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Bills Beat Panthers 25-24
Bills show heart in overcoming 24-6 deficit.
by Steve Saslow
December 9, 2001

Peerless PriceIt was fitting on a day where the team celebrated the career of Marv Levy, the new Bills showed a lot of heart and character in overcoming a 24-6 deficit with under a minute to go in the first half before mounting a comeback and defeating the Panthers 25-24 for the first win in Buffalo since Nov. 12th of last year.

The Bills struggled out of the gate going three and out and the Brian Moorman gave the Panthers a short field for a field goal to go up 3-0 with a shanked punt. He struggled on a few kicks early. The Bills responded with an 11 play drive to a tying field goal, giving Shayne Graham his first points as a pro. The Bills should have had seven here, as Travis Henry took a screen pass 40 yards to give them first and goal at the six. Two runs and a pass failed forcing the tying field goal.

This was the problem with the Bills in the first half, they were out gaining the Panthers but the Carolina was coming away with touchdowns while the Bills were left with field goals. The Panthers took advantage of another poor punt by Moorman setup the Panthers at their own 46 yard line. A pass to Mushin Muhammed, who showed no ill effects from his injury on his way to 104 yards receiving, setup some good runs by Richard Huntley. Chris Wienke ended the drive with a one yard plunge giving the Panthers the 10-3 lead.

The Bills offense gave the ball right back as a pass went right off of Larry Centers and was picked off. This was the first of two huge drops by Centers on the day. A 37 yard pass interference penalty on Chris Watson, playing for the demoted Ken Irvin, setup a Huntley touchdown pushing the Panthers lead to two touchdowns.

The Bills responded with another big offensive play as Reggie Germany made an acrobatic grab of a tipped ball to setup the Bills in scoring position. The offense sputtered in the red zone again and had to settle for Graham's second field goal. The blame for not getting seven this time falls on the usual capable hands of Centers. He dropped a wide open pass in the end zone on third and goal that would have been a sure touchdown.

This was the Bills offense for most of the first half two big plays, otherwise they sputtered as the Panthers were moving the football pretty well thanks to good field position. The Panthers once again responded to a Bills field goal with a seven spot of their own. They started this time at the Buffalo 41 thanks to a 46 yard kickoff return. They turned that into their third straight touchdown thanks to another big pass interference penalty, this one was a questionable 34 yarder called against Raion Hill. The 2 yard touchdown pass by Wienke gave the Panthers a 24-6 lead with just :36 left in the first half.

The Bills may have hit rock bottom trailing another one win team by 18 points in the second quarter with the greatest coach in team history waiting to take the field to be honored. Suddenly this team showed the heart and character we thought they had. Alex Van Pelt took the team on a four play, 70 yard drive to a 7 yard touchdown pass to Peerless Price in the back of the end zone with :01 on the clock. This was a beautiful drive ended with a perfect pass that kept the Bills in the game. They were helped with the fact that the worst defense in the league was playing prevent defense and the fact that the Bills surprisingly had their full complement of timeouts. Van Pelt used them effectively in completing three straight passes of 25 and 12 yards to Eric Moulds before Price caught a 26 yarder setting up his score pulling the Bills to within 11 at the half.

It was a sluggish start of the second half as you would expect from two one win teams. The Bills squashed in early drive by the Panthers by recovering a fumble by Muhammed deep in Buffalo territory. The Bills then got their second turnover of the game when Brandon Spoon picked off a pass that was deflected by Nate Clements and rumbled 44 yards down the sidelines for the touchdown. The Bills were within five with over five minutes to go in the third quarter and Gregg Williams made the same mistake other coaches made, he went for the two point conversion too early. Van Pelt's pass was incomplete and the Bills were down 24-19.

It stayed that way into the fourth quarter when the Bills finally got Jay Riemersma back in the offense. He caught a 3rd and 8 pass for 19 yards, and then caught two more passes of 9 and 18 yards to set the Bills up inside the Carolina three yard line. Two plays later Henry scored from one yard out. Henry had 157 total yards in this game including 101 yards rushing. The Bills now were forced to go for two again and missed, leaving them with a one point lead instead of a field goal lead.

The Bills defense toughened up, as they smelled a victory. They didn't want to blow this one and sent the Panthers on a three and out. The Panthers did move the ball on their next possession but a fourth and two pass by Weinke fell incomplete. The Bills just had to run out the clock and did thanks to another big reception by Riemersma as he pulled in a third and eight pass and rumbled 12 yards for the clinching first down. It was nice to celebrate a victory and it leaves a good feeling that the team hasn't given up on the season. Here are our gameballs and goats:

  • Travis Henry - He ran with authority and had two nice screen passes for good gains. He was the biggest part of the game for the first time in his career.
  • Jay Riemersma - He only caught four passes but they were huge catches in the final scoring drive and the drive to run out the clock.
  • Shayne Graham - In his second game he was 2 for 2 on field goals hitting from 20 and 27 yards out. His kickoffs were short by design against the potent Panthers return game.
  • Brandon Spoon - His pick and return for a score gave the Bills a chance to win.
  • Nate Clements - He was in on six tackles, defended two passes, forced to fumbles, and deflected the pass that was picked off by Spoon.
  • Alex Van Pelt - He wasn't awesome but his drive at the end of the half was a thing of beauty. He finished 20 of 29 for 277 yards a touchdown and a pick.

  • Goats
  • Larry Centers - He only had four catches for 17 yards but the two he dropped was the big story. His first drop was picked off. His second cost the Bills a touchdown and six points overall in the game counting the two point conversion misses.
  • Brian Moorman - His punting was atrocious especially early. He was directionally kicking to keep the ball out of their returner's hands but his short kicks setup Panthers scoring drive.

  • Player Of The Week
  • Travis Henry - He had 101 yards on 27 carries and added 56 yards on two screen passes, one setup a field goal.

  • Positional Breakdown and Grades Gamebook - Complete stats including play by play
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