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  Washington Skins Buffalo Alive - by Rick Anderson

It was not supposed to happen this way! The Bills were dead set in their thinking that they would make atones for their Super Bowl XXV loss the year before, when they missed winning when Scott Norwood kick went wide right. They were going to have their heads on straight and had a clear focus of what had to be done. Too bad Thurman Thomas didn't follow their set course. He wasted the first two plays from scrimmage searching the sidelines for his helmet. The rest of the Bills had their helmets on straight, but that's about the only thing they got straight as the Washington Redskins buried the Bills alive 37-24. And the score is much closer than the game actually was.

The Skins took advantage of almost every Buffalo miscue, which included five huge turnovers, and bullied the Bills all over the field. After watching the AFC Championship and how the Denver Broncos had shut down the Bills offense, the Skins decided to take a page out of the Bronco playbook.

"Denver was successful being aggressive. That may have aided us a little bit in our thinking," said Redskins' defensive coach Richie Petitibon. "Looking at them before they had played Denver, we kind of thought you had to put pressure on this guy (Jim Kelly). We attacked the line of scrimmage more than usual. We wanted to blitz to stop the run early in the game. It's sometimes tough to pick up blitzes against the running game."

The offensive totals for the Bills were downright dreary. They only averaged 3.5 yards per play, 2.4 yards per carry, and only 3.8 yards in the air (when sacks were taken into effect). The Skins blitzed so hard and furious, and it was the key ingredient to the low Bills yardage.

The Top Guns for the Buffalo Bills were duds. Jim Kelly was stymied in his attempt to get the famous no-huddle offense in gear. He set a Super Bowl record by attempting 58 passes, competing only 28 for 275 yards and a couple touchdowns. Thurman Thomas was even worse. He may have found his helmet, but he never found his legs. He had a measly 13 yards on ten carries.

Jim Kelly, who was hammered into having a mild concussion in the final quarter, had a hard time remembering the game.

"I really don't remember too much about it, and maybe it's best that I don't," Jimbo said afterwards. "We, as an offensive team, didn't make the pays we usually make. Sometimes, I had guys open and I didn't hit them. Sometimes, balls were there that we didn't catch. Sometimes, blocks slipped away. Overall, I just have to give credit where credit's due. They were very well-prepared. We were just outplayed."

The first quarter of the game was scoreless, but it didn't stay that way long into the second quarter. The Skins drove 64 yards on seven plays to score when Chip Lohmiller kicked a 34-yarder to put Washington up 3-0. The two big plays in the drive were 41-yard strike from Mark Rypien to Ricky Sanders. That and a 19-yard romp by Earnest Byner set the Redskins up for the field goal.

The Bills could not muster anything when they got the ball and had to punt. The Skins started at their 49, and Rypien launched a 16-yard strike to Gary Clark. Then Cornelius Bennett, Bills linebacker, roughed up Rypien and got called for it, putting the ball on the Buffalo 10 yard line. With a little less than 10 minutes remaining in the half, Rypien passed to Byner for a touchdown.

The Bills trying to get something going, had the ball on their own 14 when Kelly lofted a pass to James Lofton. But the air in the dome in Minneapolis held it up long enough for Darrell Green to pick it off and the Skins had it at their 45 yard line.

 Rypien was able to move the Redskins down field again. A 34-yard zinger was caught by Clark to move the ball to the Bills 15. Ricky Ervins busted a 14 yard run to the Buffalo 1 and Gerald Riggs hit pay dirt after that to put the Skins up 17-0.

The Bills finally got some offensive life. They closed within field goal range, but after Kelly passed to Reed on third down, Reed was interfered with, or so he thought. When no flag was thrown, Reed went ballistic. He threw his helmet to the ground in protest and the refs gave him the flag for unsportsmanlike conduct, costing the Bills 15 yards. Thus, Reed's little tantrum cost the Bills 3 points.

Kelly talked about going into the locker room at halftime losing 17-0.

"By that point, I had already been sacked three times and hurried on several other occasions," Kelly said in his book Armed and Dangerous.. "We couldn't figure out what was happening. The Redskins didn't surprise us with their all-out blitz; we expected them to attack us the same way the Broncos had. And all week during practice, we were getting great blitz pickup by everybody. As I said, it was a fantastic week of practice.

"For some reason we didn't carry it over into the game. We, as an offensive team, didn't make the plays we usually make. Sometimes I had guys open and didn't hit them. Sometimes balls were there that we didn't catch. Sometimes blocks slipped away. Overall, though, I just have to give credit where credit's due. The Redskins were very well-prepared. They were the better team that day."

The second half started the way the first ended. Only 16 seconds had transpired when Kelly had yet another interception when Kurt Fouveia picked off a pass and returned it to the Bills 2 yard line. Riggs burst into the end zone again and the Skins were up 24-zip.

Buffalo got the ball again and this time they didn't cough it up. They drove 77 yards on 11 plays but were finally halted. So Scott Norwood came in and kicked an easy 21 yarder. The next time Buffalo had the ball, they drove 56 yards for their first touchdown of the day. Twenty-nine yards of the drive came from pass interference by Martin Mayhew, who was riding on Lofton. Thomas ran it in to make the score 24-10.

The Redskins were determined not to let the Bills get too close as Rypien struck gold when he hit Clark for 30 yards and a touchdown. The Skins also got 2 more field goals by Lohmiller of 25 and 39 yards.

The Bills were able to score another touchdown when Kelly finalized a 79-yard drive with a two yard strike to Pete Metzelaars. And to make the game look almost close (it was definitely mop up time), Kelly passed 4 yards to Don Beebe to end the Bills scoring.

"Maybe the best thing that happened to me was getting knocked into a state of semi-consciousness in the fourth quarter and, as a result, not being able to remember very many details, Kelly said months later. "I haven't watched a videotape of the game yet, and I don't think I ever will. What's there to analyze? We were outplayed. Period.

"The parts of Super Bowl XXVI I do remember, I'm trying to forget about. When I even start thinking about the game, I automatically put my mind on something else. It hurts that much."

Mark Rypien, who won the MVP trophy, passed 33 times for 292 yards on 18 completions. Fourteen of those completions were shared by Art Monk and Gary Clark. Rypien only threw one pick and was not sacked once.

Rypien, who had been criticized for not living up to the quarterbacking tradition in Washington, had to feel good about winning the big one.

"Sometimes, the truth hurts," he said. "When you get criticized, there's usually a reason behind it. You know with this football team, you're going to get an opportunity to get back into the playoffs. I don't feel vindicated. I just feel good that I was able to achieve some goals and be a part as this team did something. For all of us, we can strut around for the next four or five months with the idea that we're the best in the game. We can take it everywhere. For me, there were 45 MVPs."

"We were trying to put pressure on them," said Hal Garner, Bills linebacker. "We tried blitzing from every angle. You give a quarterback that much time and he'll beat you no matter how good your secondary is."

Cornerback Nate Odoms said, "We didn't match up with them well. When they had three receivers in the game, at times we had two cornerbacks in the game. When you're doing that, it makes for a hard day on the secondary. We didn't match up with them until later on in the game ... We didn't execute as well as we should have."

Ralph Wilson, Bills owner capped off the second straight Super Bowl loss for the Bills. "It's no disgrace to get to the Super Bowl, and they just played a team today that was better. Let's face up to it, the Redskins were just a better team today. I sat there and tried to find some weaknesses and I didn't see any."

 


Bills Backers United is a combined effort between the Bills Backers International Chapters located in Willow Grove PA, Laurel MD, Phoenix AZ, and Virginia Beach VA.

Copyright 2001 Rick Anderson