Bills drop to 0-4 with 42-36 Jets loss at home

If people want to watch fumbles, interceptions, penalties, mistackles, dropped picks and dropped passes, the 2001 Buffalo Bills provide all of them. Sure, there were some highlights in the 42-36 loss to the Jets Oct. 7 at Ralph Wilson Stadium: rookie Travis Henry ran 19 times for 113 yards; Peerless Price caught a 20-yard pass off a mid-range slant and turned it into a 70-touchdown; and most important, Buffalo never gave up, no matter how hopeless it seemed, even after falling behind by 20.

 

Overall, however, the Bills weren't very good, and they head into their bye week 0-4, the first time they've been 0-4 since 1985.

Gregg Williams was hoarse after the game, and he said the reason why had to do with his halftime message to his defense, after it surrendered 113 yards to Jets running back Curtis Martin in the first half. Martin finished with 135 yards.

"I thought we didn't tackle," said Williams. "I thought gap control was good, but we didn't tackle at the point of attack very good. That was one of the things . . . my voice was almost gone at halftime. One of the big adjustments at halftime was a better focus on how you tackle Curtis Martin."

Strongside linebacker Keith Newman, who had six tackles, said, "Coach Williams wasn't down on us. He was positive. He knew we were still in it as a team. We knew we were still in it and I think the reason why he was hoarse was because he was up and down the sideline throughout the whole first half no matter good or bad, keeping his team up. That's tough to do as a head coach when you're down 21-6, that's a big responsibility. He handled it well today. He stayed in it with us until the end. Coach Williams never gives up on us. And we kept fighting and he kept fighting with us. As long as we keep fighting, things will get better."

The Bills defense, which was supposed to be a sack-happy, turnover thirsty unit, was shut out in both areas. And Williams seemed frustrated by that.

"The ball is on the ground. Sacks. Turnovers. The ball is hitting us in the hands. Water them more. Maybe their hands will grow," he said facetiously.

On one play, Chris Watson, playing left corner in the nickel package, had a chance to intercept a long Vinny Testaverde pass at the Bills' 20, but he dropped it and was rewarded with a pass breakup instead. Five plays later, New York scored on a four-yard Martin run up the middle and took a 28-9 lead, which it had at halftime.

In the third quarter, strong safety Raion Hill should have intercepted a 14-yard Testaverde pass intended for Wayne Chrebet at the Bills 27, but he dropped it too. Two plays later, Testaverde found tight end Anthony Becht on a two-yard corner route for a touchdown and a 35-22 New York lead.

Nate Clements should have had an interception on Laveranues Coles short left sideline route on a third and seven from the Buffalo 36. Clements jumped the pattern nicely, but dropped the ball. Fortunately, the Jets were out of field goal range and decided to punt.

In all, Buffalo probably should have matched the Jets' five turnovers, but had to settle for none.

"We're not good enough to play behind from those kinds of turnovers," said Williams. "(But) I thought the way the team reacted after going down early was outstanding. You should have seen the sideline. At no time were there feelings of doubt. They knew they had a chance to still be in the ball game. We had a ball on the ground fumbled two times in the second half that we had opportunities for and we had two balls hit us in the hands. Those are the executing details that we talked about all week long. We had to execute those little things. The guys fought hard, but we're not good enough to overcome that."

Not too many teams would be good enough to overcome 28 points off of turnovers. Maybe the Rams, but that's about it. The good news is that Buffalo only gave up one touchdown on a turnover in the second half.

And here is one more thing to be encouraged about. Alex Van Pelt, though he doesn't have much arm strength, can run this offense better than Rob Johnson. Johnson went out in the first quarter after being cheap-shotted by linebacker Mo Lewis following a 17-yard scramble.

Van Pelt, on the 70-yard touchdown play to Price to open the third quarter, made a great throw, which symbolized the kind of pass a quarterback must do in this Mike Sheppard offense. It brought the Bills to within six too, 28-22, and provided a momentary thought that Buffalo might have a chance.

Unfortunately, that great play was followed up by ineptitude: two three and outs, then a fumble for a touchdown, which perhaps best defined how horrible the 2001 Bills' season has been: Larry Centers caught a screen pass in the left flat, but fumbled after John Fina, rolling out to block, let linebacker James Farrior go through unmolested for a hit square on Centers. Farrior's helmet knocked the ball out and strongside backer Mo Lewis picked it up, running 15 yards for the touchdown and a 42-22 Jets lead. Not only are the first- and second-year players making mistakes, but the veterans are as well and the Bills can ill-afford that. It's quite sad, but the team is enduring.

"We still have a team that believes in itself, that works hard," said vice president and general manager Tom Donahoe. "They're attentive in meetings, (but) we're going to try to get more carryover to gameday. We have to stay positive with everybody. We believe the worst thing you can do in these situations is panic or scrap your whole offense or defense. We shot ourselves in the foot and it wasn't always the inexperienced guys who were doing the shooting."

"If we don't shoot ourselves in the foot there early, then later on have the fumbled return for a touchdown, then obviously we're in that game to win it," said Van Pelt, who was watching from the sideline when Sammy Morris fumbled the ball on the second play of the game. The Jets ended up taking a 7-0 lead on a five-play drive that culminated with a 16-yard Martin touchdown run off right tackle.

On the next possession, Johnson was intercepted after a double-tipped pass and it took Testaverde one play to find fullback Richie Anderson on a four-yard touchdown pass, which put Buffalo in a 14-0 hole three minutes and 47 seconds into the game.

Later in the quarter, Johnson was sacked and fumbled, which John Abraham picked up and ran in for a score and a 21-6 lead.

It was an unbelievable quarter of football and an unbelievable game in many ways.

"I'm not enthused about the 0-4 start," said Newman. "I'm pretty sure the mood of the team is not very excited. And it shouldn't be because if you're excited about losing then you don't need to be here. We're disappointed in the way things are now, but hey, things are going to get better. We just have to keep fighting and it's going to get better around here. We have some talent and we can get this thing turned around."

Big play

Bills ball, first and 10 from the Buffalo 14, three minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Buffalo trailing 14-6.

Rob Johnson dropped back. Tight end Jay Riemersma, on the right, went out for a pass while strongside linebacker Mo Lewis blitzed from that area. No one picked Lewis up and he was able to hit Johnson and force a fumble, which was picked up by defensive end John Abraham and run back seven yards for a touchdown. The Bills challenged, contending that Johnson's arm was moving forward, but replay was deemed inconclusive. Instead of Buffalo having a chance for a game-tying drive, it found itself down 21-6 – too big a hole to dig out of.

"We wanted to get more heat on (the quarterback) this week," said Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. "I told Mo we were going to call his number today. It was just one of those calls that we make where we're playing the odds and they came up with the release that we wanted so Mo was coming free a


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