Three fourth quarter touchdowns lifts Raiders to win.
by Steve Saslow
Oct. 6, 2002
This matchup was destined to be a high scoring affair and it lived up to its billing. The Bills and Raiders matched scores blow for blow for three quarters before a Phillip Buchanon 81 yard interception return for a score gave the Raiders control of the game enroute to a 49-31 win over the Bills.
After a slow start both teams combined for six touchdowns in less than 15 minutes as the game was tied at 21 at the half. It was as good as advertised once the teams got rolling. The Raiders scored late in the first quarter to open up the floodgates. Drew Bledsoe would then get the offense moving on an 11 play, 80 yard drive to a Peerless Price touchdown to tie the game at 7. Price rebounded from a quiet game last week to catch 7 balls for 126 yards and a score.
The two teams would trade touchdowns two more times in the second quarter on long drives. The Raiders regained the lead on a Rich Gannon one yard touchdown run setup by a 33 yard pass play to Jerry Rice and a 35 yard run by Charlie Garner. The Bills would tie it at 14 on a Dave Moore two yard touchdown reception setup by a 38 yard pass to Josh Reed. The Raiders countered equally as quick, when Garner exploded through the middle for a 36 yard touchdown run. Garner was a nemisis of the Bills all day gaining 177 yards running and receiving.
The Bills would respond with a five play, 98 yard drive just before halftime as Larry Centers broke a tackle and scored from five yards out. The score was setup by the longest play from scrimmage for the Bills this year, a 54 yard bomb to Price.
With the score tied at 21 at the half the game was living up to expectations. Neither team could stop the other, and that continued in the second half as the teams combined for 974 yards, the Raiders had 495 of them. Turnovers would be the deciding factor on this day though and they came from the right arm of Bledsoe. After the Bills gained the lead for the first time on a Mike Hollis field goal, the first of three Bledsoe interceptions started the unraveling of the Bills. The interception by Troy James ended a club record streak of 176 passes without an interception. This pick resulted in a Zack Crockett touchdown run and gave the Raiders the lead back at 28-24.
The Bills offense also had their moments and long drives on this day, as they answered right back with an 8 play, 80 yard drive to a 2 yard touchdown run by Travis Henry. Another long pass setup this score as Bledsoe found Eric Moulds for 21 yards. Moulds had another eight catch performance for 121 yards as he continues to be among league leaders in every receiving category. The Henry score gave the Bills the lead back at 31-28 as the third quarter came to an end but the fourth quarter would show why the Raiders are undefeated.
After an exchange of punts, the high powered attack of the silver and black showed some big play ability of their own as a miscommunication in coverage allowed Garner to get wide open for a 69 yard catch and run for a touchdown to give the Raiders the lead back at 35-31.
The Bills were again driving for another possible go ahead score as this game was looking eerily similar to others this year until Bledsoe showed he was human once again. After having a pass nearly intercepted by Buchanon, who was subbing for the injured Charles Woodson, Bledsoe went to the same play again. This time Buchanon picked off the pass, made a nice move, and streaked down the sideline for the clinching score. The Raiders would add another quick scoring drive as Rice scored from 20 yards out for the final points.
The Bills played very well for three quarters but collapsed down the stretch against to a superior team. The Bills are much improved but they aren't one of the better teams in the league and not a playoff contender with the porous defense that they have. Bledsoe threw for over 400 yards for the second time this year but showed he was human with three interceptions. With the defense being as bad as it is, Bledsoe needs to be superman for the Bills to beat a team the caliber of Oakland.
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