48 yard pass to Price wins it in the end.
by Steve Saslow
Sept. 15, 2001
A week after losing a game in overtime that they dominated, the Bills pull one out in overtime that could have gone either way. For just the second time in club history they played back to back overtime games, the outcome this week was much better than last week. Peerless Price caught a pass over the middle and ran it untouched into the end zone for a 48 yard score to pull out the wild victory in Minnesota 45-39.
The Bills found themselves without a running game and was forced to win it through the air but in this wild game there were many twists and turns. Minnesota was able to move the ball at will against the Bills except when they were turning the ball over three times including the Bills first defensive score of the year when Ron Edwards fell on one of four Duante Culpepper fumbles for a touchdown in the wild and wily fourth quarter. Special teams was a huge factor once again as the Bills coverage unit gave up a 61 yard punt return that setup Minnesota for an easy touchdown inside the Bills 5. On the ensuing kickoff the Bills showed some special teams magic of their own as Charlie Rogers got a huge wedge from his blockers and went untouched 90 yards for a score.
The kicking game was also a heavy factor for the special teams as Mike Hollis hit four of five field goal attempts including the game tying kick of 54 yards off of the crossbar as time expired. He also hit two extra point length field goals and a 52 yarder but missed from 44 yards in overtime. His counterpart, Doug Brien kept the Bills in the game by missing a 44 yarder field goal of his own and two extra points.
Most of these twist and turns happened in the second half after a very mundane first half that ended tied at 13. The Bills held a 6-3 lead after one quarter thanks to two Hollis field goals but the Vikings gained a 10-6 lead in the second quarter when Culpepper ran it in from the two yard line on a fourth down scramble eluding Keith Newman into the end zone. Minnesota built a 13-6 lead as the Bills defense held them to two field goals when they were inside the five yard line both times. A lighting quick drive in the final two minutes of the half culminated with the first touchdown of Josh Reed's career as Drew Bledsoe found him in the middle of the end zone for a 9 yard score. The Vikings would move down the field but Brien would miss his field goal as the half ended.
The first half ended with both teams going up and down the field and that was just the beginning. The Bills had long since abandoned the running game and Bledsoe was on his way to a career and club record 463 yards passing. He would complete 35 of 49 passes for three scores and more importantly no interceptions. However, the team went three and out on their opening possession of the third quarter and Dwayne Bates 61 yard punt return setup a Randy Moss score and the Vikings led 20-13. As the Bills fans started screaming for the head of special teams coach Danny Smith the Bills quieted their fans as Rogers countered with his 90 yard kick return for a score that is as easy as they come to tie the game again.
The Bills defense meanwhile was alternating between giving up chunks of yardage and scores and coming up with plays. Kendrick Office recovered a Culpepper fumble on the Vikings next possession and that setup one of Hollis' chip shot field goal that gave the Bills the 23-20 lead. Minnesota was undaunted as they went right down the field to a 29 yard touchdown pass to a wide open Bates the missed extra point gave them a three point lead at the end of the third quarter.
The Bills went three and out and the defense made another big play as Aaron Schobel had one of his three sacks and Pat Williams helped him cause the fumble, Williams tried to pick it up and bobbled it but Edwards landed on it in the end zone to give the Bills the 30-26 lead. The Vikings would come right back driving down field 82 yards in 13 plays to recapture the lead on Derrick Alexander's 5 yard touchdown reception. Brien missed his second extra point and the Vikings led 32-30.
Bledsoe would not be denied on this day however as he led the Bills on a 10 play 78 yard drive that ended with the first of two Price touchdowns a three yard catch in the back of the end zone. The rookie, Reed had two big catches on the drive and drew a face mask penalty but his costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the failed two point conversion attempt setup Minnesota in good field position trailing 36-32.
Culpepper had no problems moving the ball the 60 yards to the two yard scoring run by Moe Williams to give the Vikings the 39-36 lead with :26 left. He left the Bills with too much time however since the Bills had three timeouts left. Bledsoe hit Larry Centers for 13 yards, Reed for 8 and then Price for 8 more setting up Hollis' 54 yarder off the crossbar and through to send the game to overtime.
The Bills defense clamped down in overtime holding Minnesota to three and outs on both their possessions as the Vikings got surprisingly conservative in the extra session. The Bills were forced to punt on their opening possession of the extra session despite moving the ball downfield. They continued to move it on their second possession but on a first and five play at the Minnesota 19, Bledsoe was sacked. The Vikings defense clamped down after that and Hollis was forced to kick from 44 yards instead of a closer kick and he missed it wide left.
Bledsoe and Price decided to take the game into their own hands on their final possession as it took only two plays to go 76 yards and the winning score. Bledsoe hit Jay Riemersma for a 28 yard pickup setting up the pass over the middle to Price that resulted in the winning 48 yard score.
The question mark with this team was that they didn't know how to win. It was beginning to look like that would be the case today, but somehow the Bills found a way to win which will go a long way in the development of this football team. With Bledsoe at quarterback this team is never out of it. The defense showed its shortcomings against a very good offensive football team being torched for 449 yards but they also made big plays with three sacks and three fumble recoveries and a score. The special teams struggled again on coverage but also made a big play. Back to back overtime games, one win and one loss, if it goes this way the rest of the year then Bills fans will need to check with their cardiologists as the Bills play some of the most exciting football ever seen in Buffalo.
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