Controversial call costs Bills in overtime field goal battle.
by Steve Saslow
December 16, 2001
When the Bills play the Patriots we have come to expect either controversial calls or an overtime game, today we got both. A controversial call by the officials kept the Ball in the Patriots' possession during in overtime. A 38 yard run by Antowain Smith on the next play setup Adam Vinatieri's game winning 23 yard field goal. The 12-9 win by the Patriots was a field goal battle in which Vinatieri hit all four of his field kicks while Shayne Graham was 3 for 4 for the Bills in the touchdown-less game.
Vinatieri tied the game with 2:45 to go in regulation with a 25 yard kick to setup the fourth overtime game in the last five meetings between the two teams. Both teams had one possession each after the tying kick but nobody got in scoring range. In the extra session The Bills moved the ball on their only possession but was forced to punt when a third down pass from Alex Van Pelt attended for Eric Moulds fell incomplete.
Third downs were a problem all day for the Bills. They could have driven for a winning score in regulation but a third and four pass to Reggie Germany gained only three yards. The Bills were a pitiful 3 for 15 on third downs as the Offense struggled all day against the Patriots defense.
The lack of a Buffalo offense made you think they would struggle to get the victory in overtime. The Patriots were committed to stopping the Bills from getting the ball again and they got some help from the officials to make sure that did happen. The Patriots moved the ball to their own 46 on thier only overtime possession. Tom Brady, who struggled all day, hit David Patten with a 15 yard completion. Keion Carpenter layed a devastating hit on Patten forcing a fumble that was recovered by Nate Clements. The official ruled the ball was dead because Patten's head was out of bounds while his foot layed on the ball! This stunning call brought back memories of the nightmare in New England a few years ago when the officials blew three calls in a row to give the Pats a win. The Bills defense was ill prepared to go back on the field and they let Smith break a tackle at the line of scrimmage and bounce outside for the long gain setting up the winning kick.
It was a tough ending after a great performance by the defense that allowed the Patriots only 107 yards in offense into the fourth quarter before they drove for the game tying and winning field goals. They sacked Brady five times, most of them coming in the second half when the Bills clamped down on the Patriots offense for the third quarter and half the final period.
The Patriots had a 6-0 lead at halftime as they had a first quarter field goal of 40 yards from Vinatieri and a 32 yarder in the second quarter. The First score was setup by good field position while the second kick was setup by a 40 yard bomb to Patten late in the first half.
The Bills offense was pathetic in the first half gaining just 83 yards before mounting a furious last minute drive in the first half like they did last week. This time the result wasn't the same as Graham missed a 43 yard field goal short sending the Bills into the locker room scoreless.
The Offense woke up enough in the second half to lead to three field goal drives. Graham hit from 41 and 25 yards in the third quarter and again from 41 in the fourth quarter. That gave the Bills the 9-6 lead that they would relinquish before losing in overtime.
The Bills offense was kick started by the defense when Raion Hill forced and recovered a fumble that setup Graham's first kick to break the shutout despite the Bills not gaining a first down. The tying kick came on a 56 yard drive that may have been a touchdown. A third down pass to Peerless Price was caught but he was ruled out of bounds. The Bills didn't challenge it and settled for the game tying field goal. It appears a challenge may have reversed the call and given the Bills the lead.
On the Bills next possession they drove 33 yards for the go ahead kick. A Shawn Bryson third down run was stopped short of a first down setting up the go ahead field goal. Bryson was in for Travis Henry who left the game with a knee injury after putting up good numbers in the first half.
It was a tough loss for the Bills but they could have lost it in regulation. Many bounces went their way including a fumble by Van Pelt in the last :20 of regulation that Jerry Ostroski jumped on. There were many awful throws that could have been picked off but bounced balls seemed to find their way in the Bills hands. It was still a tough loss despite the Bills playing hard hitting aggressive defense against a playoff caliber team. You will see that our gameballs went on the defensive side of the ball while the goats were on the offensive side:
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