Offense shows sparks but Bills find a way to lose again.
by Steve Saslow
November 19, 2001
It was a day in which the fans looked back on the great teams of the late 80's and early 90's as the Bills celebrated the great career of Jim Kelly in a moving halftime ceremony. Owner Ralph Wilson surprised everyone and retired the first number in Bills history as they put Kelly on the wall of fame and gave him a truck to boot. Unfortunately, reality struck as the current version of counterfeit Bills found more ways to lose in the 23-20 defeat at the hands of the Seattle Seahawks to fall to a pathetic 1-8 on the season.
The Bills wasted a great effort from backup quarterback Alex Van Pelt who threw for 316 yards and two touchdowns in his first start since the end of the 1997 season. The offense moved the ball very well through the air but struggled just as bad on the ground as Travis Henry seems to be hitting the proverbial rookie "wall".
The Seahawks jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the second quarter as they used their field position edge to score on back to back possessions. After a 40 yard Lindell field goal, Matt Hasselbeck drove the Seahawks 82 yards in 13 plays and threw a 7 yard touchdown pass to rookie Koren Robinson. The third down touchdown pass is one of many plays the Bills will point to as costing them a chance at this game.
The Bills were poised to take the lead on the opening possession when Henry fumbled the ball away. That was one of two Buffalo turnovers, the other would come with less than five minutes remaining when Van Pelt would fumble it away costing the Bills a chance at driving for a tying score. The Bills defense played bend but don't break most of the game allowing a few nice drives by the Seahawks but once again not forcing any turnovers.
With the team trailing yet again, and the running game floundering, Van Pelt took to the air and struck quickly as he hit Eric Moulds for a 51 yard sideline pattern to setup a touchdown pass to Seahawks killer Peerless Price who is quickly becoming the go to receiver in the Bills offense. The Bills would tie the score just before halftime on a Jake Arians chip shot field goal. The Bills could have scored a touchdown and grabbed the lead but the referees missed a blatant pass interference penalty on Shawn Springs in the end zone.
The referees made many questionable calls in this game. They didn't call the interference on Springs but called a tackly holding penalty on Moulds in the fourth quarter on a downfield run by Price. That penalty cost the Bills a chance at seven and then Arians missed a 45 yard field goal. The biggest blown call of the game was when Lindell hit an all important 51 yard kick to give the Seahawks a 10 point lead for the second time in the game but it came with double zeroes on the play clock. Seattle Coach Mike Holmgren was seen lambasting his special teams coach for allowing the play clock to expire but the refs missed the delay of game penalty and gave Seattle the three points that would be the difference in the game.
The Bills would do what they do well, get a late meaningless touchdown against a prevent defense and then falter on the onside kick attempt. The Bills have to lead the league in on side kicks because they make it a habit of falling behind in the first quarter, catching up a bit, and then falling further behind in the third quarter before making a late dash to get back in the game.
They show heart by never quitting but they need to start games and second halves much better. After the moving halftime show which pumped up the crowd and should have pumped up the players, who came out at the end of halftime and caught the final minutes of the ceremony, the Bills were unexplicitly flat. The Seahawks quieted the crowd by marching 70 yards to their second touchdown a one yard plunge by Shaun Alexander giving them a 17-10 lead.
The Bills struck back quickly but the achilles heel of the offense continued, red zone efficiency. Instead of tying the game with a touchdown they had to settle for another Arians chip shot field goal to pull within four. The Bills would get down into the red zone again early in the fourth quarter but Moulds holding penalty and a sack of Van Pelt pushed them back and Arians, as usual, missed from outside of 40 yards. That kick would have pulled the team to within one point and it would come back to haunt them as the Seahawks drove to a Lindell 38 yard field goal to regain a seven point lead at 20-13. The Bills had a chance at a turnover to stop that drive but Lance Brown dropped an interception in the end zone.
Lindell would ice the game with his questionable 51 yard kick. Take the officiating problems out of the game there are two reasons the Bills lost. The defense once again played well holding Alexander to under 100 yards rushing and keeping Hasselbeck under 150 yards passing but they did not force any turnovers while the Bills turned the ball over twice leading to the three Seahawk points that were the difference and keeping the Bills from scoring more. The other reason they lost is simple: Linell hit his clutch kick in the fourth quarter from 51 yards and Arians missed his from 45. This Kicker has to go, he can't be counted on as his kicking gets worse before the weather even gets bad. He highlights our goat list, here are our gameballs and goats:
Player Of The Week
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