Offensive struggles return as Bills take a step back.
by Steve Saslow
Nov. 4, 2001
The Bills wanted to show the Colts how much they improved since week 2 but all they showed was that they have a long way to go before they are a respectable football team. Rob Johnson struggled all day behind a young, patchwork offensive line as the Colts whipped the Bills 30-14. Johnson fumbled the ball away twice while being sacked 6 times, was pressured 11 times, and knocked down six other times.
Johnson had no time to throw and when he did have time, he struggled with the Orchard Park winds, completing just over 50 percent of his passes for 172 yards. Coach Williams said after the game, "the team has to get better around him." He's right but Johnson still lacks pocket presence and doesn't feel the pressure. The Bills banged up line had Marques Sullivan and Jon Carman starting for the injured Jonas Jennings and John Fina. The Bills used max protection most of the game leaving just two receivers in patterns giving Johnson few choices when he did have time to throw. His fumbles led to 10 Colts points in the second quarter.
Chad Bratzke sacked Johnson forcing the first fumble. Peyton Manning led the Colts on a 44 yard drive ending in a 15 yard touchdown pass to Marcus Pollard on the opening play of the second quarter to give the Colts the 7-0 lead. The drive and many other Colt drives were led by rookie free agent running back Dominic Rhodes who rushed for 100 yards and caught 4 passes for 45 yards replacing the injured Edgerrin James.
The Bills lone bright spot in the game came when Nate Clements returned a punt 66 yards for a score to tie the game at 7. It was the first punt return for a score for the Bills since 1993.
It was all Indianapolis after that. The Colts responded to Clements score with a quick drive to a 33 yard bootleg touchdown by Manning. On a third and one the Bills all went for the play fake and Manning had nobody near him as he ran down the left sidelines for the score to make it 14-7.
Late in the first half Johnson would fumble again on a sack during the first play of series at the Colts 21 yard line. The defense would stop the Colts but a Mike Vanderjagt field goal gave the Colts what would prove to be an insurmountable 17-7 lead.
The Colts dominated the second half after the Bills opening possession was stopped when Jake Arians had a 48 yard field goal blocked. This was his second block in a row and it ruined a great drive from rookie RB Travis Henry. The Bills moved the ball on the ground very well in this game but didn't stick with it because they fell to far behind. Henry left the game after the second play with a hip pointer and before he returned Shawn Bryson ripped off three nice runs. Henry would return and finished with 61 yards on just 13 carries.
After the blocked field goal, Manning finished off the Bills with a 56 yard drive in 7 plays to a Rhodes scamper on third and goal from the one to give the Colts a 24-7 lead and the rout was on. The Colts would tack on two fourth quarter Vanderjagt field goals sandwiched around a Johnson 27 yard touchdown pass to Jay Riemersma.
The Bills defense played well for a good portion of the game but were worn out by a Colts offense that held the ball for more than 38 minutes of the game. The team came out flat after an emotionally charged effort last week. No excuse for the letdown. It allowed the Colts to dominate a game that they weren't playing all that well in. Here are the gameballs and goats:
Player Of The Week
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NFL.com Gamebook - Complete stats including play by play (requires Acrobat Reader)
Colts Game Preview
2001 Gameday Homepage
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