Prime Time Embarrassment
Just when you thought things couldn't get worse...they did.
by Rick Anderson, webmaster of Bills Thunder
December 4, 2001
Just when you thought things couldn't get any worse, the Buffalo Bills played their worst game in 16 years on prime time TV. The San Francisco 49ers bombarded the Bills with everything they had, slaughtering them 35-0 Sunday night. It was a complete dismantling of the Bills, from special teams to offense and defense. There was nowhere for the Bills to hide. All their faults were exposed for everyone to inspect and their faults were bigger than the San Andreas fault.
The Bills came completely apart at the seems, from the start of the game till finish. There were stars aplenty for the Niners and none for the Bills. Garrison Hearst churned holes through the Bills defense, rushing for 124 yards and scoring a touchdown. Terrell Owens, the NFL All-Pro receiver, grabbed 6 passes for 72 yards and a score.
The Niners picked off Bills quarterback 4 times and Ahmed Plummer was the recipient of two of them. But the biggest key in the Niners West Coast attack was quarterback Jeff Garcia, who passed for 189 yards on 19 completions. He hit two crucial strikes in the endzone and was a cool as a cucumber when the Bills attempted to rush him. When the Niners ran the score up to 14-0 in the first half, Garcia converted third down situations 6 times.
"It's good that we learned to play while we're ahead," kidded Plummer. "We don't want to keep our habit of playing from behind. It's too tough."
Van Pelt, on the other hand, had his worst outing as a Bill. Van Pelt threw 38 times, completed 21 for 168 yards, and most importantly, no scores. The 49ers were ranked 27th in the NFL coming into the game.
"It was my fault," admitted Van Pelt. "Four interceptions, that is just being careless with the football. You try to make something happen. I take full responsibility for that and we didn't score any points."
The Bills players were extremely upset over the embarrassing loss.
"We stunk," tackle Shawn Price. "I mean, everybody played poorly. I don't know what happened to us tonight."
Eric Moulds was a major disappointment in the game. He caught 7 passes, but was directly involved in an interception when Plummer cut in front of him to pick off the ball, With a little more hustle, Moulds could have gotten that and he left Plummer pick up good yardage after the pick when he could have easily tackled him.
"I'm very embarrassed," Moulds said. "I don't know what to say. It's frustrating. I couldn't pick anybody that played well, including myself."
The 49ers touchdowns were like a skilled surgeon slicing up his patient. Their first score took 10 plays and went 80 yards before Hearst scored from one yard out. Then Plummer picked off a pass in front of Moulds and galloped 12 yards to the Bills 23. Then Garcia hit Tai Streets in the endzone to make it 14-0.
The Niners took a 21-0 lead when Garcia hit Owens from 17 yards out in the third quarter. Fred Beasley scored from 3 yards out following another Plummer interception, where he returned it 24 yards. Finally, the Niners put the Bills out of their misery with the final score of the night, when Paul Smith ran for a 13-yard gallop. The Niners were set up for that touchdown when Chris Watson fumbled a kickoff at the Bills 21.
How did the Bills sink so low?
Last year, the Bills were 8-8 and with a few breaks, could have made the playoffs. The year before, they were a wildcard playoff team. How did this Bills team sink so low, so fast?
The Bills got in salary cap Hell with then Bills GM John Butler spending like a drunken sailor, trying to keep the older Bills stars from the Super Bowl years happy. He also spent a fortune signing both Doug Flutie and Rob Johnson for $25 million. Butler got out after last season when he knew there would have to be drastic cuts to get back under the salary cap. This year with Tom Donahoe taking over for Butler, the Bills had some harsh decisions to make. Buffalo cut such mainstays as Henry Jones, Ted Washington, Sam Rodgers, John Holecek and Doug Flutie to name a few. The Bills who had the No. 1 defense in the entire league two years ago and third overall last year, has been dismal this season.
The coaching staff is composed of coaches who never held the high position they have now. Gregg Williams was never a head coach in the NFL and it shows. All his assistants were promoted to higher positions than they ever had. The coaching staff has blundered its way through this season and have just one win to their credit. It appears as if that could possibly be the only win of the season.
Bills owner Ralph Wilson will have to make a huge decision over the offseason on whether to retain this collection of bumbling coaches, or to start afresh once again. In my opinion, the Bills will have to go out and get a name head coach if they want to get back on the winning track before the stadium lease runs out. Posting a 1-15 record this year will fill Ralph Wilson Stadium with tens of thousands of fans disguised as empty seats next year.
A beaten an humbled Bills team came back to Buffalo on Monday after having their heads handed to them while the nation looked on.
"It was an embarrassment," admitted running back Larry Centers. "On national TV."
Gregg Williams was besides himself after the game. "We hit him in the mouth, and he was fogged, but his toughness showed through," Williams said. "That was the only point where we were physical enough to match up with that team. We weren't good enough."
"We wanted to come in here and control the clock," Williams continued. "We knew offensively they were tough and playing well but we didn't convert a third down and we didn't get off the field (on defense). They played well, and we weren't physical enough to be able to match up with them today."
Ruben Brown gave the 49ers kudos. "They were the best team we've faced all year, bar none," Brown said. "The scoreboard shows it. We're 1-10 but we've been doing the same things over and over. We just ran up on a monster. These guys know how to finish. They know how to start. They know how to capitalize on mistakes. They're just well-rounded."
Peerless Price compared Van Pelt with Garcia. "Alex is a pocket man,"said Price. "Garcia is a scrambler. He doesn't like to stay in that pocket. He likes to move around. That's where he makes his plays. I have all the confidence in the world in Alex. Today wasn't his game. It wasn't anybody's."
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