Bills lose again while Kelly is enshrined
Beautiful day and Kelly ceremony ruined by Seahawks.
by Rick Anderson, webmaster of Bills Thunder
November 19, 2001
It was a perfect day to honor former Buffalo Bills great Jim Kelly. The weather was in the low 60s and the sun was brilliant. Former teammate and third string quarterback Alex Van Pelt did his best at impersonating Kelly, throwing for a career-high 316 yards and two touchdowns. Everything was picture perfect except the score. The Seattle Seahawks ruined the Kelly party by squeaking a 23-20 victory over the Bills.
This was a game asking to be taken and the Bills bungled it away. A missed field goal by Jake Arians and Van Pelt coughing up the ball while being sacked both went the other way and resulted in Seahawks field goals.
"It was miscommunication between all of us," Van Pelt said about the sack that resulted in his fumble. "We had the wrong personnel on the field and we were trying to clean things up at the formation right at the last second. With the clock ticking down, it is tough but part of the game and something that we need to improve on."
The Bills actually started the game in great fashion. With Van Pelt at the controls, he engineered a drive that took the Bills down to the Seahawks 32. Unfortunately, rookie running back Travis Henry coughed up the ball ending that impressive drive of 43 yards.
The Bills also curtailed a drive that went all the way to the Seahawks 18. Van Pelt found Price at the Seattle 6, but Eric Moulds got a questionable holding call. That's where Arians missed a 45 yard field goal.
"That's been the story of the season," said Bills fullback Larry Centers. "We make a critical mistake at the most inopportune time. As we continue to grow as a team, we have to find a way to eliminate those things."
Van Pelt, replacing Rob Johnson who suffered a broken collar bone the week before in New England, looked more adapt in the West Coast offense than Johnson. He completed 28 out of 42 and had touchdown throws to Peerless Price and Jay Riemersma. Price led all Buffalo receivers with 10 grabs for 138 yards.
"Everybody felt confident in Alex not missing a beat because he's run the offense before, he's so fluent in it, and he knows how to get the ball out on rhythm," commented Price.
Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, led the Seahawks to their second consecutive victory, throwing for 134 yards on 16 receptions on 23 tosses. His one touchdown was a seven-yarder to Koren Robinson.
Shaun Alexander, who tore up the Raiders defense last week in Seattle's upset of Oakland, gained 82 yards on 18 carries. The Seahawks were able to put forth a complete effort in beating Buffalo, even though they gave up 372 yards.
Alexander scored a touchdown in the third quarter when he ran straight up the middle two yards to put the Seahawks up 17-10. Kicker Rian Lindell kicked three field goals in the game, the biggest of which was the winning 51-yard field goal. It appeared as if the play clock had gone down to 0 before he sent his kick through the uprights. Bills coach Gregg Williams argued to no avail.
With the score 23-13, Van Pelt led the Bills down the field and completed the drive by throwing a 6-yard strike to Riemersma. The Bills tried an onsides kick, but Seattle recovered and that was it for Buffalo.
The Bills, by losing, have gone winless in seven straight home games, the longest losing streak since they lost eight straight from 1983-84. They are now the proud owners of an 1-8 record and a 1-15 final record clearly in sight.
The highlight of the day clearly was the induction of Kelly onto the Wall of Fame. Bills owner Ralph Wilson also revealed that Jimbo's No. 12 was being retired.
Even though the Bills lost their 8th game, there was still some afterglow from the halftime ceremonies where Kelly was put up on the Bills Wall of Fame. Jimbo was really taken aback when Wilson announced that the Bills were retiring his number.
"This can't be happening," Jim said afterwards about his initial reaction. "They don't do things like that here. It was a huge surprise! I never thought they were going to do that. They said they had some surprises, but I thought, Okay, what is this surprise? Maybe a trip down to the Dolphin game in Miami in January would be a nice one. But this came as a total shock."
With such stars in Buffalo Bills history such as Cookie Gilchrist, O.J. Simpson, Jack Kemp, Daryle Lamonica, Tom Sestak and Billy Shaw to name a few, it was a surprise that Kelly was the first Bill to ever have his number retired..
"I never in a million years even thought about it because they don't retire numbers here," said Kelly. "It was amazement number one, but it is hard to put into words because it's something I never expected. It's just all very surprising that that would happen. The bottom line is I knew I didn't do it by myself. All those guys you saw out there today (former teammates) was the reason my name got put up on the Wall and the reason they do things like that. I could never have done it by myself. Marv Levy and all the people that were a part of this…it's hard to talk right now."
Van Pelt, who is a close friend of Kelly's, picked a perfect day to throw over 300 yards.
"We threw the ball effectively today," Van Pelt said. "We still lost by three; obviously winning is still our main goal. I thought we did some good things in the passing game. We gave some guys chances to make plays, which they made. Peerless Price played really well today and so did protection."
After playing an impressive game, a lot of people are campaigning for Van Pelt to be the starter next year with the Bills letting go of Johnson.
"I don't know what it takes to start in this league," wondered Van Pelt. "But I'm not going to go out there and lay a brick down. I feel pretty confident in my skills to go out there and be successful. I started today and we threw the ball around a little bit. We've still got to win. That's the big thing.
"I didn't play as well as I wanted to play in this game. There were some third-down plays I screwed up. I thought Eric was running a route that he wasn't and I threw it away. . . . There were some plays I missed. I missed Larry on a touchdown over the middle in the third quarter. So obviously, I have a long way to come, too."
Ruben Brown was extremely upset over yet another loss.
"It's hard to get up in the morning and come back in knowing that your record is 1-8 and more than likely you're looking to see how well you're going to draft next year as opposed to making it to the playoffs," said Ruben Brown. "I'm getting paid to do it, but that's not why I do it. I do it because I love playing football. That glimmer of hope is still there somewhere."
Bills linebacker Keith Newman echoed Brown's comments.
"It's just frustrating," Newman said. "We're playing our hearts out, putting ourselves in position to win. We're doing it too late as a team. We have to start faster. We probably have the most onside kicks in the NFL as a result of being behind, scoring late and trying to catch up.
"This is a tough place to play," continued Newman, referring to what opposing teams face. "But we're not getting the crowd into it. That's part of starting fast. Even though we're losing, the crowd wants something to cheer for. They're coming out. The only seats that are empty are the high seats. The lower level's full. We have to start clicking and get our fans in the game. We're not doing that."
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