The Buffalo Bills playoff hopes were squished by the Miami Dolphins when the Fish demolished the Bills 33-6. It was a pathetic effort by both the Bills offensive and defensive units as the Dolphins ran over the Bills right from the get-go.
The Dolphins came out of the gate ready to exploit the Bills injury-plagued defense and they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. The Bills were using the injury excuse even before they took the field. In fact, they had been prepping their fans and media all week with their "poor us" attitude.
Bills coach Wade Phillips did a appalling job in getting the team prepared for the most important game of the season. There wasn't anything in the game plan to give Bills quarterback Rob Johnson more time than he had in the first meeting between the two clubs. As a result, the Dolphins sacked Johnson 5 times and took away his favorite receiver Eric Moulds at the same time.
On the defensive side of the ball, it was well known to all what the Bills weaknesses were. With Sam Rogers, Sam Cowart, and Keion Carpenter out of the lineup, the Dolphins made their game plan to exploit the new players replacing them.
"Our game plan was to come out and run the ball effectively and really test the young linebackers that were in there," Fiedler said. "We put ourselves in a great position right now."
Phillips put some of the blame on the younger players replacing Cowart, Rogers and Carpenter.
"Guys (the replacements) just haven't been playing enough, and they make mistakes," said Phillips. "We didn't handle the ball well defensively, and that's obvious. It's not indicative of the way we played before, but I don't think the whole game was."
Phillips was not a buoyant man when he addressed the media during his post game conference. He looked like he just learned that his best friend had died.
"Obviously we hadn't had a bad game all year until this one, and this was no contest," Phillips raised a few eyebrows when he made that opening statement.
First bad game of the year? What were the other 5 losses, joyrides?
"They've got a great defensive team that plays tremendously well against the pass," a humbled Phillips said. "You let them get ahead, and you fall right into letting them do what they do well. It was obvious after they got ahead ...that's's where we were. There are no excuses, we had some guys that didn't make plays who we had hoped would."
Phillips may have seen the handwriting on the wall before the conference. It is obvious that Bills GM John Butler passed on some harsh words uttered from Bills owner Ralph Wilson. Whether Wilson allows Phillips to continue coaching the team until the end of the season remains to be seen. One thing is certain, though. If Phillips is to save his job, he has to turn this team around 180 degrees starting with next week's MNF game in Indianapolis.
After the way the Dolphins devoured the Bills, the Miami team should be called the Sharks. The Fish drew first blood and that attracted all the other sharks for the kill.
Lamar Smith set the tone of the game immediately when he took the opening handoff and ripped off left tackle for 22 yards. On the next 3 play, he slashed off gains of 9, 11, 3 and 3 before Jay Fiedler hooked up with Leslie Shepherd for 13 yards to the Buffalo 3. After two plays, Fielder hit the man who started the drive, Smith on a 6-yard touchdown pass.
"That first drive meant a lot to us," emphasized Smith. "We got together as an offensive unit and we told each other we're going to take this ball right down the field and score, no matter what."
"We talked about it, and we went out there and did it," said Smith who ran six times for 45 yards and capped it off with the TD reception. "It's really satisfying for us."
That opening drive was the epitome of the entire game. From there, the Dolphins wrecked havoc with not only the Bills defense but shutdown Rob Johnson and his offense. Johnson drove the Bills down to the Miami 13 on their opening drive, but had a pass in the endzone picked off by Patrick Surtain. From then on, it was all downhill for Johnson and the offense.
Fiedler orchestrated a 7 play, 63-yard drive in the second quarter which was capped off by another 6-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Oronde Gadsden. After the Dolphins got a field goal from Olindo Mare from 32 yards out, Fiedler led the Fish to another score on just three plays with the first half coming to a close. Fiedler connected with Tony Martin for 39 yards down to the Bills 18 before Kevin Irvin brought him down.
After a 4-yard completion to Smith, Fiedler hit Shepherd on a 14-yard strike to put the Dolphins up 24-0 at halftime.
It was complete domination by Miami and the Bills went into the dressing room with their tails between their legs. This was a time for a head coach to challenge his team to rise to the occasion. Images of Vince Lombardi and Mike Ditka come to mind in this situation. Would they have meekly tired to smooth talk their team out of their doldrums? Even Marv Levy probably had harsher words at halftime during the wildcard game against the Oilers in the early 90s which helped the Bills turn the game completely around in the greatest comeback in NFL history. If Phillips did give the team a pep talk at half time, it apparently put them to sleep.
"I told them we had a chance to come back, and I wanted them to start playing," an obviously flustered Phillips said. "We played better (in the second half), but we were really out of the game. You give them a 24 point lead…they're awfully good."
Phillips' docile halftime speech for his bumbling team didn't rouse them from their slumber as they came out for the second half still seeking shelter from the Dolphin attack.
Mare kicked two more field goals of 31 and 20 yards to put the Dolphins 30-0 and Phillips finally decided to pull Johnson who was having a horrendous game. Not only did Johnson get sacked 5 times, but after the first couple of drives in which he did get Buffalo in scoring position, he was largely ineffective. Johnson was unable to connect with his main weapon Eric Moulds all day.
Flutie came in and was able to ignite at least a little spark. He finally was able to get Moulds his first completion of the game when he hooked up with the Bills leading receiver on a 22-yard pass that got the Bills down to the Dolphins 2-yard line. Antowain Smith plowed up the middle for a 1 yard touchdown. The Bills tried the two point conversion, but Smith was stopped short.
At that point the game was over. The fans started flocking to the exits, extremely disappointed that their team didn't even show up for the most important game of the season. A lot of them were calling for Phillips' head.
The numbers game
This was absolutely the worst game in Rob Johnson's pro career. He completed only 6 out of 18 passes for a mere 44 yards. The 44 yards are usually made in one play when Johnson is hot. Sunday he definitely was not. He also threw two interceptions, the worst one coming on the Bills opening drive. Buffalo started from its own 22 and drove all the way down to the Dolphin 13, largely on the powerful running by Shawn Bryson, and a 11-yard pass to Peerless Price. However, on third down, Johnson's pass into the right corner of the endzone was picked off by Patrick Surtain ending the first and best drive until Flutie took over the controls. The interception was the first Johnson had thrown in 114 passes. That pick seemed to deflate the will of the Bills offense and inflated the drive of the crazed Dolphins.
"Obviously the first drive hurt us, but in the first quarter you don't think it's going to cost you the game," said Johnson.
The Dolphins sacked the Bills Qbs six times, with Johnson getting hauled down on five of those.
Shawn Bryson had a respectable game gaining 88 yards on 12 carries. Antowain Smith also did fairly well, especially on the opening drive. He ran 10 times for 39 yards.
For the Dolphins, Lamar Smith cracked the century mark, 100 yards on 28 carries. He also caught a touchdown pass. Jay Fiedler, coming off an injury, had a impressive game, completing 13 out of 21 for 214 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Wade Phillips was in a very somber mood when he addressed the media after the beating his team took from the Dolphins.
"Well, there are no excuses," Phillips said. "We had a lot of people out, and that factored into how we played…We've played every ball game (until now) right into the fourth quarter and had a chance to win, and this one we didn't."
"I can't remember anything worse being down, what, 27 or 24 at halftime? No, I can't remember anything worse," said John Holecek. "Offensively and defensively, it was all a miserable effort by us."
"We had no chance, once we got behind we couldn't make it up," Phillips added. "And they deserve some credit too, they've got a good team that, again, if they get ahead and force you into passing situations….we've thrown the ball well against everybody but we couldn't against them."
Rob Johnson will be trying to forget this game quickly. It was his worst outing ever and was yanked in the fourth quarter when the Bills fell behind 30-0.
"I would've liked to have stayed in with the guys," Johnson said. "We were all getting our butts kicked out there. It's not a fun situation to be out in."
It was the first time that Johnson was pulled because of poor play this season.
"You always want to rally, Johnson said. "But I understood it."
When asked if he was shell shocked, Johnson retorted, "I'm not shell shocked at all, we just got thoroughly outplayed in the passing game. I thought we ran the ball well, I just thought they took it to us in the passing game."
The two receivers Johnson depends on the most, Jay Riemersma and Eric Moulds, were nowhere to be seen in the Dolphin secondary.
"They did a great job of knowing our offense and knowing exactly what we were trying to do," said Moulds, who had only two grabs against the Dolphins. "They ran a different scheme today with the safeties playing wide than they have in the past and they got a good rush and stopped us the whole day."
Riemersma, the Bills big tight end only had one catch for ten yards.
"We need to go out and make some adjustments," said Riemersma. "Offensively, it's very obvious that we struggled today against a pretty solid defense, but we still struggled. We are going to have to get these things corrected or it's going to be a very long season."
The season has already become so long that it's practically over, for the Bills anyway. At 7-6, the Bills will have to win all three of their remaining games to just have the remotest chance of gaining a wildcard beth. Beating the Indianapolis Colts before a Monday Night Football audience could be an even harder task than the Bills faced at home against the Dolphins.
Copyright © 2000 Bills Thunder & Rick Anderson, all rights reserved.
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