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Bills finish Regular Season on High Note 45-33
by Steve Saslow
December 28, 1998
The Bills showed up in "the Big Easy" with little to play for but managed to pull out an impressive 45-33 win while resting starters and injured players. Two Saints touchdowns after recovering on-side kicks in the final two minutes made the score closer then it should have been.
The Bills exploded early opening up a 28-0 lead less than three minutes into the second quarter. Three plays in to the game Bruce Smith picked up a fumble by Kerry Collins after a Shawn Price sack and rumbled to the one yard line. That set up an Antowain Smith dive to get the ball rolling. Beleagured backup QB Rob Johnson took it from there, playing an excellent game throwing three touchdown passes and running for another to lead the Bills. His 66 yard TD pass to Eric Moulds built the lead up to 14-0. Johnson then scampered for a 12 yard touchdown followed by a one yard pass to Sam Gash.
With the hugh lead early in the second quarter the Bills started substituting freely and they lost some focus in letting the Saints cut the lead in half just before halftime. Johnson showed some poise in leading the team to a field goal on the first possession of the third quarter to let the Saints know they weren't getting back in the game. The Saints pulled within 10 points and tried a suprise on-side kick which backup linebacker Joe Cummings scooped up and rumbled the distance for the touchdown. It was called back because of a stupid unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Manny Martin for grabbing a player by the helmet. The real stupid part of it, was that the player never would have caught Cummings anyway. Johnson again showed poise by hitting Lonnie Johnson for a touchdown to save Martin from being the goat. Jonathan Linton took over from there running for 60 yards on 13 carries including his first NFL touchdown giving the Bills a 45-21 lead before the special teams and defense went to sleep to let the final score look respectable
The Bills could've just laid down for this one and took what some people thought would be the easier road through Jacksonville in the playoffs. I think they did the right thing trying to win the game while resting players that needed it. They accomplished all their goals. They go into the playoffs on a high note with an impressive win, players rested, and not suffering any serious injuries.
Rob Johnson reminded people yesterday that the Bills did not waste their money on him and he definitely is the QB of the future. It was Flutie's outstanding play and not bad play by Johnson that got him demoted. Johnson made few mistakes and threw the Ball very well. His one downfall continued to be the failure to avoid sacks. Many of those sacks were not his fault as the Offensive Line failed to protect him as well as the protect Flutie. It also hurt that the Saints have a ferocious front seven.
This team is ready for the playoffs a goal that seemed uncomprehensiable after the 0-3 start. The Bills could make some noise in the post season but keep this mind, they will have to do it on the road where they haven't beaten a winning team all year.
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