Penalties, red zone failures, and an interception does in Bills.
by Steve Saslow
Nov. 17, 2002
The Bills did exactly what they wanted to do for three quarters of this game. They used a ball control offense to keep the ball out of the Chiefs offense hands. The defense took away Tony Gonzalez and Priest Holmes when they were on the field. The problem was that they only led 16-10 after three quarters because the offense struggled badly in the red zone and an incredible amount of penalties absolutely killed the Bills as they went down to defeat 17-16 in Arrowhead Stadium.
The Bills used the bye week to come up with a new look on both sides of the football and to develop some tricks. On offense they came up with a ball control gameplan that worked very well for three quarters as Drew Bledsoe spread the ball around to seven different receivers and Travis Henry carried the ball 24 times as the Bills held the ball for 21 minutes of the first half but only led by three at the intermission.
The Chiefs scored first on a quick 64 yard drive in 6 plays on their second possession as Holmes ran it in from four yards out. The Bills countered with their first of three 15 play drives as they went 80 yards but could only manage a field goal to pull them to within 7-3. The Bills red zone offense faltered as they could only manage field goals on two of those three 15 play drives. One of those field goal drives actually went 101 yards as penalties killed the Bills on many drives on offense, and kept the Chiefs drives going on defense. The Bills were penalized for a whopping 139 yards on 13 penalties.
After the first of three Mike Hollis field goals, the Bills pulled out some trickery as they on side kicked the ball and Charles Johnson recovered giving the Bills the momentum and the ball back. Coach Williams said he practiced that kick all week and they would have opened the game with it, if they lost the coin toss.
The momentum from the kick was hampered by another critical penalty and a replay that reversed an apparent Eric Moulds touchdown. The Bills settled for a field goal and trailed 7-6. They would finally get into the end zone after a Chiefs field goal. The 15 play drive at the end of the first half was a beautiful mixture of passes and runs and ended with a Moulds touchdown catch from 7 yards out to give the Bills the lead at the half.
The Bills started the third quarter the same way they finished the half. After keeping a Chiefs drive alive with a bonehead roughing the passer penalty on Ron Edwards the Bills eventually held and forced a punt. Bledsoe moved the Bills methodically down the field with another 15 play drive and yet another field goal. Two penalties kept the drive bogged down and the Bills were stopped at the Chiefs 9. Hollis hit his final field goal giving the Bills a 16-10 lead.
The Bills could have put the game away as they were dominating both sides of the line of scrimmage but couldn't score touchdowns and penalties continued to hamper them all day long. It was just a matter of time before the Chiefs would take the game over and they did with the help of, surprise!, a penalty. Many of the 13 penalties called on the Bills were questionable and some penalties that could have been called on the Chiefs weren't. The penalty called on Chris Watson was one that should get the official fired. Watson had perfect coverage on Eddie Kennison and did a beautiful job of knocking the ball away but he was called for a 36 yard pass interference call, one play after Eddie Robinson was called for a legitimate pass interference call. The Chiefs used the flags to march down the field and scored when a gimpy Trent Green ran it in up the middle from 9 yards out on third and goal to give them the lead 17-16.
There was plenty of time left to overcome the mistakes, penalties, and red zone blues but instead of using the running game that was working to perfection, and the short passing game that was also working, the Bills decided to go deep. After talking all week about being patient on offense, the Bills went deep and Bledsoe was picked off by Eric Warfield.
The pick seemed to deflate a Bills defense that played well all game. Besides his one touchdown, Holmes was held in check until the final clock killing drive. He finished with 104 yards rushing but gained 44 yards on the first four plays after the interception and Bledsoe would never get the ball back to atone for his mistake.
The Bills had a good gameplan but the coaches have to do something to get the players to play with more discipline. You can't win games in the NFL when you give up 139 yards in penalties, don't take the ball away, and don't score touchdowns when the opportunity is there. The Bills have to lick their wounds, go back to the drawing board, and come up with a big time effort on the road against a division rival who is rejuvenated. If they don't do that, then the season will be over real quick.
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