Johnson lost for 2-4 weeks with separated shoulder in OT
by Steve Saslow
Oct. 16, 2000
The old adage is "a win is a win". The way the Bills played in beating the hapless Chargers almost felt like a loss. Steve Christie booted a 46 yard field goal midway through overtime to lift the Bills to an ugly come from behind victory against the still winless Chargers. How ugly was it? The Bills blew a gift wrapped 11 point lead to fall behind by 10 in the third quarter. Rob Johnson was constantly running for his life until he finally was knocked out of action for 2-4 weeks with a separated shoulder in overtime. He also fumbled and threw a costly interception. The defense gave up two long touchdown passes. The team needed a frantic rally to win the game despite forcing four turnovers at home against one of the league's worst teams.
The Bills had two first quarter possession that started inside San Diego territory but resulted in zero points as the Bills were forced to punt on both occasions. The Bills had the early lead in the field position battle thanks to an interception by Sam Cowart and a solid punt by Chris Mohr. The Chargers then moved the ball behind the arm of Jim Harbaugh as he drove his team 62 yards aided by an unneccesary roughness call against rookie Leif Larsen. The defense stiffened and allowed a John Carney field goal that gave the Chargers the early 3-0 lead.
When the second quarter started Chargers coach Mike Riley stuck to his gameplan and inserted Moses Moreno at quarterback despite the hot start by Harbaugh. Moreno promptly fumbled away his first snap that was recovered by Pat Williams. On the very next play Sammy Morris rumbled outside and went 32 yards for a touchdown to give the Bills the lead. Morris again seemed to be the only running back on the roster capable of running efficiently as he averaged 4 yards a carry not counting the touchdown run which was the longest run from scrimmage this year by a Bills' back. It was amazing not to see him get the ball more as Joe Pendry continued to be a slave to his formation schemes.
Moreno had another nightmare on his second series, as he was rundown, sacked, and fumbled when Cowart recorded a rare sack. Sam Rogers pounced on it and the Bills got their second gift wrapped score as Jerry Ostroski picked up Jonathan Linton's fumble in the end zone giving the Bills the 14-3 lead.
Moreno was then out of the game, as Riley scrapped his gameplan and went back to Harbaugh. He promptly paid dividends as his eighth straight completion was a 60 yard bomb to a wide open Curtis Conway for a score. Donovoan Greer came up because he thought Harbaugh was going to run and was burned badly.
The Bills had a chance to extend their four point lead just before halftime but Johnson there a poorly underthrown pass that was picked off in the end zone by Rodney Harrison. Johnson had a nightmarish game depite the fact he threw for over 300 yards for the first time in his career. In this case, the stats do lie. The interception was awful but it was followed up with a terrible fumble and on a third quarter scramble that set up an easy Chargers score on a 2 yard run that shockingly gave the underdog Chargers a 17-14 lead. What is even more shocking than not putting them away was when Harbaugh completed his second scoring bomb of the game. This one was a 52 yard strike to a wide open Jeff Graham. The winless Chargers and rolled off 21 straight points in Buffalo against a struggling Bills team that was in danger of dropping their fourth straight game and falling hopelessly out of the playoff race with a brutal schedule on the horizon.
The boos started raining down from the crowd, Johnson and Ostroski seemed bothered by it in post game interviews but the fact is the Offense was struggling for a fourth straight game and the fans were letting them know that enough was enough. Some in the crowd on Canda day were chanting for Doug Flutie. Johnson responded by leading the offense on an impressive 99 yard drive late in the third quarter and into the fourth. Johnson suddenly had some time to throw and his wide receivers were getting open. It was the best day of the season for the receiving corp as they would all get involved in the comeback. On this drive Johnson would hit Eric Mouldsand Peerless Price on big receptions that led up to a perfect play call on the score. The Chargers called in all out blitz, Johnson saw it and was ready he dumped off a perfect screen pass to Shawn Bryson who walked in for the score to put the Bills back within three.
The defense stiffened up late in the game as the offense got warmed up. They would force punts on the next two series and give the offense the ball back on the 20 with less than 3 minutes to go in the game. Johnson used Moulds and Price again to drive down for the tying field goal. Moulds had two 17 yard receptions on the drive as he made big catch after big catch during the comeback on his way to a career high 11 receptions. The Bills actually had a chance to win in regulation but the drive stalled at the nine yard line. Christie hit the 29 yarder, as he remains perfect this season from inside the 40, sending the game into overtime.
The Bills had the ball first in the extra session but on 3rd and 2 Johnson held the ball too long, a problem he had throughout the game. He was knocked down by Neil Smith and the play where he would separated his shoulder. Henry Jones picked off a pass and the large Canadian contingent would get their wish as Flutie trotted on to the field with a chance to give the Bills a win. Flutie was ready to play and drove the Bills right down the field highlightled by a beautifully called audible. He sent Moulds long instead of running the slant pattern, Moulds made a nice adjustment and pulled in the pass for a 21 yard completion. That set the stage for Christie's heroics but not before one play would epitimize the game. Christie had a 41 yard kick hit off of the right crossbar but was saved by a penalty against his team. The play was whistled dead beacause Ostroski was called for illegal procedure. Christie said he knew the whistles blew and only kicked hit half heartedly. Who knows if that's the truth or not but Christie calmed split the uprights with the 46 yarder to win the game.
How fitting is it that on Canady day at the stadium, the lone Canadian would win the game for the Bills with their favorite adopted son leading them down for that winning score. That is almost enough to make Bills fans smile except for the fact that they played their worst all around game of the season despite the win. It is now Flutie time for the next few weeks at least. Johnson was not the main problem with the offense by no means, but Flutie thrives on chaos, and this offensive line certaintly causes chaos. Flutie may be the right part needed to mask the serious problems with the offensive unit. Judging by his performance in one series in overtime there may be some magic left in his soon to be 38 year old body.
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