Finally a WIN!
The Bills now know the feeling of victory.
by Rick Anderson, webmaster of Bills Thunder
October 19, 2001
The Buffalo Bills finally won a game. It took them five games to get goose egg off the win column in the standings, but now the Bills know the feeling. On Thursday night, the Bills beat the Jacksonville Jaguars 13-10 in a game which looked like nobody wanted to win. The first half was downright ugly, as the Bills went to the locker room with a 3-0 lead. They finally were able to score a decisive touchdown and a field goal to take the lead late in the game, but it took a Bills interception at the end to seal Gregg Williams first victory as a head coach in the NFL.
Jake Arians, the man who replaced Steve Christie as the Bills kicker, had to get himself off the hot seat by kicking the game winning fieldgoal with only 1:03 remaining. Arians, who missed field goals of 41 and 39 yards in the first half, knew that he had to make this one if he wanted any job security at all. With the uprights being 46 yards away, it was no easy kick, especially since he missed two shorter ones already.
"You miss two kicks. If you miss another you could be out of a job," said the elated Arians. "It's like, if you want a job next week, you better knock this one down. You don't want to let your teammates down. That's the big thing. They played their hearts out, so there was no way I was going to miss that kick."
After making the fieldgoal, the Jaguars still had time to drive down the field and tie it up. However, Travares Tillman picked off a Mark Brunell pass which deflected off the hands of Stacey Mack. The celebration was on. The Bills finally had their first win of the season.
Johnson finds comfort zone
Bills quarterback Rob Johnson had his best game of the season, completing 23 of 30 throws for 238 yards. He connected with Eric Molds for the Bills only touchdown and seemed to finally get the hang of the West Coast offense. That Johnson did it against his former team may explain the sudden improvement in play. No matter what the reason, Johnson seemed to be able to direct the Bills down the field with relative ease until they reached that forbidden zone, the red zone. That has been the area of nightmares for Johnson and his Bills the last three years.
No matter how gratifying the win may be, the Bills have to consider that the Jaguars played a pitiful game. In the first half, neither team looked like they wanted to win it.
"The first half offensively was very, very poor, very pathetic," Jaguars' head coach Tom Coughlin fumed. "Any time the defense gives up 13 points, you should win. That's how I feel. I put the blame on the offense."
The Bills had three drives into the red zone and only had 3 points to show for it. In the second half the Johnson led the Bills with a 9-play, 63 yard drive that culminated with the Bills quarterback hitching up with Eric Moulds on a 27-yard touchdown. Moulds had somehow split the seams and found himself all alone in the right corner of the endzone. Johnson's pass hit the mark and the Bills took a 10-7 lead.
Moulds, who has played with two gunslingers Jim Kelly and Doug Flutie in the past, knows it takes a confident quarterback to be successful in this league. Moulds noticed a difference in Johnson during the prime-time game.
"This is the first time I saw the swagger in his eyes," commented Moulds. "He was talking a lot more in the game. I don't know if it was because he was back here (in Jacksonville), or what, but he played with lot more confidence in this game."
Jacksonville, who took a 7-3 lead in the third quarter complements of a Brunell to Kyle Brady 20-yard touchdown strike, came back and tied it up with a 41-yard Mike Hollis field goal in the fourth quarter. The game had all the earmarks of an overtime game when Johnson led the Bills down the field on a 10-play, 48 yard drive the ended with Arians kicking the winning FG.
Larry Centers was the centerpiece of the Bills drive. He caught passes of 8 and 3 yards to go along with another 8 yard run. Johnson also had a 12-yard scamper to help put the Bills into position.
While the Bills front office gutted most of the veterans off the squad before and at the start of the season, they did add a valuable piece when they acquired Centers for the fullback position. Known as a great receiver coming out of the backfield, Centers has been one of the few bright spots on the offense this year. He had 7 receptions for 59 yards to go along with 13 yards on three carries against the Jags. Centers was picked up to be a safety net for Johnson when opponents were blitzing. The Johnson-to-Centers combo may be the link to future success for the Bills.
"This was a great victory for this young team to fight and come out on top," said the veteran Centers. "We kept plugging away. Coach (Williams) got the game ball, his first win, and I think it will be the first of many to come."
The Bills defense came through with its best game of the season. They sacked Brunell 4 times and limited the Jags to only 247 yards. They limited Brunell to only 150 yards through the air, as he hit 16 of 26 passes. Brunell had two of his passes picked as Tillman and Kevin Irwin did the honors.
For Coughlin, it was the worst day of his life.
"How mindboggling is it for me?" Coughlin asked. "I don't know how to describe it. It's a low point for me personally, professionally, and every other way."
Ah, what a difference a win makes. The tension is gone and football is fun again for the players who have been under the gun since losing the opening game of the season.
"It's unbelievable," said a very relived Rob Johnson after the game. "It's been a tough six weeks. To finally get a win, a total team effort, hopefully, this will springboard us for the rest of the season."
After throwing the 27-yard strike to Moulds, Johnson knew he could take the tools supplied him and mount a comeback.
"That was huge," Johnson commented about the easy TD to Moulds. "That has hurt us in the past (being behind). Whenever a team would score on us, we wouldn't answer. To answer like that was big-time. We went right down and scored on them, and it was great."
The recipient of the pass by Johnson, Moulds gave the passer high marks.
"I've seen him play this well before," said Moulds. "He did in the Indianapolis game a couple of years ago. When he plays with poise, like he did tonight, I think he's a great quarterback."
Johnson has had a band-aid offensive line in front of him all season. The fact that he only got sacked twice in this game showed both better protection and his ability to get rid of the ball quicker. Center Bill Conaty, who had a separated shoulder popped back into place in the first half, had praise for the man he snaps the ball to.
"Rob was outstanding and it was a great team effort by everyone," said Conaty. "You lose four straight and everything goes wrong. You almost tend to start doubting yourself," Conaty said. "We had to keep that belief up that even though things are going wrong, we can still win the game. We held that belief throughout the game. Even when they scored that touchdown to start the second half, we said, hey, it's our turn to score."
Coach Williams finally had his first victory as an NFL head coach under his belt.
"The defense played great," lauded Williams. "Rob was outstanding, it was a great team effort by everyone. The victory was nice and a long time coming. Hopefully we can use this and get on a roll."
And lastly, the man who kicked the winning points had the final say.
"We've been talking all week about prime time players step up in prime time games," commented Arians. "I had to step up at the end and do it."
"Actually you don't think about doing this until it's over. I'm more nervous now than I was before I kicked it."
Talk about this article on the Stadium Wall
Back to Bills Daily Homepage