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Bitter end to a bitter season
Mercifully, the 2001 season is over for the Bills.
by Rick Anderson, webmaster of Bills Thunder
January 7, 2002

Mercifully, the 2001 Buffalo Bills season is over. It has to go down as one of the most disastrous seasons, if not the worst, in Bills history. The Bills ended 3-13, only one game better than the much talked about years of gloom in the 1980s when they fell to 2-14. The Bills were blown away 34-7 by the Miami Dolphins to finally put to rest a horrendous season.

What went wrong with this team that was 8-8 last season? So many things went wrong for the Bills last season that a more appropriate question should be "What went right? I don't think you can look back on the season and pick out a lot of good things," articulated quarterback Alex Van Pelt

There were a few bright spots in an otherwise gloomy year. Rookie running back Travis Henry showed that he can be a big factor in the Bills plans for the future. Shawn Bryson also looked sharp in the two games before Sunday's game with the Dolphins, when he had two consecutive games over 100 yards. Alex Van Pelt did an adequate job coming in when starting quarterback Rob Johnson went down with a broken collar bone. First round draft choice Nate Clements showed some promise this year and will be one of the central pieces in the Bills defense for years to come.

After that, there wasn't too much to cheer about in the first season of Bills head coach Gregg Williams. He proclaimed the world when he first took over, promising everything from making the playoffs to a good shot at the Super Bowl. He also said that he would improve a defense that had finished #1 and #3 in the two previous years. The defense went south after the loss of key personnel like Ted Washington, Sam Rogers, Marcellus Wiley and Henry Jones because of the clean sweep employed by Williams and new Bills GM Tom Donahoe.

The offense continued to struggle all year under the realm of Johnson, and actually improved after Van Pelt came in. But all in all, the Bills completely collapsed this past season. The gutting of veteran talent is one of the main reasons, along with an entire new coaching staff that wouldn't even make the grade with the University of Buffalo.

Dolphins lambast Bills

The Bills game against the Dolphins went exactly the way the season did. Van Pelt was injured early in the game when he went down hard on his shoulder. That left third-string quarterback Travis Brown as the Bills signal caller. For not having any playing at all this season and having attempted one pass in his entire NFL career, Brown did a commendable job.... until the final play of the game. With the clock ticking down, Brown's pass at the goal line was picked off by Brock Marion and he returned it 100 yards to rub salt in the Bills wounds.

Brown had another interception, but he did show some promise when he led the Bills down on an 84-yard touchdown drive. He completed 15 of 33 attempts for 201 yards. His touchdown pass went to Larry Centers, who grabbed the 12-yard pass in the back of the endzone in the early part of the second half.

The Bills could not get their running attack going as the Dolphins geared their attack to stopping Bryson. Buffalo could only muster 39 yards on 17 carries.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, came out at full throttle. Jay Fiedler only passed 16 times, but completed 9 for 110 yards and one TD. The most impressive Dolphin was Lamar Smith, who churned up158 yards on the Bills D and scored a touchdown.

"There were big holes," commented Fiedler about the Bills tattered defense. "Lamar was hitting them hard, getting into the secondary and banging off hits, the stuff we saw last year. It was the right time for him to come on."

Smith had a 6 yard touchdown run in the second quarter, sandwiched by two Olindo Mare field goals. After Centers scored the lone Bills points, the Fish went on the attack again. James Mcknight received a 16 yard pass from Fiedler making it 27-7 in the third quarter.

Brown got the Bills down in the red zone twice late in the game, but the Bills came up empty both times. It was an example of the Red Zone blues the Bills suffered all season.

Now the Bills can start the off season early and reflect on one of their worst seasons ever. There are so many holes in the organization, from top to bottom, that it makes Swiss cheese look like a brick wall.

"We need to take a couple weeks to clear our heads and put it all behind us," commented Bills linebacker Jay Foreman.

Bills Talk

Williams, who started the training camp this year talking like a Marine drill sergeant, was still tooting his horn after this dismal season. "We have a lot to do in the offseason," Williams said. "But we've come a long way, too."

After that statement, you could hear coughing and amazement in the media gathering. "Nine of our last 12 games have been very competitive," Williams boasted. "We were extremely competitive until that penalty (cornerback Lance Brown terribly timed late hit of Fiedler keeping the drive alive).

"That was key because we're right back in the ballgame and we're off the field," Williams went on. "They were going to punt and we're six points down. It was a critical, critical penalty that hurt us. When we pressed to get back into the game, our younger players committed some turnovers negating some significant big-play opportunities."

The Bills players themselves were not sugar-coating the loss or the season. "Don't sugar coat it," said Centers. "This team has some big-time work to do, some holes to fill, some attitude adjustments to make. That's overall to the man. Players, coaches, everybody. We have to find a way to develop an butt-kicking mentality that we haven't had this year."

Even Eric Moulds, who had a less than stellar season, admits he has to pick up his game next year. "A lot of guys, including myself, we still have a lot of growing up to do," said Moulds. "We haven't learned how to win like back in the day when the Bills were going to all those Super Bowls. We've got to find those ways."

Centers took an indirect shot at the Bills offensive coaches lack of ability to make game adjustments. "We were unable to get to the outside on the run due to the defensive front that Miami was putting up," complained Centers. "We didn't make the proper adjustments early enough and that really caused us to stagger, especially in the first half."

Eleven-year veteran defensive lineman Phil Hansen decided to call it quits after this game. Now only John Fina remains from the Super Bowl years. "Playing in the NFL, especially with the Buffalo Bills, has been nothing short of a privilege," said a reflectful Hansen. I've just enjoyed it immensely. My goal when I came into the NFL was to play for 10 years - I just threw that number out there. I got to stay for 10 years, plus one."

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