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Bills lose shocker to Pats in OT
What can go wrong usually does against Pats.
by Rick Anderson, webmaster of Bills Thunder
December 17, 2001

What can go wrong will most definitely go wrong for the Buffalo Bills, especially against the New England Patriots. The Bills took the Pats to overtime and apparently recovered a fumble at their 41 when the refs decided to do a video review and it was overturned. The ruling was controversial to say the least and after that, former Bills running back Antowain Smith galloped 38 yards to put the ball on the Bills 3, just about sealing the Bills fate.

A couple plays after Smith's backbreaking run, Adam Vinatieri was good on a 23-yard field goal attempt and the Pats had once again beaten Buffalo in overtime. This was the fourth sudden death game in the last five contests between the two clubs.

On a day which will go down as one of the most controversial officiated days in NFL history, the Bills had their share of contested calls. The most talked about one was when the Bills fumble recovery was taken away from them.

Here's what happened on that disputatious play: Pats receiver David Patten caught a 13-yard pass from New England quarterback Tom Brady at the Bills 41. He went down near the sideline and then fumbled the ball after Bills safety Keion Carpenter hit him hard. Nate Clements was Johnny-on-the-spot, scooping up the ball and giving the Bills possession. Then the officials huddled up and decided to go to the video review. After further review, the refs gave the ball back to the Pats.

"This is unbelievable," protested Clements. "I don't care what the call was, all I know is the ball was loose and we got it. Everybody saw it. We just never get any breaks."

They reached for this obscure rule that had the Bills brass, players and their fans in an uproar. Head referee Mike Carey said that Patten had his head go out of bounds, thus deeming the ball out of bounds because his body was like a lightning rod, making anything that touched Patten out of bounds including the ball. In actuality, the ball was still inbounds when Patten fumbled it, as it hit his leg and went to Clements.

This is how referee Carey described his most controversial decision: "On the play, there was a reception by the receiver," Carey said. "He fumbled. The ball was loose on the field of play, and while in contact with the receiver's calf, his head hit out of bounds. By rule, that's a loose ball. When a loose ball touches anything that's out of bounds, it is itself out of bounds. It would be in the possession of the receiver's team."

Right after that, Smith stuck it to the Bills once again, just like he did in the first meeting between the two rivals. His long run putting the ball deep in the red zone assured yet another overtime loss for the Bills. The running back that Bills coach Gregg Williams had no use for, ran for 95 yards on 20 carries for a very healthy 4.8 average.

Day Of The Kicker

This was a game of no touchdowns. The Bills got into the red zone 5 times and could get into the endzone. However, the one time that Bills coach Williams should have challenged a call, he didn't. Williams has been wrong in about 85% of his video requests this year. For some reason, he was silent when Bills receiver Peerless Price actually caught a touchdown pass in the back of the endzone, but was ruled to have stepped out of bounds.

With the Pats up 6-3, Bills quarterback Alex Van Pelt drove the Bills 76 yards to the Pats 6. He found Price in the endzone running to the left and the Bills receiver caught it and clearly got both feet inbounds before stepping out. At first, neither he nor the Bills staff had thought he was inbounds. But replays clearly proved that the Bills were robbed of the only touchdown of the day.

Outside of the negated Price TD, it was a fieldgoal kicker's delight. Besides Vinatieri's 23-yard game winner, he kicked field goals of 40, 32 and 25 yards. The latter was the one that tied the game up at 9 to force the overtime when he was good from 25 yards out with 2:45 remaining in regulation.

Bills kicker Shayne Graham kicked 3 field goals of 41, 25 and 41 yards. However, his first try from 42 yards out failed to go through the uprights and may have cost the Bills the game.

There were numerous reasons why the Bills lost their 7th of 8 home games. First, Van Pelt did not have an impressive game. He completed half of his 44 passes for 219 yards, but had one key interception in the red zone that could have been the difference in the game. "The first half I missed a lot of throws that I should have hit," admitted Van Pelt. "I thought I had some guys open, and I did not get them the ball."

Bills running back Travis Henry was on his way to a fine game when he twisted his knee and had to leave. Henry had 54 yards on 12 carries along with one reception for 14 yards. On the receiving end, Price caught 4 for 67 yards, while Eric Moulds had 6 grabs for 50. Moulds also had a few costly drops in the game.

Defensive Duel

This was the day for the defense. Both teams thwarted their opposition, shutting off the endzone completely. The Bills, however, were plagued by allowing the Pats too many third down conversions, and not being able to stop Smith when he had his longest gain of the day down to the Bills 3 in overtime. The Pats converted on 7 of their 17 third downs and gained 304 total yards. Meanwhile, the Bills were successful on only 3 of 15 third down attempts and gained a total of 303 total yards.

Bills Talk

The Bills players were in a total state of shock after the game. "I've never seen a call like that,"Carpenter said. "I've heard of the rule, but the guy wasn't even conscious. I could see if he was trying to fight to get the ball back, but he didn't even know what was going on. We recovered it in bounds. To have a game end like that, it's going to be hard for us to sleep tonight. It's sad when you fight so hard for five quarters. I'm just speechless right now."

Bills fullback Larry Centers was also in shock after that obscure call. "I have never seen a play like this in my career," Centers said. "For some reason, the ball doesn't bounce your way as many times when you have the kind of record we have."

"We definitely didn't like the call," put in Newman. "But I guess by whatever rules they have in the rule book, that's what the rule says. It's a tough loss. We fought hard but we lost at the end. I guess those things happen when you're 2-11 sometimes."

Van Pelt knew that the game was there for the asking. "We had enough plays in that game that we could have made where our luck would not have been a factor,"Van Pelt said.

Bills safety Raion Hill agreed. "We need to learn how to finish games," said Hill. "Credit goes to them. They made big plays when it counted."

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