Great game by Flutie wasted in the end.
by Steve Saslow
Oct. 22, 2000
The Bills may have played their best game of the season a week after playing perhaps their worst game of the season. The outcome was the opposite however as the Vikings remain unbeaten after their 31-27 comeback win against the Bills. Randy Moss got wide open for a 39 yard touchdown reception to give the Vikings the lead with under 4 minutes left in the game to erase an 11 point deficit. Gary Anderson would take advantage of a Peerless Price fumble to become the all time leading scorer in NFL history with the final points of the game.
The Bills had a good gameplan of running the ball mixed in with short passes to keep the high powered Vikings offense off the field. It worked for three plus quarters to perfection as the Bills had back to back long drives late in the first half and their first possession of the third quarter. Those two drives were a combined 160 yards on 34 plays and consumed more than 19 minutes of time. Those drives resulted in 10 points but in between them the Vikings also scored 10 points proving that they could explode at any time.
The offense struggled early on as Flutie shook off some rust. He got going on a beautiful 25 yard touchdown pass to Eric Moulds who also had a phenomenal day as he broke his career single game reception record set last week. Moulds finished with 12 catches for 135 yards. The drive was setup by a nice punt return by Chris Watson who showed some flashes returning punts and kicks today. Shawn Bryson then scampered for 24 of his team-high 72 yards on the day setting up the touchdown. Bryson had 89 total yards and Sammy Morris chipped in with two touchdowns and 70 total yards himself. Morris actually started the game in the single back offense as the so-called starter, Jonathan Linton only carried the ball twice.
The Bills were ahead 7-3 when they had their first of the two ball controlled, time consuming drives of the game. This drive was 21 plays long and 80 yards consuming more than 10 minutes. The drive came up short of a touchdown as an illegal chop block penalty on Price sputtered the drive. Steve Christie dinked the field goal off the cross bar to give the Bills a touchdown lead. The ball control drive gave the Vikings :50 to score and they promptly drove down the field but ran out of time at the Bills 2 yard line and had to settle for an Anderson field goal making it 10-6 at the half.
The Vikings took the ball first in the second half and marched down the field to a 6 yard touchdown pass to Chris Carter who was wide open as three Bills covered Matthew Hatchette and nobody covered Carter. It was one of many mental breakdowns in the secondary in the game.
The Vikings looked ready to roll as they had the lead but Flutie would have none of that as he followed up his 21 play drive before the half with a 13 play, 80 yard drive that resulted in a one yard dive for a score by Morris. He has now scored in four straight games. This drive was kept alive when a Vikings defender dropped a sure interception on one play and Moulds fumbled on the next play but a player on both teams had the ball, so the Bills kept possession. Bryson had a nice 16 yard catch and run play. Kwame Cavil had his first career reception on this drive and it was a big one giving the Bills a first and goal.
The Bills seemed to take control as the third period ended thanks to a Sam Rogers interception. Flutie and Morris hooked up on a 3rd and 13 play for an 18 yard touchdown. Morris caught the ball over the middle inside the 10 and cut outside and scored. The score gave the Bills an 11 point lead early in the fourth quarter. Flutie was on target all day especially on third downs as the Bills were 10-17 on third downs constantly completing short passes on third downs to convert them to first downs.
The Vikings offense was hot however, and promptly drove down the field after the score. The big play on this drive was a defensive holding penalty to Ken Irvin on a third down incompletion. That setup another Carter touchdown. The Vikings converted the two point conversion on a beautiful screen pass to pull the Vikings within three. Flutie would not give up on this day. He stayed in the pocket most of the day and threw for 294 yards while running only once for 8 yards. The Vikings had to kickoff from their 10 yard line because of two penalties, Watson took advantage by returning it into Vikings territory. Flutie then completed a couple of short passes and almost had another picked off before giving way to a 48 yard field goal by Christie that gave the Bills a 27-21 lead.
The Bills returns game was on target today but the coverage team struggled as the Vikings returned the next kickoff to the 42 yard line setting up Duante Culpepper just 58 yards from the lead. The Bills defense had a rare stop forcing a punt but the Bills responded by going three and out. A poor punt and good return set up the Vikings at the Bills 35. Two plays later Randy Moss was catching a touchdown pass in the back of the end zone as he was once again wide open beating Irvin.
The Vikings had the lead but Flutie was playing well and confident they could win it in the end. Flutie completed yet another 3rd down to Price but that is where his hands proved to be hard again, his fumble basically ended the game for the Bills. After Anderson's record breaking field goal there was one more chance at a Flutie miracle. He quickly moved the Bills to the Vikings 43 giving him a chance at one last hail mary miracle. His arm isn't as strong as it was when he was at Boston College and the pass fell short.
This game was a lot like the Colts game in one aspect. The Bills ran their game plan to perfection as they used a ball control offense to keep the Vikings off the field as the Bills had the ball for over 35 minutes. The problem is the Vikings made the most of it when they did have the ball as they have shown over and over again in the fourth quarter this year. The bottom line is the Bills are a very young team that doesn't know how to win and can't put teams away. The shortcomings in the secondary have now been exploited for the second week in a row, but unlike last week, this time it was by one of the best offenses in the league. Flutie played his heart out and you get the feeling he would have led the team to victory but as it seems to be the case all year the fates went against the Bills as the Price fumble put the dagger in the heart of Bills fans everywhere.
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