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From A Distance
by Layne Mire
October 20, 2000

While the Buffalo Range and Buffalo Bills Insider upgrade their server, we are printing some of their articles here on Bills Daily. Here's one from Bills Insider Layne Mire.

Resurgence. If ever there was an opportunity for the Buffalo Bills to resurrect their playoff hopes from a very average 3-3 start, this is it. The Bills travel to the home very powerful and very undefeated Minnesota Vikings this Sunday. They will be lead by the very elusive and very popular Doug Flutie; who is coming off the bench for injured starter Rob Johnson.

There is a definite division among Bills fans, but the pro Flutie fans must admit that Rob Johnson has done an admirable job thus far especially considering the atrocious play of the offensive line. And the pro-Johnson fans must also admit that the team is clearly in need of the spark that Flutie can provide. And that spark will need to ignite a brush fire for the Bills to overtake the Vikes, who have combined a big play offense with a solid defense. Letís break it down.

Here is an interesting fact on a key matchup: 6-5, 260 LB QB Daunte Culpepper is bigger than all of the Buffalo linebackers. The second year quarterback has a strong arm, elusiveness and makes decisions well beyond his years. He has won his first six games and looks to become a star. It will be a tall task for the Bills front seven to a) get pressure on him, b) keep him contained in the pocket, and c) finally bring his big frame to the ground. Sam Cowart can bring people to the ground as well as anyone, as he leads the NFL with 16 stops a game. He is having a pro bowl year, and the entire linebacking corps is playing solid ball.

If Culpepper is given the time, and the potent Viking receivers donít get jammed at the line, big plays will result. Randy Moss is the definitive big play receiver, and Chris Carter is a future hall of famer who hasnít slowed significantly, so the Bills secondary-specifically free safety Keion Carpenter will have to be on their A-game to keep the long gains to a minimum. Limiting the passing game might be a little easier if the Vikings were one-dimensional. That is unfortunately far from the case. In fact the Vikings have lead the league in rushing for three straight weeks. Running back Robert Smith is fourth in the NFL with 657 yards. It will be another big assignment for the Billsí defensive line, particularly ďthe PackageĒ to limit yet another topnotch back to under 100 yards.

I donít think they keep stats on such a thing, but I would wager that the Culpepper/Flutie QB duel will mark the largest disparity in size in NFL history. But what Flutie lacks in size, he makes up in playmaking, experience and the desire to win. Flutie has never been boring to watch, even in his less effective games. The Vikings front four will try to keep Doug in the pocket to limit the big plays. Flutieís play-action skills will be heavily dependent on the success of the running game. It is interesting to note that the Billsí top 3 backs are all college fullbacks, and Sammy Morris the only true FB on the team is running the best and may very well become the third to convert to halfback. Letís hope he can continue with his productivity.

I wonít belabor the offensive line woes. Frankly I think we are all tired of hearing and saying the same thing. They are in disarray, letís leave it at that. They will not be given an easy time when they meet John Randle and company Sunday. The Vikes lost Bryce Paup, a former Buffalo linebacker whom they converted to a DE to a knee injury. They replaced him with another former Bills linebacker Gabe Northern. The Vikings utilize at least 8 linemen, including Chris Hovan, Tony Williams, and John Burrough. The linebackers are lead by former #1 pick Dwayne Rudd. He and Kailee Wong and Ed McDaniel for a very strong-if not dominant corps. The weak link of the Vikings defense, and perhaps the only matchup favoring the Bills is the secondary. Eric Moulds is back on track after catching 11 passes for 170 yards Sunday. Peerless Price is seemingly out of his slump and McDaniel is continuing his great season. They simply outmatch the Vikings secondary of Chris Dishman, Robert Tate, Orlando Thomas and Robert Griffith. If the Bills are to win, they must exploit this mismatch.

Bottom Line- A win will energize a team that simply hasnít played a complete game after beating the Titans in week one. It will inject confidence into an uncertain team and put the Bills back on the playoff map. We can worry about the potential QB controversy later, because both sides of the debate must be unified in their desire for a victory. This is not a division or even a conference game, so the impact isnít as much as even last weekís Charger game. However, knocking off the 6-0 Vikings team will go a long way towards returning the Bills to the right track. A loss will likely demoralize players and fans alike, and while a 3-4 record isnít insurmountable, it is simply something that the Bills cannot have.

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