Total team collapse as Bills lose must win game.
by Steve Saslow
Nov. 24, 2002
This was a game that both teams had to have. As it turned out the Jets wanted it more...way more. The Jets totally dominated the Bills enroute to a 31-13 whitewash of Buffalo. Curtis Martin ran for 120 yards as the Jets rolled up 325 yards of total offense. Drew Bledsoe threw two interceptions and turned it over on a fumble in the devastating loss.
It started nice for the Bills as they drove down the field on the opening kickoff but as has been their problem recently, they struggled in the red zone and had to settle for a 43 yard field goal that bounced off the crossbar and through. That would be the last lucky bounce the Bills would receive, as it was all Jets from that point on, with the exception of a small surge in the third quarter.
The Jets ran the ball right down the field on their next possession to a tying field goal. A Bledsoe pass went off the hands of Jay Riemersma on the Bills next possession and was picked off. That setup another John Hall field goal but Chris Watson roughed him on the kick and the Jets took the points off the board and would score a touchdown instead to go up 10-3. The Watson penalty drew the wrath of Coach Williams who seems to be more disheveled in recent weeks on the sidelines. He was seen screaming at special teams coordinator Danny Smith after Watson made the boneheaded play.
Bledsoe would throw his second pick as the Bills were moving downfield on their next possession. The Jets then promptly drove down field mostly on the legs of Curtis Martin and a 28 yard pass to Lavernaues Coles who burned Watson for the catch. A Martin 9 yard scoring run gave the Jets a 17-3 lead at halftime.
The Bills needed to make adjustments at halftime but seemed to have given up as they came out flat in third quarter. The Jets needed just 4 plays to go 65 yards thanks to a face mask penalty on Eddie Robinson and a touchdown pass from Chad Pennington to Coles and suddenly it was 24-3.
The Bills then had their only surge of the game scoring 10 unanswered points. A 9 play, 69 yard drive in 5:00 pulled the Bills to within two touchdowns as Travis Henry scored from one yard out. He was the only player to play with heart on this day. He left the team yesterday to attend his grandmother's funeral, got in late last night, got knocked woozy in the first quarter on a hit by Sam Cowart and he still managed to be the best player on the field on this day for Buffalo. He ran well and was Bledsoe's main target in the passing game catching seven dump off passes. Unfortunately with the Jets blowing the Bills out early, Henry couldn't be more effective.
The Bills defense forced their only three and out after Henry's score and the Bills promptly moved downfield as the seized some momentum. That was when the red zone woes struck again when Bledsoe misfired on a third down pass to Josh Reed. Mike Hollis hit his second field goal of the game but down by 11 instead of 7 was enough to deflate the Bills and that was the point when everyone realized the Bills were not going to comeback in this game. They probably should have gambled on 4th and 8 and tried to get a touchdown instead of settling for the field goal late in the third quarter and a 24-13 deficit.
The Jets were rejuvenated by the stop in the red zone and had a long 11 play time consuming drive to the clinching score. The Bills had one last chance to stay in the game as the Jets had the guts to go for it on 4th and goal at the one and Pennington totally faked out Robinson as he walked in for the clinching touchdown. If Robinson stops him there, the Bills have a glimmer of hope but once Pennington scored the game was over.
It was a total meltdown for the Bills as the defense was run over and the offense failed to score more than one touchdown for the third straight game. For all the talking the Bills special teams did this week they didn't back it up as Chad Morton had some very nice returns. The Bills will tell you they still have a chance at the playoffs but it is obvious now that this team has taken a step backwards from early in the year. This team was supposed to gel around this time of year, instead they are falling apart. Their third straight loss in effect ends the dream of a playoff berth. Now the team must find a way to end the tidal wave and regain some confidence that is no doubt lost. They need to do it quickly with division leading Miami coming to town this week.
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