the ground, made the big plays when it had to. The Carpenter interception was just the last of many outstanding plays the Bills D made to prevent further Chiefs scores. Near the end of the first half, a 35-yard field goal attempt was blocked by Pat Williams. In the third quarter, with the Chiefs driving into Bills territory, Sam Rogers sacked Grbac, forcing a fumble which Williams recovered at the Bills 37-yard line. When Grbac attempted a Hail Mary pass with only a few seconds left on the clock, Phillips put Eric Moulds in the secondary. Moulds leaped up and knocked down the long pass in the endzone, ending all hopes for a KC win.
With the win, the Bills now stand 7-4 and are in much better shape in the AFC playoff race than just two weeks ago. They virtually eliminated one of their competitor's for the wild card in defeating the Chiefs. With three tough games coming up ( at Tampa Bay, home against the Dolphins the next week, and then in Indianapolis) the Bills will have to play much better defense than they did Sunday in Kansas City.
The New York Jets trounced the Dolphins 20-3 on Sunday and, along with a Indianapolis Colts loss, puts those two teams tied with the Bills in the AFC East at 7-4. The Dolphins are only a game ahead of the pack at 8-3. A Bills win at Tampa Bay next week would set the stage for a huge divisional showdown between two arch rivals.
Even though the Bills are tied with the Jets and Colts, both hold the tie-breaker edge at the moment. The Jets have the better record in the division and the Colts would gain the nod if the season ended right now thanks to their victory over the Bills on the first day of October.
The Chiefs were licking their chops when they learned that they would be facing Rob Johnson instead of Doug Flutie. Not having to worry about a gifted scrambler was one thing. Now facing a quarterback that was prone to being sacked was even better. Johnson was sacked three times, but he also showed the Chiefs that he could run almost as well as Flutie.
"I don't know what they estimated me as, scrambling-wise," said Johnson. "If they didn't think I could scramble, then that was good."
The biggest play of the game was when the Bills had third and goal from the 12 and Johnson decided to take off on a run that would see him leap for a touchdown.
"It was the same play that we actually ran to Jay (Riemersma) that he scored on and they did a better job of covering it," described Johnson." I just pulled it down and ran. When I got out of the pocket, I knew it would come down to the 2-yard line or closer. I didn't know whether my foot was out or not - I didn't think I stepped out with my foot. I knew I crossed the plane with the ball."
"For him to have the guts to lay his body on the line and make the touchdown to win the game, that was great," said Marcus Wiley. "Hopefully, that silences all that controversy."
"It is very big getting a win like that here," Johnson said."It hurts them in the playoff race. It helps us."
"It wasn't an easy day to throw the ball - it's not an excuse. I think I was 0-8 in one stretch but we did a good job of mixing things up after the third quarter."
Wade Phillips started off his press conference in good humor.
"If we keep having games like this, I'll start getting gray hair," Phillips joked. "Four in a row is big for us - this is where we want to be. This team fights every inch of the way. Our guys made the plays when it counted. We had a lot of special and big plays."
"Whatever it takes to win, that's important," Phillips continued.."I thought the big stop was holding them to a field goal when they had a first and goal on the 4-yard line and then the interception by Keion Carpenter that helped seal the win late in the fourth quarter."
Eric Moulds, who had another outstanding game and batted away the Hail Mary pass by Grbac, talked about the winning touchdown dive by Johnson and what it meant to the team.
"I was trying to shield the corner off and I saw Rob coming my way," explained Moulds. "The corner did a good job of getting my hands off him, but Rob just went airborne and got in the end zone. By giving up his body like that, it seemed like he was saying, "I'm going to put this game on my shoulders and get it done.' He showed a lot of guts today, particularly on that play, and that's what being a leader is all about."
Copyright © 2000 Bills Thunder & Rick Anderson, all rights reserved.
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