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Down The Tubes In Bean Town
The Bills Season Has Gone From Bad To Worse.
by Rick Anderson, webmaster of Bills Thunder
November 12, 2001

The Buffalo Bills season has gone from bad to worse as quarterback Rob Johnson suffered a broken collar bone and may be lost for the season. The Bills lost to the New England Patriots 21-11, but had a chance to pull it out near the end of the game, only to come up empty-handed again.

With the Bills record now standing at 1-7 and Johnson out for at least 4-5 weeks, this season is turning from a nightmare to complete disaster. The rookie coaching staff doesn't have a clue on how to get the Bills out of their tailspin. All they know is that nothing they have tried so far is working and the Bills plight is getting bleaker every game.

Former Bill running back Antowain Smith took it to his former team, rushing 100 yards and scoring two touchdowns. The fact that reserve quarterback Alex Van Pelt came off the bench when Johnson came off the field with possibly a season-ending injury and rallied the Bills to within a field goal shows that the Bills could do well with Van Pelt at the controls. But even Van Pelt had problems and one of the main things the Bills have to address immediately is how to protect him from being another casually of an offensive line breakdown.

Before he was injured with his broken collar bone, Johnson completed a mediocre 14 of 27 passes for only 167 yards. He got the Bills down into the red zone, but once again imprudent penalties by his offensive line set them back far enough to force a field goal.

In the second quarter, with the Bills facing a third down on the Pats one, Jonas Jennings cited for jumping early, taking the Bills to the 6 and on the next play, Johnson's pass fell incomplete. That forced the Bills to go for the sure 3 points.

Bills tight end Jay Riemersma was upset to say the least about a missed opportunity.

"You can't get down there and not come away with a touchdown," Riemersma said. "Not only do you miss the four points, but you give the other team momentum."

Pats bolt into big lead

The Pats took a commanding lead in this game, first by scoring in the first quarter on a 6 play, 35-yard drive where quarterback Tom Brady flipped a pass 6 yards to Kevin Faulk.

In the third quarter, Smith scored the first of his two touchdowns when he scored from one yard out. Between the two Patriot scores, Jake Arians booted a 24-yard field goal after the Bills blew their chance to score from one yard out in the second quarter.

Right before Johnson went down for what could be the last time in his Bills career, he had a touchdown pass to Peerless Price wiped out because Jay Riemersma was called for holding.

"I was across the outside linebacker who had me man-to-man," explained Riemersma. "The safety came off the corner and he was unaccounted for. It's either Rob gets creamed or I try to get a piece of him. It was a hold."

Right after that was when Johnson got the kind of injury that fans have been fearing since the season started. Johnson, feeling pressure, ran right and was hauled down by NE cornerback Terrell Buckley. Johnson fell awkwardly on his right shoulder and immediately reached for his shoulder. First reports were that Johnson had his collar bone fractured in 4 places. Monday, the official word is that it is only one crack, but he will be out for at least 4-5 weeks.

Van Pelt Launches Comeback

Van Pelt came in and got the Bills back into the game when he tossed a 17 yard pass to Price with under 3 minutes to play. The Bills went for the two point conversion and this time Van Pelt connect with Eric Moulds to pull to a field goal from tying it.

"It was a route we had designed to get either Jay or Peerless open," Van Pelt talked about his TD pass to Price. "They covered Jay with the safety and the linebacker leaving the middle of the field opened for Peerless who did a nice job on the route and was pretty much wide open."

The came the play of the game. The Bills tried an onside kick and one Bill actually had it cradled in his hands but lost it. The Pats recovered on the Bills 45 and after one play, the ball was given to Smith. After a couple broken tackles, Smith galloped the entire distance to really stick it to his former teammates.

"That's a whole new coaching staff," Smith said about his former team. "I know that coaches that I've had know that I can still play and I can help a team win. So I'm just making the best of my opportunities."

Smith's 45-yard fun finished off the Bills for good, but the Patriot fans had their say when Johnson was being helped off the field and they started chanting "Flutie, Flutie, Flutie" in mock reference to Johnson's battle with the now Chargers' quarterback over the years. It was definitely a show of boorishness by the Bean Town fans and added salt to the wounds suffered by Johnson this season.

Bills Talk

Moulds says the Bills are devising plays on the fly.

"Some of the plays today I don't even think were in our playbook," Moulds mentioned. "I think they mixed the calls up a lot and confused the receivers and the backs. We're just not getting the calls in quick enough, and it's killing us. Rob had a couple of plays where we had to force the plays in real quick. A couple of the plays had motion and it eliminates the motion and doesn't give Rob a chance to look over the defense and see what the defense is going to do."

Van Pelt said the Patriots gave the Bills man-on-man coverage and they couldn't take advantage of it.

"From the end of the first half, they basically pressed us up man-on-man and kept a free safety in the middle of the field," described Van Pelt. "That's something we really need to take advantage of with our receivers. We need to exploit that, and we didn't do it. We need to find a way to do it."

Williams has seen his preseason confidence and rosy predictions come unraveled. Instead of contending for a playoff spot like he predicted, he is now scrambling to win two games this season.

"We put ourselves in a position to win, a position to be close enough to make it a game, but we find a way to make an error," said Williams.

If the Bills had recovered the onside kick, they may have been able to pull it out. But the ball and the breaks were going against the Bills the entire game.

"That was another classic example of the ball bouncing the wrong way," said special teams player Phillip Crosby about the Bills inability to recover the onside kick. "We worked all week on those types of plays and when it comes down the line we were able to capitalize it, but the ball ended going the opposite way. Unfortunately, the ball didn't bounce our way, it went totally opposite."

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