Game was as ugly as the weather as Bills drop 4th straight.
by Steve Saslow
Dec. 17, 2000
For the third straight meeting between the Bills and the Patriots the game went to overtime. This time, the outcome was different as Adam Vinatieri hit the game winning field goal with :23 left in overtime to lift the Pats to the win 13-10.
The game was played in a heavy wind with rain early on that turned to sleet and then a heavy snow. The wind was so bad that the Bills decided to kickoff and take the wind in overtime after winning the coin toss. It almost didn't get that far as Vinatieri had a field goal blocked as time expired in regulation. Kicking and punting was an adventure all day. Steve Christie had two field goals blocked. The first, in the third quarter when he slipped and fell as he kicked. The second, would have won the game midway through overtime.
The red zone problems continued for the Bills as missed scoring opportunities stopped them from turning this game into a rout in the second half. On two straight possessions they moved the ball inside the 2 yard line and came away with no points. In the third quarter Doug Flutie fumbled a snap from center that was recovered by Sheldon Jackson but Christie missed his first field goal. Flutie came in the game early in the second quarter when Rob Johnson suffered a concussion. In the fourth quarter the Bills got down to the one yard line where Antowain Smith couldn't handle the handoff and fumbled the ball away.
The field conditions definitely favored Flutie's style over Johnson's. Flutie moved the team reminiscent of his days in the CFL. He called this game the fourth toughest weather game he has ever played in. He entered the game after a bobbled snap that kept the Patriots from punting and setting the Bills up in good shape. Flutie had a 13 yard run setting up a game tying field goal that sent the teams into the locker room tied at 3. The wind was so bad the Bills basically just ran out the clock going into the wind late in the first half even though they were moving the football on the ground.
The second half was a half of missed opportunities. The Bills seemed to move the football but stumbled in the red zone. The weather conditions worsened as the game wore on making it harder for both teams to do anything with the football. Flutie seemed to be at home in these conditions and hit a couple of big passes in setting up the two scoring opportunities. Jeremy McDaniel caught a 31 yarder in the third quarter that was wasted by Christie's miss. Peerless Price caught a 42 yarder on the last play of the third quarter just before the Bills were going to lose the wind. That catch was wiped out by Smith's fumble.
If the Bills cashed in on those two scoring opportunities the touchdown they did get would have put this game away. The third time was the charm, as the Bills marched downfield on their ensuing possession and this time they passed it at the one yard line as Flutie hit Sheldon Jackson for the score. The score was setup on a beautiful 32 yard run by Flutie to the one.
The Patriots would get their offense on track with the wind at their back. They were winning the field position battle thanks to the wind and poor special teams by the Bills. The Pats would move 37 yards in four plays to the game tying 13 yard run by Kevin Faulk. With the game tied the Patriots took over with :31 left in regulation and promptly moved down the field with passes over the middle. The final completion to Tony Carter down to the 10 yard line saw the clock hit triple zeroes. The referee ruled that a timeout was called with :01 left giving Vinatieri a chance at the win but his kick was blocked sending the game to overtime.
The Bills gambled by taking the wind and kicking off in overtime and it looked bad when the Pats moved down the field with the opening possession. A WR screen pass on 4th and 5 was brought down short of the first down giving the Bills a chance to drive for a winning score. Flutie would mix in short passes with strong running from Shawn Bryson as the Bills moved downfield to the Patriots 12. Christie than had his second field goal blocked giving the Patriots new life. The Pats responded by throwing into the teeth of the wind over the middle of the field. They got a break when a fourth down incompletion was nullified by a critical pass interference call on Craig Watson. Drew Bledsoe than kept the drive alive by scrambling for the 13 yards on 3rd and 6. That setup Vinatieri's heroics as his 23 yard field goal was good to win the game.
It was ugly weather and in even uglier game. Both teams tried their best but the weather conditions, lack of talent, and the meaningless nature of the game made this as ugly a game as there has been all year. The Bills finish out the string on national TV next Saturday night in Seattle.
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