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Bills shoot themselves down in debacle against Jets
An article by Bills Thunder webmaster.
by Rick Anderson
September 17, 2000
The sun was shining in the Meadowlands and on the Jets Sunday as they took two huge first half plays and 3 Bills turnovers in the second half to de-throttle the Buffalo Bills 27-14. A 97-yard touchdown return and a Hail Mary touchdown reception at the end of the first half took the momentum away from the Bills. Then in the second half, the three Buffalo fumbles prevented any possible comeback the Bills could have staged.
The Jets were clearly the better coached team in Giant Stadium. Al Groh, who took over for the Big Tuna, Bill Parcells, did a creditable job in getting his troops prepared for the showdown between the two unbeaten teams in the AFC East. By the time the final gun sounded, the Jets were the only ones standing and going to 3-0, their best start since 1966.
Groh was extremely upset over the performance of his special teams the previous two games and made it known that he wanted that unit to step it up against the Bills. The Jets special teams responded to Groh's demands and even went beyond what the Jets head coach expected. They forced 2 fumbles on punts in the second half and helped pave the way to an exciting kickoff return.
Kevin Williams (not the same as the former Bills kickoff specialist) got behind a couple blocks and then broke into the clear down the left sideline with only kicker Steve Christie to beat. He gave Christie a stiff arm and galloped into the endzone for a 97-yard touchdown. Williams jaunt was the first Jet kickoff returned for a touchdown in three seasons.
Groh will most likely take his entire special team out for dinner tomorrow after a brilliant performance. On the other side of the ball, Bills coach Wade Phillips has to account for numerous mistakes made by his special teams and his offense. Phillips himself made two questionable challenges to official rulings that cost the Bills two timeouts in the second half.
Twice the Bills offense committed "illegal formation" infractions that voided a touchdown and then halted a third quarter drive. Add to that the usual holding calls and an interference and the Bills shot themselves in the foot all afternoon.
The Jets were a much more disciplined club than the Bills and it showed on the scoreboard. The Bills were flagged 7 times for 66 yards, most of them at crucial times. Meanwhile, Groh's disciplined Jets only had 3 penalties for 10 yards.
Three fumbles in the second half by the Bills drove the dagger through the heart of Buffalo. Chris Watson had the ball stripped from him twice in the second half. The Bills traded for Watson before the regular season to replace the "other" Kevin Williams. Watson was not supposed to be a game-breaker, but was noted to have "sure hands." Those hands failed him and the Bills miserably on Sunday.
When Bills defense stopped the Jets after the opening kickoff, Rob Johnson led the Bills on an 80-yard drive that resulted in an early 7-0 lead. Jay Riemersma caught three passes during that drive, one being a leaping one-handed grab that rivaled Eric Mould's one-hander last week. The Bills were able to get into the red zone and Johnson scrambled around right end to score a touchdown, but a penalty nullified the nifty run. However, Johnson came back and hit Moulds for a 3-yard touchdown and the Bills looked like they were ready to rumble.
That's when Kevin Williams did what the other Kevin Williams never did for the Bills: break a long kickoff for a score.
Mid way through the second quarter, Curtis Martin capped a 36-yard, 9-play drive by going in from 5 yards out to up the Jets lead to 14-7.
Johnson, who went passed 36 times, completing 21 for 291 yards and two scores, had a little more time in this one than he had in the Bills first two games. He was sacked only twice, but still felt constant heat most of the game and had to roll out on numerous occasions to avoid being sacked. He ran the ball 3 times for 18 yards and still has a higher yards per carry average than all the Bills running backs. With only around a minute remaining in the first half, Johnson found Jeremy McDaniel all alone on the left side for a 74-yard touchdown strike. At that point, it appeared as if the Bills would have the momentum coming out of the gates in the second half as they would receive the kickoff. But Jets' veteran quarterback Vinny Testaverde went to a Hail Mary pass with only four ticks left on the clock. Marcus Coleman, who had just been beaten by McDaniel for the Bills touchdown, was sent out as a receiver on the desperation pass. Coleman, the 6'-2" cornerback out of Texas Tech, was the choice of Testaverde to be the main target in the last second bomb as the two other Jet receivers, Wayne Chrebet and Dedric Ward are only 5-10 and 5-9 respectively.
Testaverde lobbed an 45-yard arch into a crowd at the back of the end zone. There were five Bills on Coleman, but Coleman leaped and hauled down the pass in an improbable ending of the first half. In some eerie sense, this Hail Mary pass hauntingly resembled the Home Run Throwback the Titans used to beat the Bills in the Wild Card playoff game last season. Like the Titans, the Jets practiced the Hail Mary pass during the week and Coleman is the main target.
"We work on that play every Friday, so I knew there was a possibility we would run it," said Coleman. "I was surprised that no one was on me as I ran down the middle. Once the ball was in the air, I don't care who was around me, I think the ball is mine."
"He would make a great receiver if the coaches allowed him to play both ways," said Testaverde giving a pitch for Coleman. "He was the guy I was looking for."
Phillips called that miraculous catch the game's turning point. "It turned the game around completely," Phillips said. "We had the game going our way. "We had the crowd out of it going into the half. We should have everybody back on the goal line. They should be waiting for the ball instead of jumping."
That play definitely took the wind out of the sails for the Bills in the second half. The Bills came out and continuously made mental errors that took them out of the game.
One time Shawn Bryson galloped for the longest run of the game for Buffalo, but it was called back because Sammy Morris was guilty of illegal formation. Right after that, Robert Hicks got flagged for moving before the snap. But those miscues were minor to what Watson did. His two fumbles of punts ended any chance the Bills had to mount a comeback.
Phillips challenged two calls that cost the Bills two valuable time outs when the reviews went against the Bills. After Moulds caught a pass and the refs placed the ball a yard from the first down marker, Phillips threw in his red flag to signal his request for a review. All the replays shown on the CBS Sports telecast of the game clearly demonstrated that the officials made the proper call. It wasn't even close. The other call that Phillips questioned was after Peerless Price fumbled the ball after trying to sneak out extra yards after a reception. The replays revealed that Price clearly fumbled the ball before either knee touched the ground. Another failing grade for Phillips.
"It was a disastrous game for us," Bills head coach Phillips said during his press conference. "Every time something went good for us, something went bad. It was our fault. We made mistakes, a lot of them. I don't think I've been in a game where there have been that many mistakes at key times. Penalties and on and on through the whole game."
Phillips will be having nightmares about this game with the Jets for a long time. His new special teams coach, Ron Jones, may be looking for a new job if he doesn't get his players on the same page soon.
Special teams decided the contest in the second half as Christie had his 43-yard field goal attempt tipped and then the Jets Kicker, John Hall, was good from 51-yards out to up New York's lead to 24-14. For good measure, Hall finished the scoring with a 27-yarder at the 13:04 mark of the fourth quarter.
"We shot ourselves in the foot too many times," commented Keion Carpenter. "Take away the pass and the kickoff return, and we played a pretty good game."
"We gave the game away, we didn't lose it," a dejected Rob Johnson said after the game.
The Bills had two key injuries in the game, one that could prove costly to the club. Jay Riemersma injured his knee on the Bills opening drive and had to leave the game. He was taken to the Buffalo dressing room and an early prognosis has Riemersma out from 4-6 weeks. Corey Moore suffered a sprained ankle, but may be able to return to the lineup after the Bills bye week. Moore was substituting for Sam Rodgers who was out with a shoulder injury.
Now the Bills will have two weeks to recuperate from their aches and pains and get their heads back on straight so they will be ready to face the Indianapolis Cots come October 1.
Copyright © 2000 Bills Thunder & Rick Anderson, all rights reserved.
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