Comeback thwarted by turnovers as Miami dominates.
by Steve Saslow
Oct. 8, 2000
Sam Madison's 18 yard fumble return for a touchdown sealed the game for Miami in their 22-13 win over the Bills. The fact that the Bills had the ball with a chance to win the game in the final five minutes was a surprise as Miami dominated the game for almost three quarters.
No aspect of the Bills game was working in the first 40 minutes of football. They tried throwing deep on numerous occasions but for the most part Rob Johnson was off his mark. He overthrew four passes to open receivers on downfield patterns. One of the overthrows had a chance to be a 97 yard touchdown pass if he hit Eric Moulds in stride. The running game was non-existent and the defense gave up some big chunks of yardage as the Bills fell behind 13-3 at halftime.
The teams traded field goals in the first quarter as the Dolphins drove right down the field in their opening possession but were stopped at the Bills 12 on third down and had to settle for the 30 yard field goal. The Bills were able to drive into Miami territory thanks to a 32 yard pass completion to Eric Moulds. It didn't produce any points but it helped pin Miami in at their own 4 yard line. A third down sack by Keith Newman forced a punt from the back of the end zone that only went to the Miami 29. The Bills couldn't move the ball and had to settle for a 45 yard Steve Christie field goal.
That was the last offense the Bills would muster until late in the third quarter. The Dolphins meanwhile were moving the ball threw the air and also having some success on the ground. They took advantage of a 35 yard pass interference penalty to Ken Irvin to setup a 33 yard field goal to give them a 6-3 lead. With the Bills offense going nowhere, the Dolphins drove for a late first half touchdown. Antoine Winfield was beat on a bomb to Bert Emanuel and on a 20 yard touchdown pass to Leslie Shepherd that gave the Dolphins the 10 point lead at the half.
What epitomized the Dolphins dominance for most of this game was the third quarter safety. Ruben Brown and Jerry Ostroski were beat by Jermaine Haley who stopped Jonathan Linton in his own end zone. Linton was hit right after getting the handoff. This was two plays after a great bounce on a punt gave the Bills the ball at their own 1.
The offense was struggling and now down by 12 late in the third. Johnson finally kick started the offense with his legs first, and then his arm. He ran for 44 yards on 3 carries in a late third quarter drive that ended in a punt when Johnson fumbled the shotgun snap. Despite the bad ending of the drive it seemed to rejuvenate the team. The defense played much better in the second half and gave the offense a chance to get back into the game. On the next series, Johnson went to the air hitting Shawn Bryson on a screen pass that he took 42 yards. Johnson followed that play with a 23 yard pass over the middle to Bobby Collins to give the Bills the ball 1st and goal at the 5 yard line. Three straight incompletions under heavy pressure forced the Bills to another field goal.
The defense stopped the Dolphins again and got the offense the ball back. This time the Bills went 82 yards in just three plays in 1:32 to a touchdown that pulled the Bills within 2 points at 15-13. The drive included a 41 yard bomb to Peerless Price as Johnson finally hit a downfield receiver. A pass interference penalty on the next play put the ball on the five yard line setting up the Bills first rushing touchdown of the season as Sammy Morris ran it in.
Despite being dominated most of the way the Bills had the ball back with less than five minutes to go and it appeared the Bills might steal one. The fans heart were broken again as Johnson dumped a nice screen pass to Morris under heavy pressure. Morris tried to make something happen and then lost the ball. It bounced right to Madison who had a clear ride to the end zone.
Miami had heavy pressure on Johnson all day, sacking him five times while knocking him down and pressuring him on numerous occasions. Several times players came in unblocked to unload on Johnson. This added to his struggles before he succumbed to his tendinitis in his elbow on the Bills last drive. Doug Flutie would replace Johnson and moved the team downfield before he was intercepted on a pass that bounced off his receiver's hands.
The Bills now have lost three straight games, all division matchups. The 2-3 start and 0-3 start in the division may make a division title a pipe dream already. The only bright spot in the standings is that The Jets and Colts both lost. What the Bills can take out of the game on the positive side was that they came back on the road and had a chance to win before one bad bounce ended the Bills chance at victory. On the negative side, they were thoroughly dominated for most of the game on both sides of the football. The combination of Johnson's tendinitis and the line's inability to block for him has everyone wondering if he will survive the season. This is now the second of five games this year he could not finish. With a three game losing streak and the lowly Chargers up next, a quarterback controversy may not be far behind.
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