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Bills deny Jets playoff berth
The Bills play the role of spoilers in the Meadowlands.
by Rick Anderson, webmaster of Bills Thunder
December 31, 2001

The Buffalo Bills played the spoilers Sunday in East Rutherford, as they defeated the New York Jets 14-9, preventing the Jets from clinching a playoff berth. The Jets were knocking on the door of victory with 13 ticks of the clock left. However, Jets' quarterback Vinny Testaverde blew his chance to get his team into the endzone and the Bills walked away with their third victory of the season.

Once again, the Jets shot themselves in the foot when they had every opportunity to win this one. "We just blew a big opportunity. I guess we just have to learn the hard way. This loss is a great discipline for us," said Jets running back Curtis Martin.

The Bills came up with a stellar defensive game, once again shutting out their opponent from the endzone. There were plenty of key plays on defense. The offense, meanwhile, still struggled getting points when the defense set them up in great position.

Phil Hansen had a huge interception, halting one Jets advance into Bills territory. Nate Clements picked off another one as Testaverde has to shoulder a lot of the blame in this one. Testaverde completed 20 out of 38 for 235 yards and two picks. While the Jets were driving at the end of the game, Vinny threw a short screen over the middle to Martin while they were at the Bills 24. With time ticking down to 0, Testaverde got a pass to the right corner of the endzone and it sailed over everyone's head. That ended it for the Jets.

The Bills did get their second solid game from running back Shawn Bryson, who sliced the Jets defense for 107 yards. It was the second consecutive 100 yard game for Bryson, who was filling in for injured started Travis Henry.

The Jets scored first by getting two field goals of 33 and 28 yards by John Hall after the Bills bent but didn't break during the Jets early drives.

Alex Van Pelt, who completed 16 out of 27 passes for 185 yards and one strike, directed the Bills on a 87-yard, 11 play scoring drive in the second quarter that put the Bills in the lead. Key plays in that drive were 16 and 21 yard passes to Jay Riemersma, a 20-yard completion to Peerless Price and two straight runs by Larry Centers in the red zone, the last going for 5 yards.

In the third quarter, the Bills took a 14-6 lead when Van Pelt hooked up with Price on a 22-yard TD pass. Price was also instrumental in setting up the TD with a 28-yard reverse run.

The Jets got back in it when Testaverde drove the Jets down 51yards on 8 plays. Once again the Bills D stiffened at the end, forcing Hall to kick a 32 yarder.

It got interesting at the end of the game when the Bills were forced to punt. Bills long-snapper Mo Unutoa came up with what could have been the blunder of the game when his long snap to punter Brian Moorman hit the ground before reaching him and Moorman couldn't get the punt off. The Jets recovered and appeared ready to hop on this huge opportunity. However, Testaverde didn't manage the clock properly and his play selection left a lot to be desired as far as Jets fans were concerned.

"All I'm going to say is the play came in from the sideline, and we executed it the best we could," said Testaverde. "I'm not going to say 'What if,' because then it looks like I should be calling the plays and whatever play came in was wrong."

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Hansen recorded his first pick in his 11-year career with Buffalo. "I slanted inside between the center and guard, and they both let me go," Hansen recounted. "So usually there's something up when nobody blocks you. I saw Vinny start to fade back a little more and I recognized a screen. My hand just luckily was in the flight of the ball."

"We are 3-12 now, it says we have to keep playing hard," Hansen continued. "It's nice to win, it's such a hard thing to do." Van Pelt was able to direct two TD producing drives. On one he connected with Price, who is becoming his main target since a most teams are doubling up n Eric Moulds.

"These guys want to win," said Van Pelt. "Why wait to rebuild next year? We want to rebuild now. "Ever since I've been here we've never given up. That's a trademark of Buffalo. It's something that stuck around this team even though a lot of people have left. It's not like we're laying down, just trying to get to the end of the season. Why wait for next year to start rebuilding? We're rebuilding right now. It's a great job by the guys to stick with it."

Another big target for Van Pelt was Jay Riemersma, who snagged 8 Van Pelt passes for 78 yards. "Yeah, this is a little more of what I expect out of myself," admitted Riemersma . "Redemption? Maybe. I had a couple bad penalties and a drop (in Atlanta), and that's uncharacteristic of me, I think. I appreciate the coaching staff calling my number again this week. That's a good football team we just beat," Riemersma praised. "I think that gets lost in the whole equation. We came in here in their place and beat a really good football team. Anytime you do that it feels really good."

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