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Colts stampede Bills in blowout
Bills officially in rebuilding mode after loss.
by Rick Anderson, webmaster of Bills Thunder
September 23, 2001

It is probably safe to use the "R" word now in reference to the Buffalo Bills this season. They are now officially in a rebuilding mode. After being completely blown out by the Indianapolis Colts 42-26 Sunday, the Bills can officially declare this season as a rebuilding project. Since Bills coach Gregg Williams has rid himself of the majority of Wade Phillips veterans, he can mode the third youngest team in his image. The problem is that Williams image is looking mighty gruesome these days. The Bills rookie coach, who came on the scene with his brimstone and fire attitude, has yet to win an NFL game. His arrogant attitude and his Marine drill sergeant ways annoyed several of the freshly departed Bills and it is known that the few remaining vets are not too happy with his "in your face" approach.

Be as it may, the Bills now find themselves 0-2 right off the bat. Last week's game was postponed because of the tragic events in New York City and Washington on September 11th, when three hijacked airliners crashed into the two World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon. The NFL has decided to make up all the postponed game the second week of January to conclude the regular season. That means the Bills will play at Miami on January 6.

Even though this game was a complete blowout and the score isn't a true indication of how much the Colts dominated, the Bills actually came out of the gates with an aggressive defensive strategy. On Peyton Manning's second pass of the game, Nate Clements stepped in front of the intended receiver and had clear sailing into the endzone for a 48-yard touchdown.

The Colts drove down to the Bills red zone and Clements picked off his second Manning pass to halt the Colts drive. However, Antoine Winfield was flagged for holding and that gave the Colts a first and goal on the Bills one.

That was the start of a flag field day for the referees in this game. The Bills tied an all-time team record of 19 penalties, which usually came at crucial times.

Williams knows that the penalties killed any chance the Bills had of upsetting the Colts.

"We had way too many penalties," Williams said. "We were stopping ourselves at times. Some of that's technique. I don't like that, we'll address that. We've been talking about that every day and we'll continue to pressure that a lot."

One has to ask whether the Bills decision to keep Johnson over Flutie was the right one. Flutie is now 2-0 while Johnson is still struggling to get a grasp on Williams' west coast offense and is 0-2. With Flutie gone, Johnson doesn't have any competition except himself, and Johnson is struggling within himself to even play a semi-adequate game. Johnson attempted 37 passes, completing 24 for 257 yards with one pick. Not too bad stats-wise. However, in team leadership, Johnson is still learning how to crawl.

Flutie, meanwhile is having the time of his life with the Chargers. San Diego, which lost its first 11 games last year, have suddenly bolted out of the gate at 2-0. Flutie completed 23 of 38 for 353 yards and two touchdowns.

"All of my guys stepped up today," said a buoyant Flutie. "That's the thing about this team, we've got a bunch of playmakers."

Manning showed Johnson just how to get the job done, as he sliced the Bills secondary as if it were Swiss cheese. Manning completed 23 of 29 throws for a career-high with 421 yards and four touchdowns. He also rolled out for a rushing touchdown in the third quarter, adding salt to the Bills wounds.

Manning's main target was Marvin Harrison, who caught 7 of Manning's tosses for 146 yards and 3 scores. Edgerrin James balanced off the offense, rushing 111 yards on 23 carries and one score.

"We've always been a big-play team," said Manning. "Today we had a good mix of the run and pass."

Manning is the quarterback the Bills hope Johnson someday will be. But the time table for Johnson is running short and he has to step up and start producing fast as this is the last year of his contract with Buffalo. So far, Johnson has proved that he has all the tools he needs, from the neck down. The top part of his game still leaves a lot to be desired.

The Bills, meanwhile, are looking mighty weak on defense, especially after losing Sam Cowart in the first game. Cowart will probably be lost for the rest of the season. The Bills, who led the entire NFL in defense two years ago and were third last year, have fallen apart this year. The loss of key veterans and switching to a 4-3 defensive scheme may have a lot to do with it.

Next week, the Bills come home to host the Pittsburgh Steelers who shut them out in the last preseason game this summer, 20-0. The way the Bills have started off this season, that score may have been a good preview of what's to come next Sunday.

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