Henry makes up for fumble with game winning score.
by Steve Saslow
Sept. 29, 2002
The Bills continue to give their fans heart problems as they went to overtime for the third time in their first four games of the season. For the second overtime game in a row they left fans rejoiced as a Drew Bledsoe touchdown pass of 26 yards to the beleaguered Travis Henry gave the Bills a 33-27 victory evening their record at 2-2.
The Bills came into this game with two goals, stop the run and establish a running game of their own. They completely established the first goal, as the defensive shutdown the Bears running attack that was led by Anthony Thomas. The Bears averaged 2 yards a carry and Thomas was held to 46 yards on the ground. The Bills moved the ball on the ground but abandoned the running game for the most part early when Henry fumbled for the fourth time in four games. This fumble, like last week's in Denver, was returned for a touchdown.
Henry's fumble came after he returned to the game despite re-injuring his ankle. The Bills were dominating up to that point, already leading 7-0. Bledsoe led the Bills on an 80 yard touchdown drive on the opening possession of the game including some big runs and a nice reception from Henry. The drive ended on a two yard touchdown reception by Peerless Price. The Bills stopped the bears after one first down on their first possession. The Bills countered by moving the ball downfield again looking to complete an excellent start. That is something that has been lacking over the first three weeks. As the Bills looked to expand the lead Henry's fumble evened the score despite the fact it wasn't even on the field.
Coach Williams said this week that he would make a change at running back if he thought Henry's fumbling was a problem. He must have thought it was as Shawn Bryson took over the running back duties for the rest of the first half despite the fact that Henry showed no ill effects from his injured ankle.
The Bills were undaunted and drove down the field after the defensive score by Chicago and recaptured the lead 10-7 on a 48 yard field goal by Mike Hollis. The Bills kicked the field goal on a fourth and one play when many wanted the Bills to go for it. There was good reason to take the gamble also as the Bills moved the ball offensively at will in the first half, mostly in the air, as they were only stopped by the fumble and the end of the half. Despite never punting in the half the Bills used the reliable leg of Hollis to regain the lead.
Bryson remained at running back on the Bills next possession and reeled off back to back runs of 9 and 10 yards as the Bills moved the ball downfield behind their backup running back. The drive ended on a beautiful four yard scoring pass to Eric Moulds. The play was nearly identical to Price's score earlier and Moulds score in the final minute last week against Denver. It requires the receiver to do a quick down and out and the ball is thrown as they turn to catch it for the score. The Bills led 17-7 and were riding high as they could have had a 20 or 24 point lead.
The Bears didn't win 12 games last year for no reason however, as Jim Miller drove them down the field 77 yards in 9 plays to a David Terrell score to pull them within three at the half despite the fact the Bills dominated every aspect of the game.
The Bears defense was non existent in the first half besides having Henry's fumble fall right in their laps. The third quarter was a different story however. A 6 yard punt return by Nate Clements and a face mask penalty set the Bills up in great field position but the Bills could manage only one first down and has to settle for another long field goal by Hollis. This one was 49 yards and gave the Bills a 20-14 lead.
The monsters of the midway would force the Bills to go three and out on their next three possessions. In that time the Bears would drive for two field goals to tie the game. Terrell almost gave the Bears the lead but his apparent touchdown catch was overturned by replay after it showed him only getting one foot inbounds.
The Bills offense finally got going again in the fourth quarter after going dormant for much of the third. With the offense struggling for the first time all year the Bills decided to go to a forgotten weapon, the tight end. The team's first drive of the fourth quarter consisted of two Henry runs for 26 yards and four passes to the tight ends. Two to Jay Riemersma and the first two catches of the season for Dave Moore. Riemersma had a 29 yard catch on the drive and Moore finished it off with a one yard touchdown catch on a play action pass to give the Bills the lead back at 27-20.
The Bears are a team that wins close games and they weren't giving up on this day. Miller drove them down the field on a nice drive that lasted over 6 minutes and ended on a touchdown pass to the tight end John Davis that re-tied the game. The big play of the drive was a very questionable 31 yard pass interference penalty on Nate Clements on a ball that appeared uncatchable.
The Offense wanted to make sure that the tough call on Clements didn't cost the Bills the game. Bledsoe moved the Bills downfield in the final two minutes thanks to another big catch by Moore and receptions by Moulds and Larry Centers. Two Henry runs set the Bills up for a winning field goal try but Hollis had his kick blocked. It was a fitting end to regulation as the Bills appear to be destined to play tough games that go to overtime.
The Bears won the toss and that left the sold out crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium uneasy after what they witnessed in the opening day overtime loss to the Jets. This time the special teams made the tackle on the kickoff and the defense forced a three and out. It was the best game of the year by the defense that not only allowed only 52 yards rushing but gave up only 240 yards in total offense to Chicago.
Inspired by another solid defensive stand, Bledsoe only needed two plays to put the winning points on the board. The first play was a 30 yard bomb to Moulds that he put up for grabs and expected his all-pro receiver to come down with it. Moulds did, and that setup the winning score to Henry. On the next play, Bledsoe avoided the pass rush and hit Henry in the flat, he went the distance with the help of good downfield blocks by both Moulds and Price and the Bills had the win.
Once again the Bills won on the arm of Bledsoe and this victory reinforced the fact that the Bills could play with anybody. The rest of the division all lost and the Bills climbed out of the cellar and are just one game behind division leaders Miami and New England. With a win like today to build on, there is no telling if the Bills could get into this race or not. One thing is for sure, they are laying the foundation for some excellent seasons in the years to come.
Player Of The Week
Positional Breakdown and Grades
NFL.com Gamebook - Complete stats including play by play
Bears Game Preview
2001 Gameday Homepage
2000 Gameday Homepage
Back to Bills Daily homepage