It took a wild play at the end of the game to vault the Buffalo Bills to a 20-3 victory over the Chicago Bears. The offense couldn't put the Bears out of their misery, so the defense had to step up and finish off the wounded Bears once and for all.
With the Bills leading 13-3 and the Bears driving at the Buffalo 32 with only 2:56 remaining in the game, reserve quarterback Shane Matthews wanted to produce a quick strike. What transpired was the most bizarre play of the Bills season so far. Right when Matthews was about to launch his pass, his throwing arm was hit by Sam Rogers forcing the ball out. Keith Newman recovered the ball and rambled down to the Chicago 35 and then he coughed it up. The ball bounced inches from the sideline before Daryl Porter scooped it up at the 23 and raced the rest of the way for the touchdown eliminating any possibility of a Bears comeback.
Defense saves the day
The Bills defense has to get the game ball here for declawing the Bears all afternoon. Chicago was able to get only three points and when they were threatening to make it close at the end, took the ball away and scored only the second Buffalo touchdown of the day. The Bills D took the ball away 4 times, 3 on interceptions of Matthews, and the other was his fumble. Keion Carpenter picked off two of Matthews' passes, becoming the first Bill to have two interceptions in a game for two years.
In the second quarter, the Bears got down to red zone under the controls of starting quarterback Jim Miller. Miller rolled out on third down and was brought down out of bounds by Shawn Price short of the first down. Miller tore his Achilles' tendon on the play and had to be taken off the field on a golf cart. The Bears ended up only getting a field goal.
With Matthews coming in to relieve the injured Miller, the Bills were able to tee off on the backup. They sacked him twice and pressured him into three picks. Miller was the better of the two Chicago Qbs, throwing 13 times and completing 9 for 40 yards. Meanwhile, Matthews was under .500, hitting 11 out of 24 for only 106 yards.
"We finally started getting into a rhythm, and all of a sudden he gets hurt," said Bears offensive tackle James Williams. "Shane hasn't worked out with us all year. You can't expect but so much from him."
The Bears reliever was disappointed with the outcome.
"I pride myself on being ready to play every week. And I just went out there today and stunk it up," said Matthews. "We didn't move the ball and a lot of that goes on the quarterback's shoulders."
The Flutie/Johnson Show
The Flutie vs. Johnson controversy, which has been such a hot topic in Western New York and Southern Ontario for most of the season, spilled over to the grind iron Sunday as both quarterbacks saw action in the game. Flutie started and led the Bills on an 8-play, 56-yard drive that stalled in the red zone and Steve Christie came on to kick a 24-yard field goal. After the Bears tied it up under the direction of Miller, Rob Johnson suddenly came in at quarterback, surprising not only the fans but also the media. Johnson started off the 8-play 54-yard drive by taking off for 19 yards. Then he hit Eric Moulds for a 24-yard completion to the Bears 30. When the Bears defense put an end to Johnson's drive, Christie kicked a 42-yard field goal to put the Bills up 6-3 at half time.
Said Bills coach Wade Phillip about putting Johnson in right before the end of the first half, "I wanted him in the ball game, playing some, getting a feel for the game again. I think he'll be fine next week, and if he is, then he'll be playing."
Flutie came back in the second half and showed some spark in leading the Bills down the field for their only offensive touchdown of the game. He hit Peerless Price for a 21-yard pickup to get the Bills into Bear territory. Another pass, this time to Antowain Smith got the Bills down to the Chicago 35. After a couple runs by Smith moved the chains, Flutie connected with Moulds to get the Bills a first and goal at the 5. But then the offense hit the skids and sang the red zone blues once again. It looked like the Bills would have to settle for yet another Christie field goal. Phillips elected to go for it on fourth down at the one yard line and Flutie faked a handoff and ran a bootleg left. He had nothing but wide open spaces and scored his first touchdown of the season.
That was it as far as the Bills offense was concerned as they could not even get into field goal range the rest of the game. The defense had to shut down the Bears attack and score one themselves to record the Bills 6th victory of the year.
Rob's the man
Phillips, when pressed during his post game interview, finally made his muddled quarterback situation clearer when he said that Johnson would start next week when the Bills travel to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs. That was after waffling about who he was going to start.
"I want him (Rob) in the ball game, and playing some, getting a feel for the game again, which he did, so we'll see how he is," Phillips said. "I think he'll be fine next week, and if he is, then he'll be playing. Starting? Yes."
Last week, Johnson had everyone confused about who was going to start against the Bears.
"He told me (I was the starter) and then he told you (reporters) another thing," Johnson said. "Then he kind of clarified it, saying he didn't want to dump on the guy that's in there. And that made sense to me."
Johnson did like getting some playing time in, but is looking forward to playing a complete game.
"It felt great," Johnson said about getting some actual game action in after a 4-week hiatus. "I've always been the starting pitcher. I've never liked relief much. Since (Phillips) told me I was going to get some playing time, I got my mind going. It was nice to get more than three plays."
Flutie, meanwhile, is respecting the Phillip's decision to go with Johnson next week.
"I think I played my tail off for four weeks," said Flutie. "I'm very happy with the way things have gone. But, you know, Rob's healthy now."
Phillips lauded Flutie for bailing the Bills out when Johnson went down.
"Doug's done a really good job," Phillips said. "Everybody always want to bash the guy that's not in there, but Doug did a good job. He won games. That's the important thing."
"As far as the quarterback situation, I told both Doug and Rob that I was going to play Rob some, not because Doug was struggling or anything," Phillips continued. "I think he did a pretty good job overall, we just didn't get the points we wanted. "
By the numbers
Flutie finished 16-for-26 for 171 yards and 1 interception and has a 3-1 record this season with the Bills. Johnson, who will start next week if his shoulder continues to heal, is 3-3. However, there are some irregularities with the records of these two quarterbacks and the votes will have to be recounted. When Johnson was injured during the overtime game with the San Diego Chargers, the game was tied. Flutie came in and led the Bills to a game-winning field goal. By baseball standards, Flutie should be given the victory as the reliever. That puts his record at 4-1 and Johnson at 2-3 for the year.
Moulds led the Bills receivers again, hauling down 5 passes for 91 yards. He continued his streak of having at least one reception for 43 straight games, which ties him with Andre Reed and Thurman Thomas for the Bills record in that category.
Sammy Morris, who had to leave the game with a leg injury, caught 4 passes as did Shawn Bryson.
The Bills running game only accounted for 105 yards, not what the Bills coaching staff had envisioned when they put in the game plan. Morris carried 10 times for 30 yards, Smith had his most carries since early in the season with 13 for 29 yards, while Bryson had 5 carries for 21 yards.
With the win, the Bills are now at 6-4 and still in the chase for the wild card.
Moulds was relieved when Flutie scampered into the endzone on a bootleg.
"We made some plays on defense and a few on offense," said Moulds. "We've had trouble putting teams away. To go down there and score a touchdown really helped us out."
Flutie said that he and Johnson knew about the plan to insert Johnson in the game, but it was top secret.
"I knew ahead of time," Flutie said about Johnson coming in. "Wade talked to me on Thursday about it and said that he wanted to get Rob some playing time. Rob was throwing on Thursday and his arm is feeling better. It was a situation that Rob did not get a lot of work during the week and his arm was getting better each day and Wade wanted to get him some playing time."
"The only thing that worried me was, Rob and I knew about it ahead of time but the public did not and the impression that he was yanking me and putting Rob in."
"We just play, other people make the decisions and do have what we are told."
Keith Newman was glad to see Porter finish the job that he started, but...
"I saw him (Porter) scoop it up and go in," said Newman, who originally recovered the fumble by Bears quarterback Matthews. "I was on my back thinking, damn it should've been me."
The Bears, who are now 2-7, are just playing for pride now. The Bears coach is not proud of what he saw out there on Sunday.
"We just didn't do enough," Chicago coach Dick Jauron said. Obviously you score three points, you are not going to win a lot of games. They are a very good football team. We did not get enough big plays."
Phillips said that Johnson would have played more in the second half, but got hit late on one play and was a little banged up.
"I put Rob in, and he did get hit late on one play, and so I wavered on putting him in the second half because of that," commented Phillips. "I had originally planned to play him some, because I need to get him back and get him playing. He went in, did a good job, drove us down for the field goal. I didn't want him to get injured. He wasn't hurt, but he got banged up and they had to stretch him a little bit at halftime. Of course we can win, certainly, with Doug in there, so that's what I did. Rob got hit in the hip."
Keion Carpenter made his mark with two picks against the Bears and happy with the way the whole secondary stepped up for the game.
"All year, we had a lot of pressure on us because we're young," said Carpenter. "We were just waiting for that game when we could put it together as a secondary, and we came up with some good plays. Today, the rush was getting there, and our defensive line gets all the credit. They're putting all the pressure on the QB, and we ended up at the right places at the right time."
Copyright © 2000 Bills Thunder & Rick Anderson, all rights reserved.
Gameday Main Page
Back to Bills Daily Homepage