Buffalo edges New England on Christie's game-winner
Posted: Sunday December 26, 1999 08:17 PM
Doug Flutie (7) threw for 212 yards and was the Bills' second-leading rusher against the Pats. AP
FOXBORO, Mass. (AP) -- The wind was whipping, the seconds were ticking and Doug Flutie was clicking.
He completed his last 12 passes, New England's Adam Vinatieri missed two late field-goal attempts into a brisk breeze and the Buffalo Bills inched closer to the playoffs with a 13-10 overtime win over the Patriots on Sunday.
"We believe in ourselves and we believe we're a playoff-caliber team," Flutie said after Steve Christie's 23-yard field goal at 13:12 of overtime won the game.
Flutie will have to wait at least one more day to find out if the Bills (10-5) make the playoffs or must wait until next Sunday, when they end the regular season at home against Indianapolis.
They would have clinched a berth Sunday if Seattle lost or tied, but it beat Kansas City 23-14. The Bills can do it Monday night if Miami loses to the New York Jets.
Buffalo left guard Ruben Brown didn't worry about all the possibilities.
"I just wanted to win the game," he said. "It's just all about winning now. You can win pretty. You can win ugly. As long as you win."
The first three quarters were unsightly as both teams struggled to move the ball and managed just two field goals between them -- Christie's 39-yarder with four minutes left in the first quarter and Vinatieri's 38-yarder on the last play of the second.
Then the Patriots (7-8) went ahead 10-3 with 12:15 left in the fourth quarter on a 14-yard run by Terry Allen, who rushed for a season-high 126 yards. It followed Chad Eaton's 30-yard return of Jonathan Linton's fumble and was the Patriots' first touchdown in eight quarters.
But the Bills tied the game on Linton's 1-yard run with 4:23 left in regulation as Flutie completed all four of his passes on the 59-yard drive.
"Doug had a heck of a game," Buffalo coach Wade Phillips said. "He made a lot of big plays, a lot of big plays running and, all of a sudden, he got hot throwing the football."
Flutie completed 22 of 35 passes for 212 yards and ran six times for 44 yards. Bledsoe was just 10-for-21 for 101 yards as the offense gained 225 yards after being eliminated from playoff contention a week earlier.
"I don't think anybody on the this team could possibly imagine that this could happen to us," Bledsoe said, "but it happened."
Patriots coach Pete Carroll, who has two years left on his five-year contract, is on the hot seat after losing six of his last seven games. Next Sunday's home game against Baltimore could be his last with the team.
"There's a lot going on here," New England defensive end Willie McGinest said. "You have to separate yourself from it. We can't go out with a losing record."
Christie had missed five of his previous eight field goals, but was 2-for-2 Sunday.
"I remembered this week to really slow down on my approach and just be smooth," he said. "It worked out."
The Patriots had a chance to win in regulation, but Vinatieri's 33-yard field-goal attempt into the wind went short and wide with two seconds to go. Then he tried a 44-yarder in the same direction on the first possession of overtime, but came up short again.
"I felt like I hit that (second) one as good as I could have," said Vinatieri, who also missed a 44-yarder into the wind in the first quarter. "It doesn't make me feel any better, but it was a tough wind."
The Bills started the winning drive at their 42-yard line after a punt gave them the ball with 7:31 remaining.
Flutie started it with passes of 7 yards each to Jay Riemersma and Peerless Price. He ended up 5-for-5 for 36 yards on the series, while Thurman Thomas ran four times for 16 yards, including runs for 3 and 9 yards and no gain before Christie came on the field.
The Bills gained just 97 yards in the first half. The Patriots managed only 94. And the offenses didn't get much better in the third quarter when New England couldn't cross midfield and Buffalo turned the ball over on downs after reaching the Patriots 33.
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Bills had 169 yards, the Patriots 123 and neither team had a touchdown.
But the Bills ended up with the victory, giving them their eighth 10-win season of the 1990s. And the Patriots ended up with no chance at a winning record and less of a chance for Carroll to keep his job.
Notes: Buffalo's Andre Reed needed five catches to move into second place on the career list ahead of Art Monk and three to tie an NFL record with his 13th season of at least 50 receptions. But he didn't catch one pass Sunday. ... Bledsoe's 101 yards passing were his fewest in 99 games since throwing for 96, against Buffalo, in the sixth game of his rookie season in 1993. ... Patriots wide receiver Terry Glenn missed his first game of the season with the flu. ... The Bills swept the Patriots for the first time since 1993. ... Flutie's streak of 12 games with at least one scoring pass ended.
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