Bledsoe, Price lead charge over Vikes

"Jim who?" "K-Gun what?" That's what fans will be saying if Drew Bledsoe continues to operate this year's Bills offense at the torrid pace set in Buffalo's improbable 45-39 upset road win against the Vikings in overtime Sunday, Sept. 15.

Inside the noisy Metrodome, Bledsoe threw for a team-record 463 yards, hitting Peerless Price for a 48-yard score with four minutes, 48 seconds remaining in OT for the victory, the first this season for Buffalo (1-1).

"It was a team victory," said Bledsoe, who was 35-for-49, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. "It took everything we had. Defense, offense, special teams, it took all of it. Hopefully, this was a step in the right direction and we start winning some games."

Head coach Gregg Williams praised his coordinators, saying, "I thought Jerry (Gray), Kevin (Gilbride) and Danny (Smith) did a great job too on how they mixed their calls to help battle some of those momentum changes."

Momentum was huge, but not because either team got it and kept it. There were nine lead changes overall – four in the fourth quarter alone. Certainly, this was one of the wackiest games the Bills have played since the Houston Wild Card Game in 1993.

The most remarkable aspect of the contest: Price had career highs with 13 receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns, and he outplayed Minnesota all-world receiver Randy Moss, who caught 11 balls for 111 yards and a touchdown.

Mike Hollis tied the game at the end of regulation with a heart-stopping 54-yard field goal that bounced off of and over the crossbar. It was the third-longest three-pointer in team history, and the Bills' longest in nearly five years.

"I didn't know if it had the distance," said Hollis, who was 4-for-5 for the day. "I knew I hit it pretty good, but I had to watch it go through definitely."

Defensively, a clutch Ron Edwards fumble recovery in the end zone gave Buffalo a touchdown and a 30-26 lead early in the fourth quarter. It was a lucky bounce; Pat Williams had tried for the ill-advised pick-up-and-run-with-it heroic touchdown at the Minnesota two yard line. Fortunately, Edwards was right behind Williams to make the recovery and save face for the Bills' veteran nose tackle.

There were five fumbles in the game -- three by the Vikings -- and the Bills recovered them all.

A Bills game would not be a Bills game without special teams highlights and lowlights. On this day when there was a better mix of great and horrible for Buffalo. Charlie Rogers had a spectacular 90-yard kickoff return that tied the game at 20-20 in the third quarter.

Rogers' runback may have erased the memory of Jets returner Chad Morton's two-touchdown day in the season opener had it not followed D'Wayne Bates' nifty 61-yard punt return, which set up Moss' only touchdown for a 20-13 Minnesota lead. Suffice it to say, Bates' return should put the Bills' punt team near the bottom of the league rankings for a while – giving the team's kickoff-coverage unit some company.

But that's enough of the negativity. This game was all about a team coming together.

"It's good for this team," Williams said. "It's good to see us excited, but also we have to realize that we've got to be in the frame of mind to do it next week. That's what it's about. It's a long season."

It has certainly been an odd season for Buffalo thus far. The team's running game – led by Travis Henry's 30 yards – managed just 31 total vs. the Vikings' 213, yet it still won.

Williams said that one of the reasons his defense gave up so much yardage was because it was using a lot of nickel defense to combat the explosiveness of Moss, who seems to effortlessly make play after play. It's incredible. A team seemingly could quadruple-cover him and he'd still get his 100-plus yards.

So Buffalo sacrificed run defense for pass defense.

But what should be made of the Bills' own running game?

"The Vikings have a good defensive front and they did a good job," Bledsoe said. "We'd rather play it the other way where we hand it off a bunch of times and have a game like against the Jets where Travis runs for 140-some yards. But that's not going to happen all the time.

"You watch us through the course of this season, I think you'll see that our offense will do whatever it has to do to be successful. If we have to throw it a bunch, then we'll do that. We got the weapons to attack people when we do that, and we've got an offensive line that can pass protect."

With 148 yards in overtime to Minnesota's 13, Buffalo out-gained the Vikings 468 yards to 449. Offensively, the game was very close, despite the huge advantage the Vikings had on the ground. Ultimately, the difference in the game -- aside from the heroics of Price, Hollis and Bledsoe -- was that Buffalo's defense forced three turnovers and turned them into 13 points. Also, Minnesota kicker Doug Brien missed two extra points and a field goal. (Brien will probably be looking for a new job soon, if not sooner.)

Buffalo held the powerful Minnesota offense to a twin set of three and outs in overtime, something it hadn't been able to do since the first series of the game.

"Hey, it doesn't look pretty in terms of yardage," said middle linebacker London Fletcher, acknowledging that the defense wasn't statistically impressive. "But, you know, hey, we'll take it."

Fletcher added that he thought the Bills had a conditioning advantage over Minnesota, a team that may have been more cautious in its training after Korey Stringer's death a year ago.

"We can go five or six quarters if need be," the linebacker said. "We don't want to do it every week. But we were prepared to play (that long)."

The big play

Bills' ball, first and 10 from the Minnesota 48 yard line, four minutes, 58 seconds remaining in overtime, game tied 39-39.

Drew Bledsoe was in a Shotgun formation with running back Larry Centers to his immediate right. Eric Moulds was split wide right, with Josh Reed wide left and Peerless Price in the slot. Minnesota was in a nickel defense.

Rookie Brian Williams lined up as the nickel back on Price. Knowing Williams was inexperienced, Bledsoe and Price pulled some veteran trickery to take advantage of him. Price scored a 48-yard touchdown off a hook-and-up pattern to give Buffalo its 45-39 win over the favored Vikings.

"It was basically improvised. We set it up. We kept running the hook, giving them the signal, and by the time we ran it about five times in a row (Williams) started calling (out loud for) the hook," Price said with a chuckle. "And so he bit the hook."

It was the second week in a row, the Bills drew up a clutch play on the spot to take advantage of something they saw in the opposing defense. It was a quick-witted piece of play calling by Bledsoe and offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, and Bledsoe and Price executed it to perfection.

"It was another one of those plays," said Bledsoe, "like the one we scored on to send it into overtime last week – the pump fake on fourth down. It required a little extra time. The offensive line gave me the time to give a little pump fake, wait on it and make the throw."


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