Defense shines again to overcome late offensive struggles.
by Steve Saslow
Oct. 27, 2002
Sometimes the ball bounces your way, and sometimes it didn't. Today the ball didn't bounce the Bills way but they still were able to defeat an inferior opponent at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
The 24-17 victory over the Lions should have been easy, but a double deflected touchdown pass, a muffed kickoff, a dropped sure touchdown pass by Peerless Price, and another Travis Henry fumble kept the outcome up for grabs until the final minutes.
The offense came out fired up as the passing game was humming for the first three quarters but a lackluster fourth quarter and some tough bounces gave the Lions new life that the Bills suddenly stifling defense quickly squashed. The defense has now allowed 34 points in their last ten quarters and the two touchdowns they gave up today shouldn't have happened.
The Bills were up 7-0 when Henry scored from five yards out for the first of his two scores on the day. The only other play on that scoring drive was a 42 yard bomb from Drew Bledsoe to Eric Moulds. Bledsoe struggled at many times today but was also red hot for most of the middle of this contest. Bledsoe finished with 302 yards passing on the day and Moulds caught nine of his passes for 123 yards.
The Lions struck quickly midway through the second quarter as Joey Harrington threw a 23 yard touchdown pass to Az-Zahir Hakim that was tipped by Chris Watson and then Pierson Prioleau. The pass wasn't even intended for Hakim. The ensuing kickoff was short and muffed by Charlie Rogers setting up a two yard touchdown run by James Stewart on a third and goal run up the middle giving the Lions two touchdowns in just over two minutes. Stewart was the focus point of the Lions offensive game plan and rushed for 64 yards in the first half. The Bills defense shut him down in the second half holding him to 19 yards after the intermission as the defense got stronger as the game progressed.
The Bills offense seemed to wake up after the Lions took the lead 14-7. The quick strike offense went 73 yards in just five plays to tie the game just before halftime. Price caught a pass from Bledsoe and faked out a defender and ran the rest of the way for a 59 yard touchdown.
The offense continued where they left off after halftime. After forcing a three and out situation, the Bills drove 32 yards before the drive stalled at the Lions 16 yard line. Mike Hollis hit a 33 yard field goal to give the Bills the lead back at 17-14. On the Bills next series they would drive 60 yards in 11 plays to Henry's five yard touchdown run to give the Bills a 10 point lead. Bledsoe converted a 4th and 1 on a QB sneak in the drive.
With a 24-14 lead at home against a rookie QB the Bills should have put the game away but the offense bogged down while the defense got stingier. The Bills could have put the game away early in the fourth quarter but Price uncharacteristically dropped a bomb from Bledsoe that was headed for the end zone and would have been a 56 yard touchdown pass.
The game clock ticked down excruciatingly slow as the score remained the same with the Bills never able to put the game away. It almost came back to haunt them as the Lions drove for a 35 yard Jason Hanson field goal to get within a touchdown with 3:12 left in the game. Henry then coughed up the ball for the sixth time this year at the absolute worst moment. He was leveled with a hard hit to the jaw as the ball came loose. The defense rose to the occasion however as on 4th and 1 Stewart was stuffed by London Fletcher giving the ball back to the offense who ran out the clock with one first down.
It wasn't pretty but the Bills did find a way to win and good teams win at home when they don't play consistently. The win is their third straight and pulls them within 1/2 game of first place with the hype already beginning for next week's "Bledsoe Bowl" against the defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots.
Player Of The Week
Positional Breakdown and Grades
NFL.com Gamebook - Complete stats including play by play
Lions Game Preview
2001 Gameday Homepage
2000 Gameday Homepage
Back to Bills Daily homepage