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Poor Team Effort Leads to Upset
Offense and Defense awful in 31-14 setback.
by Steve Saslow
Sept. 12, 1999

The Bills to a man talked about getting off to a good start this season after the 0-3 start last year put them in a hole. Well, it seems they were just talking a good game, as very few players showed up in the 31-14 debacle in Indy.

The offensive gameplan had a surprise for everyone, Thurman Thomas was going to be the featured running back in the one back offense. On the first play he injured his ribs and did not return. The coaches were unable to make the necessary adjustments and the offense struggled badly.

With Thomas out of the game the running game went nowhere. It seems Antowain Smith is deep in the doghouse and his 7 yards on 6 carries did not help him. Jonathan Linton logged more playing time than Smith and was a featured player in the passing game. Doug Flutie was forced to the air throwing for 300 yards but he struggled to complete 50 percent of his passes and couldn't make the big play that we counted on last year. With the Bills trailing 24-14 in the fourth quarter he had Andre Reed wide open for a touchdown but overthrew him. On the next possession he threw an awful interception to Tony Blevins, that Linton should have come back for. Blevins returned it the distance to put the game out of reach.

The defense did great in the first half against rookie RB Edgerrin James holding him to just 24 yards. The problem was they forgot to cover WR E.G. Green who took advantage of broken coverage and caught a bomb to set up James' one yard TD to give the Colts the early 7-0 lead. The Bills answered with a Steve Christie field goal. It seemed the Bills were going to take control of the game at 7-3 when they were driving for a possible go ahead score. Unfortunately, the red zone woes continued, and Flutie threw his other bad interception overthrowing a receiver and getting picked off by Jeff Burris deep in Colts territory. Burris returned it 28 yards to set up a 65 yard touchdown drive that was done mostly in the air as Green and Marvin Harrison seemed to get wide open all day. The Bills answered with another Chrstie field goal just before halftime to pull within 14-6.

As bad as the defense played in the first half. They played worse in the second half. Colts receivers still roamed free in the secondary as the Bills safeties seemed to bite on the play action a lot. On top of that Edgerrin James got going breaking two runs of 40 and 16 yards enroute to a game total of 112 yards on 26 carries after being held in check during the first half. The Colts mixed in James' running with Manning's passing perfectly and after Harrison caught his second touchdown of the game the Colts were in control at 21-6.

The Bills than drove to their first touchdown of the season and struggled getting it in the end zone before Flutie threw a perfect pass to Andre Reed and after Linton ran in an audible for the two the Bills were within 7. I personally, wouldn't have gone for two there. You wait until you need the two to tie, but unfortunately the Bills never got that close as Flutie's second INT and poor pass defense sealed the game.

In this section of my game report each week, I'll give my gameballs and goats of the game. Obviously in this game their are more goats than heroes.:


  • Eric Moulds - Eric picked up right where he left off in Miami last year catching 10 ball for 147 yards he made the tough catches over the middle and finally caught a deep ball from Flutie late in the game.
  • Phil Hansen - He was all over the place on defense making plays and forcing the action. He also made a great special teams play, when he plowed over the long snapper and blocked a field goal attempt. The first block FG by a Bill in three years.
  • Kevin Williams - Unfortunately he saw too much action returning kicks but he averaged 26 yards a return and gave the Bills good field position which they promptly did nothing with most of the time.


  • Antowain Smith - He was being demoted right before our eyes. First, Thomas got the start and then we he got hurt and Smith faltered, gaining 7 yards on 6 carries, they turned to Linton. Smith is deep in the coaches' doghouse.
  • Doug Flutie - He did throw for 300 yards, which is pretty good considering he was running for his life on most downs. He was forced to the air too much by a poor running attack and he failed to make the big plays. He threw two crucial interceptions and missed open receivers downfield. He also should have looked to run the ball himself more. He was the club's leading rusher with 24 yards but he only carried it 4 times.
  • Entire Offensive Line - They couldn't open up holes for the running game, they couldn't pass protect, and they couldn't pick up the blitz. The only thing they could do is get penalties called on them.
  • Entire Bills Secondary - The safeties bit on the play action passes everytime, there were numerous breakdowns in coverage leaving receivers wide open. Ken Irvin got burned on many occassions by Harrison.
  • Entire Coaching Staff - for not being able to make adjustments to what the Colts were doing and to Thomas' injury.

  • TBD Gameday Review - My position by positon breakdown and grades.
    NFL Gamebook - Most complete game statistics available including play by play from
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