The Bills did everything they wanted to do but win.
by Steve Saslow
Oct. 1, 2000
Mike Vanderjagt hit a 45 yard field goal as time expired to lift the Colts over the Bills 18-16 in front of a sellout crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium. For the Bills elation turned into heartbreak as just over a minute earlier Rob Johnson threw a 40 yard touchdown pass to a wide open Eric Moulds to give the Bills the short-lived 16-15 lead.
Before the last minute heroics, the Bills did everything they needed to do to win. They dominated the time of possession. They ran the ball with authority throughout the game with Jonathan Linton, Sammy Morris, and Shawn Bryson. They held the high powered Colts offense at bay most of the game. The only thing they didn't do was put the ball in the end zone until the final two minutes of the game. The failure to take advantage of opportunities was the determining factor in the loss.
The Bills dominated the first half but went into the locker room up by only 2. They moved into the red zone on their first three possessions but came away with just three Steve Christie field goals and a 9-0 lead.
The Colts finally moved the ball downfield on their fourth possession and scored on a 14 yard touchdown pass to a wide open Marvin Harrison. He beat Ken Irvin on the play as Antoine Winfield bit on the inside pattern being run by Terence Wilkins.
The Bills had one more scoring chance before the half ended as they moved to the Colts 22. A Johnson sack and fumble took them out of field goal range. He still hasn't learned how to get rid of the football and avoid the sack. This one cost them three points. John Fina actually picked up the fumble and brought it back into field goal range but the officials said that Johnson was the only one allowed to advance it.
On the opening possession of the second half the Bills lost another scoring opportunity. They drove down to the 29 yard line and elected to go for it on 4th and 6 instead of attempting another field goal. The Bills were flagged for delay of game and were forced to punt. The lack of scoring punch was the eventual difference in the game. They would continue to move the ball on the ground and with passes to Morris, McDaniel, and Moulds but wouldn't get another scoring chance until the final minutes.
The Colts took advantage of the Bills inability to score and took the lead early in the fourth quarter on an 11 yard touchdown pass to Terence Wilkins on a third and 6 play. Edgerrin James ran in the two point conversion that wasn't overturned by Coach Phillips' challenge. At the time it looked like Phillips was wasting a timeout challenging the conversion, as it turned out, it was the final difference of the game as the Colts took a 15-9 lead.
The teams would then trade punts and the Bills would come up with their last defensive stand as the stuffed James on a 3rd and 1 near midfield forcing a punt with just over two minutes to go in the game. Johnson would then lead the Bills on an 80 yard touchdown march in just :57. The big play was a 27 yard pass to the impressive Jeremy McDaniel. That set up the 40 yard touchdown pass to Moulds in broken coverage.
The only problem was the score came too quickly. As the players and fans celebrated, there was still 1:08 to go. The Colts had all their timeouts left, and one of the best kickers in the game on their sidelines. Manning would methodically lead his team to his fourth game winning final drive of his career. Manning hit James on a 10 yard pass that had a five yard face mask penalty tacked on to the end of it. Replays showed that James grabbed Keion Carpenter's face mask first. James then added a 10 yard run before Manning hit his final pass of 7 yards setting up the game winning kick.
There were many positives to take out of this game with the re-discovery of the running game, a successful two minute drive, and solid special teams play. The bottom line is, the Defense that played so superbly most of the game let down in the final minute and the Bills have now lost two straight. They are now 0-2 against the division and fall to fourth place with a tough road game next week in Miami.
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