Dolphins' huge comeback stuns Bills
Bills were poised for an upset then fate turned on them.
by Rick Anderson, webmaster of Bills Thunder
November 26, 2001
The stage was set. The Buffalo Bills seemed destined to pull off a big upset over the Miami Dolphins. The weather was almost perfect and the Bills had a 27-17 lead in the fourth quarter. In fact, after Travis Henry scored the Bills final touchdown 6:44 into the quarter, a lot of fans left the stadium thinking that the Bills were going to pull out their first home victory in 8 games. But then fate went against the Bills, or it was just the Bills found another way to lose.
Jay Fiedler proved his merit in guiding the Dolphins to a big comeback victory to keep pace with the New York Jets for first place in the AFC East. Coming back from that 10-point deficit, along with getting some good breaks along the way, could go a long ways in helping to determine the winner in the East.
Fielder was as cool as a cucumber, going 18-for-31 for 262 yards 3 TDs and no picks. His engineering the last 24 points in the fourth quarter stunned the sellout crowd that had its share of Dolphins fans.
"Jay Fiedler came up here with the mindset that he was going to do anything that he possibly could to help this team win," Dolphins coach Dave Wannstedt said. "There is a fine line of having enough confidence to make a throw but not forcing anything. I think Jay went through that today and hopefully gained some confidence."
After the Henry TD, the Dolphins started driving down the field. Two running plays gained 9 yards. Ray Lucas came in for one play and passed a 17-yard pass to Jed Weaver to the Bills 34. The Bills defense stiffened and forced the Dolphins back, thanks largely to a 7-yard sack by Keith Newman. Facing a 4th and 14, Fielder completed a 16-yard pass over the middle to Dedric Ward down to the Buffalo 22, keeping the drive alive.
" I thought Jerry (Gray) did a good job with that particular coverage, but we didn't make the play," said Williams. "We were looking at the quarterback instead of relating to the receiver and making the play."
On the very next play, Fiedler found Chris Chambers in the left corner of the endzone for the touchdown and the Dolphins were back in business. The fans who left thinking the game was over now were missing a wild finish.
The Bills went 3 and out and the Dolphins went on the attack once again. Starting the drive with 3:28 left, Fiedler got two quick strikes to get the Fish into fieldgoal territory. First he hit Chambers again for 14 yards to the Bills 48. Next he hit Travis Minor for 18 to the Buffalo 30.
Three more plays got the Dolphins down to the Buffalo 21 where Olindo Mare came in to kick a 39 yard field goal to suddenly tie it up. At that point it appeared as if the game could go into overtime.
The kickoff was returned by Nate Clements from the 13 to the 40 yard line where David Bowens stripped the ball from Clements and P.Surtain recovered at the Buffalo 42.
Fiedler immediately went to his favorite target, Chambers for ten yards and then hit him for a 32 yard touchdown strike with Ken Irvin attempting to cover him down the left sidelines. Chambers caught the ball at the 1 and leaned backwards into the endzone for what would turn out to be the winning score. The Dolphins suddenly had scored 17 points in just under 6 minutes.
The Bills had a chance to come back, but the clock was their biggest enemy. Buffalo used two timeouts in their frantic drive to get into the endzone with only 43 seconds. They got help on the first play as Eric Moulds was interfered with, putting the ball on the Bills 42. The next play, Van Pelt was sacked for a 4 yard loss and they had to take a timeout. Van Pelt then hit Moulds for 10 and 20 yards to put it on the 32. But Van Pelt could not get the play off in time as the clock ran out and the Bills fate was sealed.
Bills Impressive Showing Goes South
This game had "upset" written all over it. Mistakes both by coach Williams and the Bills on key situations spelled Buffalo's demise.
Van Pelt, who threw for 316 yards last week in Buffalo's loss to Seattle, had another big yardage day. He threw for 309 yards, going 21-for-34 and tossing 3 strikes. His top receiver was Moulds, who had a breakout game, catching 6 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns. He one-handed a 54-yarder to the delight of the fans.
Also scoring for the Bills were Travis Henry, who scooted on an 8-yard run, and Sheldon Jackson, a recipient of a 1-yard pass from Van Pelt. Henry had an impressive day when he did get the ball. His longest run was for 20 yards, but the Bills brain trust only ran him 5 times for 30 yards, a 6 yards per carry average.
One of the crucial mistakes the Bills made is when kicker Jake Arians blotched the PAT after Henry's touchdown run. That along with Clements fumble were the straws that broke the Bills backs.
In all, it was a total collapse by the Bills when they had the game well in hand. Instead, they remain winless at home this season and go to 1-9.
Fiedler, after losing to the Jets last week while being picked off 3 times, threw none against the Bills and staged a huge comeback for the Fish.
This was a big win for our team and myself," Fiedler said. "The hardest part is keeping your focus on what needs to be done and not listening to your critics. I've made a lot of mistakes early in the year, but I've learned."
Williams was at a loss to how the Bills can win another game.
"It is frustrating to play hard and well and not come up with a win," Williams said. "They made some big plays at the end and we didn't make the plays to counter that."
Williams tried to explain what happened on the missed PAT.
"Jay (Riemersma) said that he had a tough time spinning the ball, but I don't care how you spin it, you have to make the extra point," Williams said. "You have to kick it through."
Williams was questioned on whether this was one of his biggest losses in his coaching career.
"I am not going to measure that. I can just tell you how it is right now. It is a frustrating, tough loss. The guys played hard and well enough in some situations to win it, but didn't."
Moulds had stormed out of the locker room last week and told reporters that they didn't want to hear what he had to say. This week he was much more talkative after having a great game.
"It's not really about me, it's about wins," reflected Moulds. "I'm so into winning that it hurts so much sometimes that I say things I shouldn't say. But I just want to be a part of winning."
"I wanted more opportunities to use my skills. Go deep, catch short passes and break tackles because that is what I am used to doing. I'm not asking to catch seven to ten passes a game, I want the opportunity to make plays and I did that today. However, I would rather have the victory then that many catches."
Van Pelt said the Bills did their best to get Moulds involved in the main scheme of things.
"We called plays with him as the intending receiver most of the time and they had the young corner on him, so we figured out how they were going to play him," said Van Pelt. "Most of the time they left him on man-to-man. The time when they left him by him self he caught the long touchdown pass and the time he had the long run they messed up coverage. I think every time that we had the opportunity to get Eric the ball we did."
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