Bills Handle Packers 27-18
Defense sparkles again as Johnson shines.
by Steve Saslow
Sept. 10, 2000
The Bills defense did not suffer a letdown today and played their second straight sparkling game. Half of the offense came alive as Rob Johnson threw three touchdown passes leading the Bills to the 27-18 victory against Green Bay. The victory gives the Bills their first 2-0 start since 1996 and gives them at least a share of first place depending on what happens on Monday night.
Both teams got off to a slow start, as the game remained scoreless late in the first half. Both teams were victims of bad field position as the teams would take over inside their own 20 and move it to around midfield on many first half positions. The Bills finally broke into scoring position on a 22 yard completion from Rob Johnson to Eric Moulds who looked out to prove something today with 7 catches for 103 yards. Johnson then hit Peerless Price for 11 yards to convert a third down pass. That set up a 6 yard touchdown pass to an open Jeremy McDaniel in the middle of the field which gave the Bills a 7-0 lead.
The defense picked up right where they left off against Tennessee by dominating the first half. They let Green Bay move the ball but didn't let them get into scoring territory in the first half despite the fact that Brett Favre did not throw an incompletion until late in the third quarter. The much maligned Bills special teams were embarrassed again as they were called for delay of game before the ensuing kickoff after the score. They compounded that by letting the kickoff be returned to midfield. The defense came to the rescue of the coverage teams once again though, as Marcellus Wiley got around the tackle and swatted the ball out of Favre's hand as he was about to throw. It bounced right into the hands of Phil Hansen who returned it 27 yards to setup the first of two Steve Christie field goals to give the Balls 10 points in the final minute of the half and a 10-0 lead.
The Bills came out in the second half determined to mix in the run with the pass and had some success early as the struggling Antowain Smith had a 16 yard run on the opening possession of the second half. That setup some more passing as Johnson hit Jay Riemersma on a 26 yard completion over the middle and followed that up with a 12 yard Sam Gash-like screen pass to Sheldon Jackson. That setup the first of two Riemersma touchdowns and gave the Bills a 17-0 lead.
While the passing game was humming the rest of the offense was pretty much dead. The offensive line's performance was a mirror image of their performance in the opener. Johnson was sacked five times for the second straight game and was forced to scramble on almost every play. He made some big completions running outside to the right, and also led the team in rushing for the second straight week. When your QB is your leading rusher, there is a major problem in your running game. Besides one good run on the touchdown drive to start the second half, Smith had just one yard on 11 carries. He led an awful attack as he split time with Shawn Bryson who wasn't much more effective. The line had as much problem in run blocking as they did in stopping the constant blitzes by Green Bay.
Despite all the problems with the offense they had enough fire power to open up a commanding lead early in the third quarter before the defense gave up their only good scoring drive while the game was still in doubt. Favre engineered an 80 yard drive in 7 plays to get the Packers on the board. Favre had a gutsy effort as he continued to hit every pass under good pressure by a Bills defense that sacked him four times.
Favre's touchdown pass to Antonio Freeman followed by a three and out by the Bills saw the momentum start to swing. That is when the special teams finally made a big play. On the ensuing punt, Jay Foreman hit Allen Rossum on the return forcing the fumble that long snapper Ethan Albright returned to the four. It was a bit of sweet revenge, as Rossum was the Eagle that hit Christie with a cheap shot at the end of the final preseason game. The Bills were stopped offensively and was forced to settle for Christie's second field goal that gave the Bills the 20-7 lead. Even though they didn't get into the end zone, the turnover and the score halted the momentum that the Packers had gained.
The Bills defense stopped the Pack on a third and one carry on the ensuing possession forcing a punt, but that is when Johnson made his only mistake of the game. Under heavy pressure he let a screen pass go to early and threw his first interception in 123 attempts setting up the Packers at the Bills 13. The defense than countered the Packers stop after Rossum's fumble, holding to a field goal after Favre threw an incompletion on third and four as the secondary had great coverage.
The Special teams made another play after the score, as Chris Watson returned the kickoff 37 yards to the 47 yard line. That setup a 53 yard touchdown drive in 8 plays to basically put the game away for the Bills. The big plays on the drive included a 14 yard pass to Moulds on third down and a pass interference call on another third down. That set the stage for a beautiful 14 yard touchdown catch by Riemersma. He caught it running out of bounds at the one but held the ball over the goal line as he stepped out.
With a 27-10 lead the Bills were just trying to run out the clock on offense and were teeing off on defense. The Packers did march down the field on their final drive, converting two fourth downs before scoring a touchdown with :35 left in the game. They got some luck on the two point conversion as it bounced off of one receiver to the TE Tyrone Davis to give us the final score of 27-18.
The Bills are off to a solid start at 2-0 and may be battling the Jets for first place next Sunday in New Jersey. Rob Johnson finished the game and played very well despite major concerns with the offensive line and the running game. The defense has proven that it may be as good as the number one ranked unit of a year ago, if this continues to hold true, the Bills could make some serious noise as the season progresses.
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