Nothing comes easy for the Buffalo Bills these days. It took a gallant effort by two of the Bills hurting offensive guns to snatch a victory out of the hands of the formerly hapless Cincinnati Bengals.
After their offense sputtered for 3 quarters Sunday against the Bengals, the Bills finally got rolling, coming from behind to force an overtime. Then, after the defense forced the Bengals 3 and out, the Bills drove the ball down the Bengals throats and Travis Henry scored the winning touchdown from two yards out, giving the Bills a 22-16 triumph.
Henry, who missed the previous game with torn rib cartilage, played a courageous game, gaining 85 yards on 25 carries and scored two huge touchdowns, including the game winner.
"I just wanted to come out and help the football team," Henry said after the game, nursing his sore ribs. "I was going to do anything in my power and get on the field and give the team a boost."
Eric Moulds also was playing hurt at the end of the game. He suffered a groin pull after turning in a 28-yard reception that set up Henry's winning score.
"It (the groin) had been bothering me a little the whole game," admitted Moulds, but he stayed on the field to help win the game after his overtime catch.
The Bills offense, which has been almost inert the past two weeks, looked even worse against the Bengals for the first three quarters. Drew Bledsoe had a horrendous effort during that stretch, overthrowing receivers and not getting the Bills down the field except for one first quarter drive that suddenly came to a halt, forcing a field goal. At one point, Bledsoe had 8 straight incompletions. It wasn't entirely his fault as his receivers were dropping their share of balls thrown to them.
Bledsoe was also sacked 3 times, all by Bengals left defensive tackle Duane Clemons. He got to Bledsoe two times in a row deep in Bills territory in the fourth quarter.
The Bengals, who had beaten the Browns the week before, appeared on the verge of their second straight upset when the Bills finally caught fire.
Cincinnati took a 16-13 lead after a huge error by Coy Wire almost gift-wrapped the game for the Bengals. The Bills defense had held on third down, forcing the Bengals to punt when Wire flew into the punter, drawing the flag for 15 yards, giving the Bengals new life. They converted that into a tying touchdown and then drove down for a field goal the next possession with just a little over 5 minutes remaining.
Bledsoe then came out of his 3-game funk and led the Bills down on a long drive which resulted in a 29-yard Rian Lindell field goal with 28 seconds left to force the overtime.
The Bills offense which had been curtailed for two straight games against the Dolphins and Eagles, were once again a no-show against the Bengals. Bledsoe was so bad that he was the first Bill out on the field for the second half so he could get some throwing practice in. He knew that he would have to pick up his game or the Bills were going to lose their third game in a row.
The Bills got a huge break when Aaron Schobel picked off a tipped pass and got down to the Bengals 36 yard line. From there, the Bills drove down and Bledsoe found Henry for a 9 yard touchdown pass.
During the Bills drive to tie the game at the end of regulation, the Bills had to convert a couple of fourth downs. On the first one, Bledsoe found Bobby Shaw on the left side and Shaw came down just inbounds with both feet on a nifty 14-yard play and Eric Moulds turned another 4th down into a first down, setting up Lindell's tying field goal.
In overtime, the Bills roared down the field again, with Henry bursting through on a couple long gainers and then Bledsoe hit Moulds for a 28-yard pickup to the Cincy 7. However, Moulds pulled his groin muscle on the play when Bengals safety Kevin Kaesviharn pulled Moulds down by his facemask. After Henry scored the game-winner, Moulds stayed on the ground in agony as the groin was aggravated even more.
In describing the 28-yard reception when he first injured the groin, Moulds said "On that play when I tried to stop and stiff-arm the guy, he did a great job tackling. I couldn't get my feet together and that's when it happened."
Moulds insisted that he will be ready for the Jets next week noting his experience with groin injuries in the past.
Moulds caught 9 balls for 99 yards and along with Henry, shared the spotlight as the game's MVP.
Bledsoe, meanwhile, righted what could have been an even worse outing than against the Eagles when he rallied the Bills at the end of the game. He finished with 19 completions on 35 attempts for 211 yards and one TD.
The Big 3 of Moulds, Henry and Bledsoe came together when it mattered the most to prevent the Bengals from getting another upset victory.
"It was almost a desperation situation for us," Bledsoe insisted. "We had to win to stay in the middle of the race in our division."
Moulds was in awe over the courage that Henry displayed on the field playing with his pain.
"He's a warrior," lauded Moulds. "If we could everyone on this team to play like this guy when he's hurt we can do great things."
Henry admitted that he was in a lot of pain, especially at the end of the game when he played like the Henry of old and scored the winning touchdown.
"I was in a lot of pain," Henry admitted after the game. "Throughout the first quarter I was all right. But when we got deep in the game it started hurting bad, but I got through. The most important thing is that we got the win.
"I just took one shot before the game, that's it. It didn't last the game, it wore off in like the third or fourth quarter, but I made it through. I knew I had to be in the game for us to win the game. My teammates were behind me. I knew I had to be on the field, and they knew I had to be on the field. We pulled together and got a nice victory."
Bledsoe was in awe over the courage both Henry and Moulds displayed on the field, overcoming pain to ensure the crucial victory.
"It's amazing," described Bledsoe. "I sit at home and watch all these reality TV shows and all this stuff where they try and create drama and create heroes. But, to see Travis come back after an injury like that and to come in and play inspired football they way he did. That's really where you want to find your heroic things when you are watching TV, and it is real.
"Travis was very sore all week," Bledsoe continued, "and he is going to be really sore tomorrow, but he came in and it was just a studly performance by him, to come off the injury and come back to play as well as he did."
Bledsoe is always looking for Moulds to help him out of a jam.
"I think he is an absolute stud," Bledsoe described Moulds. "He comes up with the plays in crunch time when he needs to and he's done that for the time that I've been with him. He's always made a big play for us when we've needed him. I am going to try and find him whenever I can in those situations and I know that he will come up with the play for me."
Bledsoe is also confident that Moulds will take a page out of Henry's book and play with the pain next week against the Jets if he has to.
"I talked to him for just a second and he told me that he will be back on the field next week... and that's what I anticipate happening."
Moulds described the play, his 28-yard reception that set up Henry's touchdown run from the 2.
"We knew going into the game that they didn't want us to go deep against them so they wanted to over-play us on certain routes," described Moulds. "It was a great call by Kevin (Gilbride) to run that one and Drew made a great throw. I just had to make the catch and get as many yards as I could."
Takeo Spikes felt a little strange playing his first game against his former teammates.
"It was weird," Spikes said. "From day one, coming in as a rookie, the guys that you see are like your brothers. There is a special bond between all of us, between every last one of us. It was weird feeling like I wanted to take their heads off; it's just part of the game."
Copyright © 2003 Bills Thunder & Rick Anderson, all rights reserved.