Morton shocks Bills

What can you say? Not even Ronnie Jones' special teams gave up two kickoff returns for touchdowns in the same game.

Unfortunately, that's what Danny Smith's coverage unit did in the Bills' 37-31 overtime loss in the season opener at Wilson Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 8.

The ending was stunning – with Jets kick returner Chad Morton returning overtime's opening kickoff 96 yards for the game-winning touchdown – but it hardly left fans speechless.

Nope, they had a lot on their minds and they weren't shy about expressing themselves.

"Nice special teams, Donahoe," one fan screamed at president and general manager Tom Donahoe as he was escorted via golf cart from the press box down to the locker room through the outside of the stadium.

"Ronnie Jones was better!" yelled another – a comment that is slightly overstating things.

"Fire that &$#% special teams coach," added one more.

It's too bad things ended so awfully because this was a game that offered Bills fans an enormous amount of hope for this year – hope that was not present after an 0-4 preseason in which the Bills struggled to run the ball and play defense.

But against the Jets, Buffalo amassed 384 yards of offense under Drew Bledsoe and the new, retooled offensive line. Travis Henry rushed for a career-high 149 yards and three touchdowns (runs of five, three and two yards) on 31 carries, and even caught six passes for 29 yards.

Eric Moulds chipped in with eight catches for 112 yards, including a clutch 29-yard touchdown from Bledsoe with 34 seconds left, knotting the game at 31.

And then there was Bledsoe himself, throwing for 271 yards and moving the team up and down the field, while managing to avert the pass rush just by standing in there and throwing the ball as Jim Kelly used to do. Bledsoe was sacked four times.

"We did an outstanding job moving the ball against them," said Bledsoe, who was 26 of 39, with two interceptions. "When we got stopped, it was because we made mistakes and we need to correct those."

Defensively, Buffalo limited the Jets to 73 yards rushing, though Curtis Martin left the game in the second quarter with an ankle sprain. Still, for the defense to be operating the way Williams envisions it, it needs more turnovers.

In this game, it only had one – Keith Newman recovered a fumble in the third quarter when Pat Williams stripped LaMont Jordan. It led to a touchdown and a 24-20 Buffalo lead.

But the defense was effective. The Bills applied pressure with blitzes and sacked Vinnie Testaverde three times.

Weakside linebacker Eddie Robinson, who had a team-high six tackles, said, "We played fairly well. When we get in tough spots, we have to give up field goals and not touchdowns. We did hold them to field goals some of the time, but we need to do it all of the time. As long as we only give up three points instead of seven, we will be doing a lot better."

New York tight end Anthony Becht gave the Jets a 14-10 lead in the second quarter off a one-yard play action pass. Keith Newman was covering. The other touchdown Buffalo gave up was on an 18-yard fourth-quarter score to Wayne Chrebet, giving the Jets the 31-24 lead with four minutes 47 seconds remaining in the game. John Hall kicked field goals of 34, 45 and 48 yards.

Overall, there were hiccups – the kick returns were more like huge burps – but Buffalo proved it can be a worthy opponent this year.

"We gave up too many big plays – obviously the big play at the end of the ball game. We made too many errors in that part of the game to overcome that," Gregg Williams said. "We had too many missed tackles. It has nothing to do with scheme. It's tackling – flat tackling. It's mistackles."

It's just damaging special teams mistakes. In the fourth quarter, with the Bills up 24-20, the Jets blocked a Brian Moorman punt at the Buffalo 41, which led to a field goal and cut the Bills' lead to one.

In the second quarter, immediately after taking a 10-0 lead, the Bills kicked off and Morton returned it 98 yards for a score with 12 minutes, 11 seconds left, conveniently getting the Jets back in the ball game when they hadn't even recorded a first down yet.

It was a shame that special teams wasted the Bills' efforts elsewhere.

"We can't have (special teams breakdowns) if we are going to be a solid football team," said Eric Moulds. "I know we will bounce back. Special teams didn't lose that game for us, we have got to make more plays and commit fewer penalties … I think we are still a good football team and we will show that next week."

The Bills were penalized 10 times for 82 yards. One penalty that particularly hurt was a pass interference call in the fourth quarter on Robinson while he covered Becht. Free safety Pierson Prioleau had just intercepted the Testaverde pass, but the penalty nullified it. On the next play, Testaverde hit Chrebet for the go-ahead touchdown, making it 31-24 and forcing Bledsoe to pull off a desperate gut-check, touchdown drive inside the last few minutes.

He did – a 14-play 76-yard drive that was aided by a 15-yard roughing the kicker call on 4th and 17 from the Buffalo 33, giving Buffalo an automatic first down at its 48. Eight plays later, a fourth and nine from the Jets' 29, he threw a rope to Moulds off a pump fake that drew in the safety.

"Early in the game, they made an interception on that play," Bledsoe said, "so we talked about if we got another opportunity, we would come out, pump fake it at them and get the safety to come up and go over the top of him, and it worked out."

Williams said, "Drew's calm under pressure and when we talked about plays to run, he knew what he was comfortable with," Williams said. "He and Kevin (Gilbride) had a good synergy back and forth. Kevin turned him loose. Drew and Kevin came up with a great play with Eric Moulds to put us in overtime. His calm under pressure is impressive to his teammates."

Mike Hollis had a chance to give Buffalo a four-point cushion in the fourth, but his 50-yard field goal attempt was wide right. Hollis did make a 52-yard field goal to give Buffalo a 3-0 lead in the first quarter.

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