ALSO ON SLAM!
Sunday, December 19, 1999
Bills 31, Cardinals 21
Flutie foils Cards in Arizona
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) -- The Buffalo Bills beat the Arizona Cardinals the old fashioned way Sunday night, with a smash-it-up-the-middle running attack led by Jonathan Linton.
Then Doug Flutie and Henry Jones finished it off in a 31-21 Buffalo victory.
"We proved tonight that we can still run the ball," Linton said, "that we're still the Buffalo Bills."
Flutie completed 21 of 32 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns, including a 4-yard scoring strike to Jay Riemersma on third-and-goal that put Buffalo up 24-14 with 3:01 to play. Flutie was intercepted twice.
Jake Plummer, ineffective most of the night, threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Rob Moore to make it 24-21 with 1:49 to go. But on the subsequent onside kick attempt, Jones caught the ball on one bounce, brushed past Arizona's Mark Maddox and made a 37-yard dash to the end zone for the clinching score with 1:44 remaining.
"I don't think I made a play all day but that one," Jones said, "and it turned out to be a huge one."
Buffalo (9-5), a front-runner in the AFC wild-card race, pulled away from a 14-14 halftime tie with a ball-hogging offense that kept the ball away from the Cardinals for all but 6:58 of the second half.
Linton, a second-year pro pressed into extra duty with Antowain Smith out with turf toe, gained 81 yards in 21 carries, including 60 on 16 attempts in the second half.
"I was surprised, disappointed, whatever word you want to put in there, that they were able to move the ball like they did," Arizona coach Vince Tobin said. "'We had eight people in the box, nine when we brought the safety up for a blitz, and we couldn't stop them consistently."
Buffalo, which had 25 first downs, used 12 consecutive running plays to set up Steve Christie's 33-yard field goal that put the Bills up 17-14 with 4:07 left in the third quarter.
"I don't know if it was the intention for us to come out and hammer the ball," Flutie said. "We ran the ball three times and got a first down. You get 5 or 6 yards a pop, you end up sticking with it."
The 15-play, 60-yard drive used up 9:16.
The loss virtually killed the already slim postseason hopes of Arizona (6-8).
"The best we can do is win our last two and finish 8-8," Tobin said. "Whether there's anything other than that out there, I don't know. I'm not a mathematician."
Tom Knight's one-handed interception stopped Buffalo's next threat, but the Bills used up 7:33 in a 13-play, 78-yard drive the next time they had the ball. Flutie's 26-yard pass to Eric Moulds on third down set up his touchdown toss to Riemersma.
"This is a frustrating game anyway," Arizona defensive end Thomas Burke said, "but it's really frustrating when they're hammering it at you and using up the clock."
Flutie completed 10 of 13 passes for 129 yards in the first quarter as the Bills took a 14-0 lead.
On the opening drive, Buffalo went 67 yard in six plays. Flutie was 3-for-3 for 58 yards on the drive, including a 15-yarder to Moulds for the touchdown.
The Bills scored again on their third possession, going 80 yards in 20 plays with Linton running six yards for the touchdown to make it 14-0 with 1:03 to go in the first quarter.
The Cardinals didn't get a first down until the final play of the first quarter, but they controlled the second period with a surprisingly effective ground game.
Pass-interference penalties were crucial to Arizona's two second-quarter touchdowns, both on short runs by Mario Bates. On third-and-2 from the Buffalo 31, Ken Irvin was called for interference on Moore near the goal line. Bates capped the 13-play, 80-yard drive with a 1-yard run that made it 14-7 with 9:31 left in the half.
Mac Cody's 24-yard punt return to the Buffalo 46 set the stage for Arizona's second score. A pass-interference penalty against Antoine Winfield, also against Moore, gave the Cardinals the ball at the 2, and Bates scored from there to tie it at 14 with 1:15 left in the half.
"The two pass-interference calls kept them in the game," Buffalo coach Wade Phillips said, "but our team stood strong and then I told them at halftime to come out and show them what we're made of."
Notes: Arizona finished the season 0-4 against the AFC. Tobin is 2-14 against AFC teams as the Cardinals coach and never has beaten an AFC East team. ... It was Buffalo's first-ever trip to Arizona. ... The Bills lost wide receiver Andre Reed in the first quarter with a rib injury. ... Buffalo finished the season against AFC foes New England and Indianapolis. ... Plummer completed 11 of 29 passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. ... The Cardinals' defensive tackle Eric Swann didn't play because his surgically repaired right knee was too sore. ... Arizona was without starting offensive linemen L.J. Shelton and Lester Holmes because of injuries.