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Poor Execution Costs Bills 17-10
by Steve Saslow
December 20, 1998

The difference in this game at Ralph Wilson Stadium was the Bills failure to make big plays and the Jets ability to make one very big one. Dedric Ward's 71 yard touchdown reception in the third quarter was the winning points. Ward beat Donovan Greer who was replacing injured corner Thomas Smith. Greer went for the ball and missed giving Ward clear sailing to the end zone.

The Bills could have overcome that play if they weren't failing to execute when they had the ball. The Bills drove right down the field on the first possession of the game mixing up the pass with the run, but Antowain Smith fumbled the ball over to the Jets after getting enough for a first down inside the 20. It was the Jets turned to march downfield and they put it in the end zone on a pass to Wayne Chrebet.

The first drives by each team set the tone for the whole game. The Bills dominated the game statistically outgaining the Jets 366-269 yards but two turnovers and the failure to execute routine plays cost the Bills the game. Doug Flutie seemed to be out of his rhythm the whole day overthrowing a wide open Eric Moulds for what would of been a sure touchdown and constantly missing Andre Reed on out patterns that they have run perfectly in previous weeks. The Receivers also did their part dropping many passes including Mould's inability to hold on to a sure tying touchdown late in the game. Otis Smith got his hand on it to knock it away but that wouldn't have happened if Moulds pulls it in cleanly. The next play Flutie was apparently intercepted by Victor Green off of a tipped pass that should of been caught by Kevin Williams. Replays showed the refs blew it again and it wasn't picked off but they gave it to them anyway. Kevin Williams and Quinn Early dropped passes as the Bills were missing Reed down the stretch when he left with a hamstring injury. Flutie completed just two passes in the entire second half.

Bills Notes:

  • Antowain Smith's fumble was only the 6th fumble lost this year. The fewest ever for the club is nine in the strike shortened 1982 season. The 20 giveaways are the lowest ever by the team with one game to go. The club record is 21 giveaways in 1990.

  • The Bills have topped 300 yards in offense in six straight games. That is the longest streak since 1992.

  • Thurman Thomas has passed Jerry Butler and moved into fourth place on the club's all time receiving list.

  • Despite getting hurt Andre Reed played in his 223rd game. That is the most games played in a Bills uniform.
  • The game plan was to throw to Kevin Williams anytime he was in the game, the plan failed as he caught only three passes the whole game including only one in the second half when he was in the game full time. He also dropped numerous passes. The Tight Ends only had two balls thrown their way the whole game.

  • Steve Christie kicked his 22nd field goal of the season to tie a club record held by Scott Norwood

  • The Bills became the fourth team in NFL history to make the playoffs after an 0-3 start. One other team made the playoffs after an 0-4 start.

  • For the sixth straight game the Bills defense held an opponent to under 100 yards rushing and the ninth in 15 games.

My Take:

The Jets didn't beat the Bills this weekend the Bills lost to the Jets. For the first time since Flutie took over the Bills forgot to do the little things. They dropped many passes and Flutie constantly threw bad passes when he had receivers open. The difference of the game was the Bills turned the ball over twice and didn't get any turnovers themselves.

I wrote in my preview that I was worried about Donovan Greer taking Thomas Smith's spot in the lineup. He played well except for one very big play when he went for the ball and gave up a touchdown. If Smith isn't hurt we may still be playing now. For the first time this year an injury caught up to the team and they weren't able to overcome it.

It also seemed like the Bills couldn't get any breaks at all. It seemed every close call went against them. A big sack by Bruce Smith was called back by illegal use of the hands penalty against Henry Jones. Kevin Williams came down with a toe nail out of bounds on one catch. The biggest close call was a bad call. Victor Green never caught a deflected pass that was ruled an interception late in the game with the Bills driving. Even if the officials ruled it incomplete it would've been 4th down and the Bills would've went for it and there is no telling if they would have got the first down and scored a touchdown. The way things were going for them I don't think they would've tied the game there let alone win it.

The Bills are in the playoffs anyway but the Patriots win leaves the Bills having to root for the Jets to beat the Pats next week so the Bills will have a chance at a home playoff game.

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