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Bills come up short in Atlanta
Bills find a way to lose exciting game.
by Rick Anderson, webmaster of Bills Thunder
December 24, 2001

The Buffalo Bills made a game of it and almost forced overtime against the Atlanta Falcons, but once again couldn't hold on. Falcons' kicker Jay Feely came through with a 52-yard field goal on the very last play of the game giving the Falcons a 33-30 victory.

The Bills had come down on a 82-yard drive to tie the game just 48 seconds before Feely's kick. Bills quarterback Alex Van Pelt had completed passes of 13 and 21 yards to Eric Moulds and a 31-yard pass to Reggie Germany down to the Atlanta 3 to set up the tying touchdown pass to Moulds. Van Pelt completed 17 of 31 for 208 yards.

"I think we do well under pressure," said Van Pelt about the last minute drive to tie the game. "We've moved the ball well in the two-minute drill. It was something we expected."

It was Chris Chandler who was the story of this game. He threw for a franchise record 431 yards, completing 28 of 40 for two touchdowns. He was also picked off twice, one for a touchdown by Brandon Spoon in the second quarter. However, Chandler, who was suffering from the flu, had the best game in his career. He had to get intravenous injections at halftime just to come back out on the field for the third quarter. "When I was laying there getting those IVs," Chandler said. "I just felt totally wiped.. I didn't know if I was going to be able to go."

Go he did and he sliced and diced the Bills secondary like a skilled surgeon. He hit Tony Martin for a 63 yard touchdown in the third quarter, followed by a 49-yard strike to Alge Crumpler to put the Falcons up 30-20 after being down 20-16 in the third quarter.

Shawn Bryson, replacing Travis Henry at running back, came up with his best performance in his NFL career, rushing for 130 yards and two touchdowns. Bryson scored the Bills first touchdown when he found a hole and scampered through it for a 15-yard TD run. Then in the third quarter, he broke loose for a 68-yard touchdown, displaying speed in outrunning the Falcons' secondary once in the clear.

Bryson, who is a big bruising runner, has the rare speed to compliment his size. The Bills would be wise to award him after his contract expires this season. Travis Henry, who wasn't playing because of a sprained knee, has shown flashes in his rookie season. But the Bills cannot make another huge mistake like they did with Antowain Smith, who has helped the New England Patriots take over first in the AFC East. On Saturday, Smith had a career high 156 yards rushing against the Dolphins. In his two games against the Bills, Smith played a crucial role in beating them. The Bills cannot allow a player like Bryson go and become the next Antowain Smith. Bryson has the right mixture of size, strength and speed.

12th Loss For Bills

This was the 12th defeat for the Bills, who have come close in a lot of games, but just can't finish the job. The Bills defense, who shut out the Pats without a touchdown the week before, were torn apart by Chandler as the Falcons scored 3 touchdowns and 4 field goals by Feely.

The Bills have two game left in which to get their third win of the year, but it is going to be tough. They face the Jets and Miami in the last two weeks, both games on the road.

This has been a trying season for Bills rookie head coach Gregg Williams. Hit with a lot of injuries on his offensive line early in the season, his No. 1 quarterback Rob Johnson went down with a broken collar bone a month ago. Also, his bumbling of calling for video replays on disputed plays has cost him crucial time outs and maybe a couple games. Williams decisions to cut Marcellus Wiley, Antowain Smith, Henry Jones, Sam Rodgers, and Ted Washington this year has cost the Bills the veteran leadership they sorely needed. Williams wanted to fly or die by his hand selected players and it probably prevented him from fielding a respectable team.

Bills Talk

Bills defensive end Phil Hansen thought the Bills had a good chance to rough up Chandler while he was down with the flu. "At the coin toss, Chandler looked a little pale," recalled Hansen. "He said, 'Hey, man, I'm sick, take it easy on me.' I laughed, then went back and told the whole defense to get after Chandler, he's sick. Then he turns around and sets a record for yards."

Chandler was magnificent even while playing debilitated. "My concern was mainly just surviving,"said Chandler. "I wasn't really concerned with the result of the plays."

Williams was impressed with Bryson, who took over for the injured Henry at running back. "I thought that Shawn played well, and he knew that he would play well today," commented Williams. "He's a fast track guy that runs well on turf. He finally got healthy this week. He's got great speed on turn and he showed his speed in the open field."

Bryson sent word home in Franklin, N.C. that he would be starting. Family and friends made the two-hour trek to Atlanta to see him perform. "It's a small town but there's several stoplights," joked Bryson about Franklin. "I don't get the chance to play in front of people from my hometown very often, so it was a great. I just wanted to play hard and show people what I could do. It was exciting (but) it would've been better had we won."

With Henry performing so well in his rookie year, Bryson had to wait his opportunity to get in. "I don't worry about things I can't control," Bryson admitted. "I just want to make the most of my opportunities and show people that I can play the game."

Talking about his 68-yard touchdown run on a sweep, Bryson said, "I like the toss sweep, but to be able to run it, you need linemen who can block well. That's what they did and I just hit the hole and took it the distance."

After Bryson scored, the Bills attempted to go for the two-point conversion. Once again, Williams made a rookie mistake. It was better to just kick the one-pointer. As it turned out, after Moulds' TD, the Bills would have had a 1-point lead and put added pressure on Feely to make the field goal.

Then, after Moulds score, the Bills decided to squib the kickoff, giving Atlanta a better drive start. "We wanted to run some time off, and Atlanta has not done well in squib situations in the past from things we saw on film," Williams said. "We covered well, but we didn't execute and tackle."

The Bills also continued their discerning trend of drawing the yellow flags. They had 12 penalties for 95 yards. "We've proved we're not good enough to overcome those things," Williams said.

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