Bills battle hard but can't overcome very good Broncos team.
by Steve Saslow
Sept. 22, 2001
The Broncos held on in the end to defeat the Bills 28-23 in Denver as the Bills fell to 1-2 on the season. Drew Bledsoe threw for 283 yards and two scores in the loss but a failed onside kick with just over a minute to go sealed the Bills fate.
The Bills knew that in the high altitude of Denver, the Broncos normally start hot. This game was no different as the Broncos went up 14-0 in the second quarter. There first score was handed to them by the Bills, as Travis Henry fumbled the ball late in the first quarter and it was returned 24 yards for a score by Chester McGlockton. Henry was helped off the field on the play and his right ankle injury may have led to the fumble, he would return two series later. The Broncos added to the lead with a one yard touchdown run by Clinton Portis who ran for 103 yards despite being banged up most of the game. He was forced to stay in the game because Olando Gary left with an injury early on.
Stopping the run and establishing the running game was going to be hard but a key to the game. The Bills failed on both goals. The Broncos finished with 163 yards rushing to just 39 for the Bills despite a few nice runs by Henry when he returned from being shaken up. One of his nice runs was a one yard score late in the first half to cut the Broncos lead in half at halftime at 14-7.
Bledsoe said that the team's main goal coming out of the locker room at halftime was to come down and tie the game. They nearly accomplished it when Bledsoe hit Peerless Price with a 42 yard bomb after beating the blitz. The drive stalled at the Broncos 20 and the Bills settled for a 38 yard field goal from Mike Hollis to pull the team to within four early in the second half.
The Bills had closed the gap but two possession later the Broncos started moving the ball as they marched down the field to a one yard touchdown pass to tight end Dwayne Carswell. The Bills got a break in the fourth quarter when a bad snap on a punt gave the Bills the ball at the Denver 10. On third down Bledsoe emptied the backfield and beat another Bronco blitz to find Josh Reed wide open in the end zone for a score. The Bills once again failed on the two point conversion attempt as they have had no success with that under Gregg Williams.
The defense played fairly well all day despite giving up some decent yardage in spurts. They gave up one of those spurts after the Bills pulled within five. There was more than seven minutes to go when the Broncos started marching down the field. The Bills finally stopped them at the Buffalo 37 but the Broncos went for it on fourth down and five and Rod Smith caught a pass and lunged forward for a first down. That seemed to deflate the defense and after a 12 man on the field penalty, Brian Griese went for the kill and found Smith wide open in the end zone as he totally beat Antoine Winfield for the score.
There is no give up in these Bills however as they always feel they have a chance even against a very good team like Denver in a city that is the toughest place to win over the last 27 years. Bledsoe moved the team 70 yards in 1:27 to an Eric Moulds two yard score to put the final points on the board.
The Bills couldn't recover the on side kick and the Broncos ran out the clock. Bledsoe said in his post game press conference, the Bills have a great attitude and will build from this loss. It would have taken a herculean effort to pull off this upset and the Bills made a couple of mistakes and fought to the end and gave the Broncos a better battle then the Rams and 49ers who are suppose to be NFC powerhouses. Like the Jets loss week one, the Bills can continue to grow from another close loss. The team may get tired quickly of moral victories but with a schedule as tough as the one the Bills have, they may need to use them to build future success.
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