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Bills Defense Dominates again 23-18
Defense wins the game as Offense plays lackluster.
by Steve Saslow
Oct. 4, 1999
Doug Flutie didn't throw the ball particularly well, completing less than half his passes for under 200 yards. Antowain Smith didn't run particularly well, gaining just 36 yards on 12 carries and the offense failed to reach 300 yards for the first time in 11 games. Don't worry, this club has a vaunted special teams unit. Oh wait...they gave up a huge return and opened up no holes for Kevin Williams. Who said you can't win with just one of your units playing well. The defense dominated their third game in the row leading the Bills to a huge 23-18 division win on the road in dreaded Miami. They gave up their first touchdown in over three games, but it came on a four yard drive thanks to the special teams and a huge kickoff return by Brock Marion.
This game started off very well, with Miami going three and out and Flutie hitting Jay Riemersma with a 24 yard gain setting up Smith's 20 yard run which led to the first of three Steve Christie field goals. Miami had the first big turnover of the game as Flutie fumbled a snap that bounced right in the hands of a Miami defender. This starting bringing back memories of last season's playoff game but it turned out to be the last Buffalo turnover and a few Miami turnovers were still to come.
Two field goals by Olindo Mare, who seems to never miss, gave Miami the 6-3 lead. Flutie then led the team on its best drive in the first half, a 47 yard drive to Christie's whopping 52 yard field goal. The two teams traded punts and then Miami was facing a 3rd and 4 at the Buffalo 34 when the play of the game happened. The Bills chose to send John Holecek in on the pass rush. He hit Marino from behind forcing the fumble that bounced right in the hands of Gabe Northern and he outran the Miami offensive players 59 yards for the touchdown to give the club the 13-6 lead. Marino got them close for Mare's third field goal to pull Miami within four at the half.
That was the score entering the fourth quarter when the scoring started happening. Less than two minutes into the final period the Dolphins kicked another field goal to pull within one point at 13-12. Miami had the momentum at that time and it looked like they would eventually overtake the Bills. That is when the Offense woke up for the only time in the game. Flutie led the club on an impressive 80 yard drive in just 6 plays. He was helped by a big pass interference penalty and a perfect touchdown pass to Eric Moulds to put the Bills up by 8. The Player of the Game for Buffalo made another big play, when John Holecek picked off a Marino pass to setup another Christie Field goal and a 23-12 lead with seven minutes left.
The Bills seemed to have the game in control until the usual reliable special teams gave up a big play, as Brock Marion ran back the kickoff 93 yards to the four yard line. The Bills defense stiffened and had Miami back at the nine yard line on third and goal. Marino picked this time to convert their first third down as he hit O.J. McDuffie for a score.
The defense made one more big play at that point, stopping backup fullback Stanley Pritchett on the two point conversion attempt as he tried to score on a draw play. The Dolphins never got close again as they sent Miami to a four and out on their next possession. Flutie then converted a third and one on a bootleg reminescent of the Jaguars game from last year to wrap it up.
It is amazing the Bills won a game where Andre Reed didn't catch a pass and Eric Moulds also didn't catch a pass until the fourth quarter. The defense made it happen as they have only allowed one touchdown in three plus games and that one wasn't their fault. They proved on national TV that the defense will be the key to the 1999 Bills like the Offense was the key to last year's team.
TBD Gameday Review - My position by positon breakdown and grades.
NFL Gamebook - Most complete game statistics available including play by play from NFL.com.
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