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Christie kicks spark overtime win
An article by Bills Thunder webmaster.
by Rick Anderson
October 16, 2000

The Buffalo Bills escaped with their lives, but had to go to overtime to do it when they defeated the winless San Diego Chargers 27-24. Even though the Bills are taking the victory and running with it, there's a lot to criticize in the Bills effort against the now 0-7 Chargers. Being down by ten points, the Bills had to battle back to tie the game and a key interception by Henry Jones set up the winning 46-yard field goal by Steve Christie in the overtime.

It was the first time the Bills defeated the Chargers in Buffalo since the 1964 AFL title game, when the Bills won their first American Football League championship with a 20-7 victory over the Chargers. That was way back when Mike Stratton knocked out Keith Lincoln with the "tackle heard round the world." Since that glorious day, the Chargers had returned to Buffalo only 6 times, but had left as the victor each time.

The game played Sunday should not have come down to a field goal in overtime. By all rights, the Bills should have had a much easier time in beating the winless Chargers. But the usual inability of the offense to get on track along with Jim Harbaugh throwing two long touchdown strikes, and the Bills had a much more difficult time against the Chargers than most predicted.

Rob Johnson had a frustrating game, and to cap that off, he received a separated shoulder when he was taken down in the overtime and had to leave the game. In came Doug Flutie and he generated some magic, getting the Bills downfield by completing to key passes - a 9 yard throw to Peerless Price and a 21-yarder to Eric Moulds down to the San Diego 25. The pass to Moulds was the real back breaker for the Chargers, who had the lead for most of the second half. It set the stage for Christie to kick a 41 yard field goal to win the game. However, a false start pushed Christie's attempt back to 46 yards away. His kick was perfect and the Bills had avoided a most embarrassing defeat.

"You don't want to let your teammates down," said a rejuvenated Flutie. "You want to go in and give them the best opportunity to win -- don't make mistakes and make the couple of plays that you can. I just went in the last handful of plays and tried to execute to secure that, to take advantage of the opportunity the rest of the team had given us."

"We're totally stoked, very happy we got a win. We rallied," Johnson said after the game. "We hadn't played well all game, but when it was on the line, we made the plays and we got it into overtime."

It was a wild, but sloppy game as both teams committed 10 turnovers (4 by the Bills and 6 by the Chargers). The way the game was played, neither team actually deserved to win. It turned out that the one who recovered the last turnover won.

It was Canada Day at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and all the people from that great nation went away extremely happy. Not only did they get to see their hero Doug Flutie come in and direct the game winning drive, but a native Oakville, Ontario not only kicked the winning field goal, but booted the field goal to put the game into overtime in the first place.

Steve Christie may have had more memorable moments, like when he kicked the winning field goal in the greatest comeback in history against the Houston Oilers or the longest field goal in Super Bowl history. But kicking the last two field goals to tie and beat San Diego are still something special for the Bills kicker.

Although Johnson had a miserable game, he still put up some impressive stats. He completed 29 out of 47 attempts for a whopping 321 yards and one touchdown. He also had one picked off. But it was his mental mistakes that helped the Chargers make a game of it. Johnson wasted two timeouts in the second half when he couldn't get everyone on the same page. He also had the ball stripped out of his grasp during a scramble and Darryl Lewis recovered it and raced 29-yards to the Buffalo 17 in the third quarter. That resulted in a San Diego touchdown.

The kind of game Johnson was having would have sparked a big Flutie/Johnson debate this week even if he didn't hurt his shoulder in overtime. With the success that Flutie had in driving the Bills down the field to set up Christie's field goal would have fueled the debate even more if Johnson would have been able to play next week. Now that he's out for 2 to 4 weeks, Flutie will have his chance to prove to his critics that he still has some magic left. It is now his steer out of the troubled waters.

Along with Christie and Flutie's heroics, Eric Moulds had a career game with 11 catches for 170 yards receiving.

"Anytime your teammates look at you to step up, you need to go out there and put up the numbers and also do the little things that don't show up in the final stats," said Moulds. "We've really got to come out earlier and put points on the board and put teams away. We had the opportunity to do that today when we got up 14-3 and we need to work on that."

The Bills got the first break of the game when Sam Cowart intercepted a Harbaugh pass at the San Diego 48. Johnson was unable to even get the Bills in field goal range. However, punter Chris Mohr was able to kick the ball deep in the Chargers territory, and an Erik Flowers' sack of Harbaugh on the SD 7 forced the Chargers to punt from their end zone. This time the Bills took over at the Charger 40, but once again could not generate a drive. Bills coach Wade Phillips attempted a fake field goal and Mohr threw a long pass to a wide open Moulds, but the whistle had blown the play dead. The Bills were guilty with illegal procedure, so Mohr now had to punt.

Bills rookie defensive tackle Leif Larsen, playing his fist NFL game, made a late hit out of bounds and that kept a Charger drive alive. Harbaugh then connected with Curtis Conway for 12 yards and then hitched up with Jeff Graham for 11 yards that set up John Carney's 36-yard field goal to put the Chargers up 3-0.

The Bills got another turnover when Moses Moreno replaced Harbaugh at quarterback and he fumbled the snap on his first play under center. Pat Williams recovered the fumble at the Chargers 32 and on the very next play, Sammy Morris got the ball and ran into traffic, turned and raced around left end to find daylight. He rambled 32 yards for the touchdown, his second in two weeks.

"It was a run that was designed to go inside but the whole opened to the left," explained Morris. "The line did a great job of forcing everyone to stay inside and Jeremy (McDaniel) came in and made a great block and Moulds took out a couple guys downfield I believe and I just took it in from there. The offensive line made a great play out of what the defense gave us."

Charger head coach Mike Riley has been experimenting with a two-quarterback system and he put Moreno back in. Cowart was once again in on a fumble as he sacked Moreno for an 8-yard loss and popped the ball out. Sam Rogers recovered the ball at the San Diego 17. The Bills drove down to the 5 yard line and Jonathan Linton plowed down near the goal line. As he reached for the goal line, the ball bounced into the endzone where Jerry Ostroski was able to pounce on it for his first career NFL touchdown. After that, Riley decided to abandon his failed two-quarterback experiment and stick with Harbaugh.

"Bad decision by me," Riley said about bringing in Moreno. "It was unfortunate. I would never have expected that. I still have a lot of confidence in (Moreno). I just felt we couldn't let it go on any longer."

Harbaugh came in and produced some magic of his own in helping the Chargers battle back from a 14-3 deficit to put his team up by 10 in the third quarter. He started the comeback when he found a wide open Conway for a 60-yard touchdown strike.

"I figured I would get in at some point," said Harbaugh. "I didn't know it was going to be that quick."

Harbaugh put up some good numbers, 21 completions out of 33 attempts for 287 yards and two touchdowns. He also was picked off twice. In the second half, his play turned the momentum completely around.

The Bills received the second half kickoff and Johnson took off and ran down the left sidelines, but Neil Smith was able to strip the ball from Johnson and Darryll Lewis picked the ball up on the fly and ran down to the Bills 17. Jermaine Fazande scored on a two yard plunge and suddenly the Chargers had a 17-14 lead.

The Chargers "vaulted" defense held the Bills offense to a three-and-out and Harbaugh showed more signs of his former self when he hit Jeff Graham with a 52-yard touchdown strike and the Chargers looked like they were going to pull a huge upset over the Bills.

Things looked really bleak when the Chargers were able to down a punt at the Bills 1 yard line. Sammy Morris, who ran for 60 yards on 8 carries, got the Bills out of danger when he burst to the 13 yard line. Then Johnson hit Moulds at the Bills' 45 and Buffalo offense suddenly looked potent. Jeremy McDaniel caught a Johnson pass and got to the Charger 42. Peerless Price caught a 11-yard pass and a 10-yard face mask penalty moved the Bills into the dreaded red zone. Facing a severe pass rush, Johnson quickly threw a screen to Shawn Bryson who danced into the endzone untouched and the Bills were within striking range with the Chargers only leading by 3. This was the first time the Bills had marched 99 yards for a touchdown since September 15, 1999 when they did it against the Jets.

When the Bills got the ball with under 3 minutes to play, Johnson led the Bills downfield in Jim Kelly-like fashion. He connected with Moulds for a 17-yard pickup to the Bills 37. Then Moulds grabbed another 17-yard pass to the SD 46 and the Bills were inching towards Christie territory. Johnson his McDaniel for 12 yards down to the Charger 34 and then connected with Price for 14 more yards to the San Diego 9. With only 7 ticks left on the clock, Christie kicked a 29-yard field goal to force an overtime.

The Bills won the coin toss and the 72,351at Ralph Wilson Stadium anticipated a Bills victory. However, on third-and-two, Johnson was forced out of the pocket and had to throw the ball away right before being taken down by Neil Smith. When Johnson got up, he was holding the same elbow he's been holding after almost every pass the past few weeks because of tendinitis. But this time it was his shoulder and not the elbow. X-Rays after the game revealed that Johnson's shoulder was separated and he'll be out from two to four weeks.

" My shoulder fell beneath, that is usually when they pop out," said Johnson. "It is very disappointing. I have never had one of these injuries before. I hope it's two weeks and then I will get back in there."

The last time Johnson had an injury that kept him out of a game was two years ago against Indianapolis and Flutie claimed the starting job that he didn't lose until the Indy game in the last year's regular season final. Flutie, if he plays well the next couple weeks, may win his starting job back again. But it will be Wade Phillips who makes the ultimate decision on that matter.

Harbaugh got the Chargers to their 43 before he threw over the middle and his pass was picked off by Henry Jones. Flutie came on and threw two clutch passes to Price and Moulds setting up a 41-yard Christie kick. His attempt hit the upright and was no good, but the Bills were charged with moving too soon, so Christie got another chance this time 5 yard further out.

"I saw the whole line move, and I wasn't even going to hit it, but I swung anyway…good thing it didn't count," laughed Christie. "I knew it was on us, procedure, but I didn't know who. I just got the chance to go back and hit it again."

This time, from 46 yards out, Christie's kick was straight and just barely cleared the cross bar. A cool and somber Christie suddenly raised his arms in triumph.

"I don't want to make it a habit, but it's enjoyable, that's for sure," commented Christie. "As long as we win, if we get in a situation where I have a chance to win, I'll do my best, and if we score a touchdown, fine. Either way it doesn't matter."

With the victory, the Bills move to .500 again and barely stay in the division race. Next week they travel to play undefeated Minnesota. In order to beat the Vikings, they will have to play much better than they have their last 4 games. With Johnson sidelined, Flutie will have to rise to the occasion and play out of his skull the next few weeks for the Bills to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Copyright © 2000 Bills Thunder & Rick Anderson, all rights reserved.

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