Bills hang on in the end to pull off upset.
by Steve Saslow
December 30, 2001
All year the Bills seemed to be finding a way to lose but today they hung on in the end for a 14-9 stunning upset of the New York Jets in the chilly Meadowlands. A botched snap on a late punt by Mo Unotoa gave the Jets new life and they got down to the Bills 17 but a last play, that appeared to happen after the clock hit double zeroes, fell harmlessly incomplete out of the end zone giving the Bills the win.
The Bills used a season high 192 yards rushing, 107 by Shawn Bryson who was hobbled by a twisted ankle, to pull off the upset. Jay Riemersma was the key to the passing game like Bryson was for the running game as he finished with a career high 8 catches for 78 yards. They seemed to have the game wrapped up when Phil Hansen charged in from the middle and tipped and picked off a Vinny Testerverde pass with just under 2:00 remaining in the game. The pick was the second of his career and first in a regular season game for Hansen. It also gave the Bills a chance to run out the clock. Three runs forced a punt but the botched snap set the Jets up at midfield with :52 left and no timeouts. The Bills defense stiffened for the most part giving the Jets just the middle of the field to work with. Passes of 9 and 14 yards to Lavaraneus Coles moved the ball for the Jets but ran the clock down. Testerverde then hit Curtis Martin with a 7 yard pass over the middle with just :13 left. The Jets did get one more play off with what appeared to be no time left but this time the football gods shined on the Bills and the pass, that would have been very controversial, was thrown out of the end zone.
The Bills struggled early as the Jets moved the ball well on their opening two possessions following a 10 play 56 yard drive with an 8 play 62 yard drive but both series ended in field goals as the Bills defense stiffened in the end. John Hall hit from 33 and 28 yards out to give the Jets the 6-0 lead.
Alex Van Pelt was able to move the ball in between the two field goal drives but the Bills could not get two yards on three tries from the Jets 28 and turned the ball over on downs. This was one of the only time the Bills running game did not work today. Bryson became the first Bill since Thurman Thomas five years ago to have back to back 100 yard games. Sammy Morris ripped off three straight runs for 28 yards when Bryson left briefly with his ankle injury. The Bills reached their season high rushing with the help of a 28 yard reverse by Peerless Price and a career high 15 yard run by Van Pelt.
The run by Van Pelt came on the Bills final drive of the first half and was a key play on an impressive 87 yard drive in 11 plays to the go ahead score as the Bills took a 7-6 lead. A 20 yard pass to Price and a 21 yard reception by Riemersma on a 4th and 7 gamble from the Jets 30 highlighted the drive. Those plays setup two straight runs by Larry Centers, the second one went for the final five yards and the score. The Jets moved the ball downfield very quickly in the final seconds of the half but like in the end of the game, they ran out of time as a hail mary pass fell incomplete.
Going for it on fourth down on the go ahead scoring drive wasn't a surprise since the swirling winds in the Meadowlands hampered the kicking game and the Bills don't seem to have the confidence in Shayne Graham in these conditions yet. The Bills were 1 for 3 on fourth downs and the Jets hit both of their fourth down attempts. The key was third down efficiency as the Bills converted 48% of their attempts to the Jets 27%. Another key to winning the game was turnovers, going into the game the Jets were an NFL leading +23 today they were -3 as Testerverde threw two interceptions and the Jets turned it over on a kick return. Meanwhile, the Bills protected the ball well fumbling only once but Reggie Germany recovered it.
The Bills ended up receiving the ball at the beginning of the game and at the start of the third quarter as the Jets elected to kickoff and take the wind after winning the toss. The Bills took advantage in the third quarter by marching 80 yards in 8 plays capped off by a beautiful 22 yard touchdown pass to Price under heavy pressure by Van Pelt. That gave the Bills a 14-6 lead in front of a stunned crowd in New Jersey. The pass was on a third and six play and was setup by another third down conversion pass to Riemersma earlier in the drive and Price's successful reverse two plays before the pass.
The score stayed that way into the fourth quarter when the Jets started moving downfield into the wind as the Bills did a good job keeping the Jets offense off the field when they had the wind advantage. A 19 yard completion to Kevin Swayne on third and 10 however, set the Jets up deep in Buffalo territory. The Bills defense stiffened again as John Hall hit his third field goal, a 32 yarder unaffected by the wind to pull the Jets to within 5, at 14-9 early in the fourth quarter.
The Bills seemed determine to put this game away by having a ball control drive after the field goal. Van Pelt hit Eric Moulds for a 17 yard reception to the Jets 22 with the Bills looking to put the game away. At this point it seemed the Bills were looking for a way to lose as they started to self destruct. Two false start penalties and a sack bushed the Bills way back to the 41 yard line and forced a punt. The Jets started moving downfield at will and appeared headed for the winning score when Hansen's interception seemed to seal it for the Bills.
Of course with the Bills nothing can come easy, and they found away to keep the Jets hanging on to the very last second thanks to the botched snap on the punt. The fact remains the Bills came off a tough week of practice dealing with seven feet of snow in Western New York and still came to play in a game that meant nothing but pride. The win shows a tremendous amount of character and resiliency from this young team that can only help them in the future. Here are our gameballs and goats:
Player Of The Week
Positional Breakdown and Grades
NFL.com Gamebook - Complete stats including play by play
Jets Game Preview
2001 Gameday Homepage
2000 Gameday Homepage
Back to Bills Daily homepage