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Vikings March Back To Remain Unbeaten
An article by Bills Thunder webmaster.
by Rick Anderson
October 22, 2000
The Buffalo Bills came just a couple minutes from upsetting the undefeated Minnesota Vikings, but a couple of big plays helped the Vikings become the only perfect team in the NFL as they came from behind to beat the Bills 31-27.
Doug Flutie, starting in place of the injured Rob Johnson, played a commendable game, completing 28 of 43 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns. In fact, Flutie had the Bills offense moving like a well-oiled machine after his first few passes were off their mark. Flutie looked sharp, especially in his 25-yard touchdown pass to Eric Moulds in the second quarter. He also hooked up with Sammy Morris on a 18-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. The Bills offense looked fluid and even the running game jived as Shawn Bryson ran for 72 yards on 11 carries and Morris picked up 31 on 14 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown dive to go along with his touchdown reception.
"We moved the ball efficiently, up and down the field," said Flutie. "We made one mistake late and it wound up costing us. We possessed the ball, they didn't have a lot of opportunities to score points and they made the most of them."
This was Flutie's day to prove himself to the many critics he has back in Buffalo that he still has some magic in his arm and legs. Flutie, who was starting his first game of the season one day before his 38th birthday, had a rusty start. However, after warming up, his passes were tight spirals and he kept the Viking defense honest, setting up the running game with his short to medium passes.
"I felt great, it was like riding a bike," gleamed Flutie. "I love playing the game, I like competing. We should have won it and even when they took the lead, I thought we'd win it."
While the Bills offense probably had its best game of the season, the defense fell down on the job and could not protect a 24-13 lead they had in the third quarter. Lapses in the Bills secondary hurt Buffalo with three touchdown passes by the Vikings sensation at quarterback Daunte Culpepper. The real back-breaker was a 39-yard Culpepper to Randy Moss pass that the Vikings receiver somehow caught in the back of the endzone while straddling the endzone chalk line.
"It came down to one play," Bills coach Wade Phillips contended after the game. "One play, and it's the difference in the game. We had two guys covering Moss. Obviously, we didn't have him covered."
However, there was another play that was of equal importance a little later on as the Bills were attempting to move up field after falling behind 28-27 in the fourth quarter. Flutie completed a pass to Peerless Price at the Bills 35 when Robert Tate popped the ball loose from Price's grasp. Minnesota recovered and drove down to the Bills five, setting up Gary Anderson's record shattering 21-yard field goal to ice the game. The field goal broke George Blanda's old record for most points. Now Anderson has 2,004 points and he broke the record against the team who originally drafted him.
"It was a tough loss for us," said Phillips during his post game conference. "We did a lot of good things in the ball game but not enough to win. We played our hearts out but made enough mistakes and didn't make the plays we needed to make and took a lot of penalties that hurt us."
The Vikings took the early lead in the game when they drove 51 yards in 8 plays. The key play in the drive was when Culpepper hit Moss with a 28-yard pass reception down to the Bills 33. The Bills defense held the Vikings and Anderson came on to kick one of his 3 field goals for the day.
In the second quarter, the Bills took the lead when Flutie threw a perfect pass to Moulds who caught the pass right at the goal line, beating the defender by a step. Moulds had another phenomenal game, catching 12 passes for 135 yards.
Flutie was able to engineer a couple of time-consuming drives in this game, the longest being in the second quarter when the Bills drove down the field 80 yards on 21 plays, eating up 10 minutes and 55 seconds. During that drive, Flutie completed passes of 9 yards to Jeremy McDaniel, 18 yards to Price along with some shorter tosses. However, the drive stalled and Steve Christie clanked his kick off the left goal post, but it ricocheted on the right side for a 26-yard field goal.
Anderson kicked his second field goal of the game before the first half ended after the Vikings decided not to attempt to go for the touchdown deep in Buffalo territory with time running out. That let the Bills go to halftime with a 10-6 lead.
The Vikings received the second half kickoff and marched 69 yards down the field to take the lead when Culpepper threw to a wide open Chris Carter in the right corner of the endzone. There wasn't a Bill anywhere in sight and Carter never had an easier touchdown. The Bills marched 80 yards on their next possession, reclaiming the lead at 17-13 on Sammy Morris' 1-yard run.
At the start of the fourth quarter, Sam Rogers intercepted a Culpepper pass and returned it ten yards down to the Minnesota 32. Bryson galloped 19 yards down to the Vikings 15 and Flutie his Morris on an 18-yard TD strike to put the Bills in command of the game, 24-13. Now if the defense could keep its end of the bargain, the Bills would have themselves a big upset.
The Bills defense started to falter under the laser like passes of Culpepper. He connected with Carter for 17 yard to the Buffalo 49, and 11 yards to Moss. After a 20-yard run by Smith, Culpepper hooked up with Carter again for an 11-yard TD strike putting the Vikings within reach of the Bills.
The Bills then drove down into Viking territory after Chris Watson returned the kickoff 33 yards to the Viking 49. Christie was called upon to kick a 48 yards and his kick was perfect for his longest of the season. With the Bills up 27-21, the defense was the key to preserving the upset.
Chris Mohr pooched a punt that was returned for 28 yards by Troy Waters, setting the Vikings up in great field position on the Bills 34. After a penalty set them back 5 yards, Culpepper threw a long ball right to the back of the endzone. That's where Moss tiptoed on the end line and made a remarkable catch with Ken Irvin Daryl Porter being victimized.
"It's called, 'Moss, go get it,"' described Moss. "I've always been a prime-time player. I think my name and my number speaks for itself."
After the Price fumble, the icing on the cake came when Anderson kicked himself into the record books with his 21-yard boot to put the Vikings up by 31-27. The Bills were able to get the ball back at their own 20 near the end of the game, but they had already used up all their timeouts. Flutie was able to get the Bills to midfield with five ticks left on the clock. Could he repeat his miracle he performed at Boston College ages ago?
When Flutie went back to attempt his "Hail Mary" pass, Moss was in the secondary to prevent a Bills sudden victory.
"I told myself nobody's going to catch this ball today," said Moss. "Not after how hard we worked today. No way."
Flutie hurled the ball as far as he could and it came down with around 6 players jumping high to retrieve it. The ball was battled down and the Vikings remained unbeaten. The Bills walked away with a 3-4 record and hopes of making the playoffs dwindling.
Next week they take on the Jets who are tied with the Miami Dolphins for first place at 5-1. Those two collide Monday night to determine the AFC East leader.
Copyright © 2000 Bills Thunder & Rick Anderson, all rights reserved.
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