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Johnson toughs it out again as Bills sack Pack 27-18
An article by Bills Thunder webmaster.
by Rick Anderson
September 10, 2000

A bloodied and bruised Rob Johnson out-dueled Brett Favre Sunday as the Bills put some offense on the boards and beat the Green Bay Packers 27-18. Once again the Bills defense rose to the occasion and shut down Favre when they had to. But Johnson, defying the all-out Packer blitz, had a spectacular day, completing 18 out of 26 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns. Like the week before against the Titans, Johnson was besieged by Green and Yellow all day as the Packers threw everything the could at the Bills quarterback.

The Bills are not the friendliest of hosts when the Packers come to town. In fact, they are downright nasty to the boys from Wisconsin. Four times the Pack have come away empty when visiting Buffalo and to make matters worse, Green Bay has been outscored 103-40 in those four contests.

The Bills defense was the welcoming committee for Favre and the boys from cheese country. Although Favre completed his first 14 passes and completed 25 out of 35 for 269 yards and two scores, the Bills defense was able to shut him down at the worst possible time, as far as Favre was concerned. The Bills D clamped down on the Packers on third down situations, limiting Favre to only a couple first downs.

"Our defense was tremendous again and made a big difference in the ball game," Bills head coach Wade Phillips remarked.

Despite having in his throwing elbow and a jammed thumb on his throwing hand, Favre did what he could against the stingy Bills defense.

"I'm physically and emotionally exhausted," sighed Favre after the grueling 60 minutes. "If you win a game like this, the aches and pains are better. When you lose, they're twice as bad."

As exhausted as Favre was, he received better treatment than his counterpart did.

The Packers main objective in this game was to take Johnson out any way they could. They took a page out of the Titans playbook and went directly at Johnson's head. One time Johnson scrambled out of bounds and was hit in the head by a Packer standing on the sidelines. Then in the second half, Santana Dotson hit Johnson after he was tackled at the end of a run in an obvious intent to injure. He came down with a right forearm on Johnson's head a clear two seconds after the play was over. The referees did not penalize Dotson for a clearly flagrant hit. Johnson walked back to the bench in a daze and his head throbbing.

"I was clear-headed," Johnson joked about how he was feeling after the hit by Dotson. "I just was seeing different colors. I was stunned a little bit. It was a good shot. He dug my head into the turf pretty good. You get up and don't really know where you are, but I came back. I didn't want to go out (of the game) again. It was going to take a lot more than that to get me out."

Eric Moulds was the Bills top receiver with 7 for 103 yards. He made a circus one-handed catch in the first half and his runs after catching the ball gained valuable yardage for the Bills.

Moulds, who hadn't spoken to the press since the preseason and had a big flap last week when he tore into the Bills for not giving Johnson enough protection, actually spoke to the press after the game.

"A couple of times they tried to double me and left Jay wide open down the field," Moulds said. "We'll take that matchup all day. If you're going to leave Jay Riemersma one-on-one with a linebacker, you're going to lose most of the time."

Riemersma also had a circus play as he scored a touchdown by dancing on the sidelines and sticking the ball with one hand over the goal line. The Bills tight end had two touchdown grabs and caught 4 for 70 yards. Jeremy McDaniel had the other touchdown reception.

"I think Eric is a phenomenal talent and we're trying to get him the ball," Riemersma said. "Unfortunately for him and maybe fortunately for some of us other guys, they're double teaming him a lot. I think when you can get a tight end down the middle of the field, then all of a sudden they have to put a free safety back in the middle of the field, rather than splitting the safeties. So the minute they do that, that opened me up down the middle."

Most of the first half was a defensive struggle similar to the Bills-Titans game the week before. With the score tied 0-0 and time running out in the first half, the Bills offense finally started to rack up some good yardage. Johnson found Eric Moulds at the Packer 45 and Moulds deked around a Green Bay defender and scampered to the 32. On the next play, Johnson feeling pressure, ran back up to near the line of scrimmage and threw to Peerless Price at the 28. Price took the ball and ran to the right side, making it down to the Green Bay 18 before being chased out of bounds. After a Bryson carry, Johnson tried to hit Moulds in the left corner of the endzone, but it was knocked away at the very last instant by Tyrone Williams, who got his hand on it. On third and nine, Johnson hit Price who leaped up in the air at the 10 yard line and came down at the 7 for the first down.

With under a minute to play, Johnson dropped straight back and had time to spot Jeremy McDaniel who was wide open near the goal line. McDaniel caught the short pass and ran into the endzone unmolested for the first touchdown of his career.

"It felt great," McDaniel gleamed. "It came unexpectedly although that's a play we practice a lot. I just had to know what to do when the linebacker comes up. It did feel good to get that first NFL touchdown."

It took 29 minutes and 16 seconds for anyone to score in this defensive struggle and the Bills offensive finally showed some life as it took the ball down field 54 yards on 6 plays and consumed 1:31 off the clock. Now the Bills had to contain Favre with under a minute left in the half.

Allen Rossum took the kickoff at the ten and he veered right, broke a couple tackles at the 30, spun and broke open. Rossum got by Steve Christie and was chased out of bounds at midfield. This gave the Packers great field position to at least get into field goal territory. Favre hit Ahman Green for a 9 yard pickup and then Ken Irvin was tagged with pass interference which put the ball on the Bills 33 with 21 seconds left in the half. On the next play, Favre went back to pass and was blind-sided by Marcellus Wiley who slapped the ball out of Favre's hand. Phil Hanson was Johnny-on-the-spot as he scooped up the ball and rambled all the way down to the Packers' 27. With 6 seconds left in the half, Steve Christie came on and kicked a 45-yard field goal to give the Bills a 10-0 lead at halftime.

The Bills marched down the field after they received the kickoff in the second half. Antowain Smith, who had another sub-par game, was able to make a huge contribution on the drive when he ran around the right side and found an opening for 16 yards to the Packer 44. Then Johnson hit a wide open Jay Riemersma at the 25 and the big Buffalo tight end made it down to the Pack 18. Sheldon Jackson was Johnson's next target as the 6'-3" 250 pound tight end took a little swing pass at the 20 and he ran down to the Packers 6. On a play-action, Johnson faked to Smith, rolled to his right and found Riemersma at the five. Riemersma plowed into the endzone to put the Bills in a commanding 17-0 lead. After Christie kicked off, Favre took the Pack down the field to break the Bills shutout bid. With a first and goal from the Bills 7, Favre found a diving Antonio Freeman in the endzone to make it 17-7. That was Favre's 13th straight completion.

Johnson was roughed up by Dotson and failed to make a first down on his run, so the Bills had to punt. Rossum fielded the punt was tripped up by Raion Hill. At the same time, Jay Foreman hit Rossum and forced the ball out with Bills' long snapper Ethan Albright recovering. Albright looked like a bruising fullback as he carried the ball all the way down to the Packers 5 yard line. Two running plays by Antowain Smith were stopped and Johnson could not complete his pass to an open Moulds as he had two Packers about to sack him and had to hurry his throw. So Christie came in and kicked a 20 yard field goal to put Buffalo up 20-7 with a little under 5 minutes left in the third quarter.

After Johnson was sacked for the sixth time of the game, he was pressured again while attempting to pass back at the Bills 15. Green Bay safety Scott McGarrahan was right in Johnson's face as he attempted to throw to Shawn Bryson. However, he hit Packer defensive end Vonnie Holliday right between the numbers for his first career interception. With the Pack taking over at the Bills 13, Favre's pass to Tyrone Davis was knocked down by John Holecek. That was the first incompletion of the day for Favre. On third down, Favre overthrew Davis and Ryan Longwell had to kick a 24-yard field goal. The Bills defense once again held Favre on third down as they had most of the game.

When the Bills offense got the ball again, they staged a drive that would finish off the Pack for good. Johnson hit Moulds twice and got an interference call when Peerless Price was interfered with by Tod McBride, giving the Bills a first down on the Green Bay 15. Then came the highlight play of the game. Johnson went back to pass, looked to his left and saw all his receivers covered. He then rolled right and lobbed a pass to Riemersma on the right sideline near the goal line. Riemersma caught it, planted his two feet inbounds and positioned the ball over the pylon as he went out of bounds. The refs ruled that the ball broke the plane of the endzone and gave him the TD. It was an outstanding play by the Bills tight end as he used his agility and smarts to get the Bills the points they needed.

"I remember Wade going over that exact situation in the field house about two years ago," Riemersma recalled. "He told all of us receivers that the out of bounds line does not have anything to do with the touchdown. That imaginary plane runs out of bounds, so as long as you are in bounds you can stick that thing over that imaginary plane and still get a touchdown. That sure didn't come into play during my thought process when I was out there but just the fact that he went over (the imaginary plane) that gave me a better chance to field it."

The Bills defense held Favre out of the endzone until very late in the game. Favre was able to drive the Pack down to the Bills 18 and he connected with Freeman on the right side for the touchdown. The Packers went for the 2-point conversion and he hit Davis in the back of the endzone on a tipped pass to make the score 27-18. Green Bay attempted an on-side kick, but Henry Jones recovered it to finish off the Pack once and for all.

The Bills travel to New Jersey and the Meadowlands next Sunday for their first matchup with the New York Jets.

BILLS TALK For two straight weeks, Rob Johnson has sustained the kind of punishment usually reserved for heavyweight fighters going 15 rounds. He has received numerous legal and illegal blows to the head as teams are throwing everything at him in an attempt to knock him out of the game. His teammates are gaining more and more respect for his toughness.

"We have all the faith in the world in Rob," Riemersma expounded. "He has tremendous talent and he is as tough as they come. To sit back and take some of the hits that he has taken in the first two games and to continue to get up, continue to make the plays, and continue to scramble around and take big hits so that guys can catch the ball more down the field. I have all the respect in the world for him."

How are the Bills going to lighten up on the human bombardment that Johnson is receiving?

"We addressed that we needed to stop getting him hit back there." Riemersma said."It is not just the offensive line. It is the receivers, the running backs, and myself. We need to see him, and pick him up. We have to sight adjust. We have to run our hot reads. It is an entire group effort and I expect to see us take care of that."

Johnson, who is beginning to resemble Jim Kelly as he keeps getting up from constant punishment, came to the defense of his offensive line.

"I think they played well," Johnson defended his protectors in a way that would have made Kelly proud. "Green Bay was doing some things to stop the run but I think we can move the ball well. We had about 350 yards of offense and didn't even play much in the fourth quarter. We were just trying to stop the clock. I thought they did a good job."

Ten sacks in two games is not a good way to keep Johnson healthy. At this rate, Johnson will feel the wrath of sackers 80 times this season, a number that would do in most quarterbacks, whether they are tough or not. Johnson took time to address the breakdown of his protection.

"One time we had miscommunications so we missed the play, and the other times were coverage. I held the ball too long," he said. "They were definitely trying to put pressure on us."

Moulds talked about why he was unhappy last week.

"It wasn't the case where I was unhappy for myself, it was the fact that our offense didn't live up to our potential," he said. "With players like Jay (Riemersma) and Peerless (Price), we've got guys who can make plays, myself included. I was disappointed that we couldn't get the ball in all of these guys hands and let us do what we can to win the game."

Moulds was delighted that the other receivers picked up the slack while he was being double covered.

"They are making my job a lot easier. They started out by doubling me and we were prepared for that. Rob told me to be ready, he was going to find me and put it in there. When they rolled coverage over to me, they left Jay and Peerless open and they left Jeremy McDaniel wide open for a touchdown."

"We tried some different things," Moulds added. "We're working on new plays and constantly checking over what works. If something doesn't work, we're going to move on and find something that does. Lots of things worked today."

Copyright 2000 Bills Thunder & Rick Anderson, all rights reserved.

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