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Blanchard FG Cooks Bills 19-17
Christie's two misses and critical fourth down stop dooms Bills in flat effort.
by Steve Saslow
Dec. 12, 1999
This game came down to two fundamental football situations, they kicked better and made the big stop. Steve Christie was just 1 for 3 on field goal attempts while his counterpart Cary Blanchard hit all 4 of his attempts including a clutch 48 yarder that gave the Giants the 19-17 win. The second situation was not getting the big running play to run out the clock. The Bills decided to go for it on 4th and 1 from the Giants 36 with just over two minutes go, a first down would have ended the game. A safer move would have been to punt it and make the Giants go the length of the field, but the way they had moved the ball against the flat Buffalo defense made you think that gaining a yard offensively may have been the better bet. The gamble failed as Jonathan Linton was stuffed at the line of scrimmage and the Giants had great field position at the Bills 36 to start their winning field goal drive. A big 3rd and 15th completion to Tiki Barber for a first down got the Giants into field goal range for Blanchard. Barber killed the Bills all day with screen passes.
The Bills struck first as Doug Flutie hit Eric Moulds for 36 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Little did we know at the time, but that was the best pass an ineffective Flutie would throw the whole game. He threw two almost interceptions on the first drive but Christie hit a 50 yard field goal to give the Bills the lead. The Giants countered with two field goal drives and a 6-3 lead late in the second quarter.
After the Giants took the lead the Bills drove into field goal range but Christie missed his first of two failures in the game to keep the Giants in front. After a Collins fumble gave the Bills the ball back they were forced to punt but a good special teams play downed the ball on the one yard line. The Bills defense came alive and held the Giants to a three and out and gave the Bills great field position to drive for the go ahead score. Just after the two minute warning Flutie dumped off a screen pass to Thurman Thomas who used his blocks to get into the end zone 23 yards later giving the Bills the lead at 10-6.
The defense caved right there letting the Giants drive the length of the field with less than two minutes on the clock to a third down touchdown pass to Amani Toomer with :08 to go in the half. It looked like Thomas Smith might make the tackle short of the goal line, but a hard hit by Kurt Schultz actually pushed him in the end zone for the score and the Giants had the halftime lead. A few plays earlier Ike Hilliard made a big catch inside the 10 but may have fumbled, the refs called him down and it was not a reviewable call.
The first two possessions of the second half were bad omens for Buffalo. The Bills took the ball first and promptly moved into field goal range but Christie missed his second kick of the game which set up the Giants to drive for Blanchard's third successful kick of the game and give the Giants the 16-10 lead as third quarter expired.
The Giants had total control of the game early in the fourth quarter and were driving for a score that would have given them more than a touchdown lead early in the fourth quarter. The Bills defense made the big play there that turned the game in their favor. Shawn Price deflected a pass and Marcellus Wiley came down with it and rumbled downfield for 52 yards to the Giants 22 yard line. The offense did what they had to do and converted the turnover into seven points as Jonathan Linton went up the middle for a 2 yard touchdown run on third and goal to give the Bills the lead back at 17-16. The big play on the drive was a third and 10 completion to Bobby Collins for the first down.
The next three series resulted in three punts and gave the Bills the ball and a chance to run out the clock with less than five minutes to play. Flutie made his one big play of the game scrambling for 12 yards on 3rd and 9 for a first down into Giants territory with 3:27 to play. The Bills knew they needed just one first down to run out the clock and got themselves into a 4th and 1 situation at the Giants 36 with 2:14 to go. They could've punted and made the Giants go at least in extra 16 yards to kick the winning field goal or try to pound it for a first down that would have ended the game. Wade Phillips chose to go for it and Linton was pounded short of the first down and the wind went out of the sails of the Bills.
The Giants moved the ball into field goal range led by a big 3rd and 15 completion for a first down to Barber that set up the winning field goal by that Blanchard just got over the crossbar from 48 yards out.
The Bills did have one last chance as they put Peerless Price and Moulds in the game to return the short kickoffs that Blanchard had all game. Price returned it to the Bills 46 yard line with :40 left to give the Bills a chance to get the winning field goal. The Giants defense just had the Bills number all day and made the stops to win the game. They were helped by a non-pass interference call downfield with :06 left and a bad pass by Flutie to an open Price a play earlier. Flutie had his hail mary picked off and the Bills have a terrible loss.
You can blame the loss on the crucial fourth down play call if you want, but the bottom line is you should be able to get one yard when you need it to win a game. The Bills actually had two chances to get the one yard but Thomas was stuffed on third down before Linton was unsuccessful on fourth down. If you can't get one yard in two plays in a tight game you don't deserve to win. The defense was flat and didn't get much pressure on Collins and Flutie was downright awful most of the day throwing the ball. Mix in Christie's misses and you have a bad late season home loss. The Patriots and Dolphins losses takes some of the sting out of this inter-conference loss. The Bills are still in ok shape for a playoff spot but there is no more room for error and a division title would take a miracle now. It's one game at a time now and a must win in the desert on national television next week.
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