Posted: Monday December 20, 1999 01:23 AM
TEMPE, Arizona (Ticker) -- Even though the division title is out of reach, Doug Flutie and the Buffalo Bills made it known they are still in the hunt for a playoff berth.
Flutie completed 21-of-32 passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns as the Bills improved their postseason chances with their fifth win in seven games, 31-21 over the sliding Arizona Cardinals.
Buffalo built a 24-14 lead with 3:01 left when Flutie fired a four-yard scoring pass to tight end Jay Riemersma. Flutie also threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Eric Moulds on the game's initial drive.
"It felt so easy throwing the ball in the beginning," Flutie said. "They caught us in a zone blitz and I had to throw the ball away a couple of times. I don't know if the intention in the second half was to hammer the ball."
The Cardinals climbed within three points when Jake Plummer threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to a diving Rob Moore with 1:49 left. But Henry Jones grabbed the ensuing onsides kick and ran 37 yards untouched for a score to seal the win.
"If we had three timeouts, I would have kicked it deep," Cardinals coach Vince Tobin said. "If we kicked it deep, we probably would have had it with 36 or 40 seconds left. It bounced right to the guy and hit him right in the chest."
Buffalo (9-5) is tied with AFC East rival Miami for the second wild card spot in the conference. The Bills have won both meetings with the Dolphins. Indianapolis clinched the division title earlier today.
"As a coach, certainly our goals are to make the playoffs," Bills coach Wade Phillips said. "You want to have a winning season first. Certainly we have a ways to go as far as the playoffs are concerned."
Buffalo gained a 376-178 advantage in total offense and has won 11 if its last 12 regular-season games against NFC East opponents. The Bills clinched their eighth winning season of the decade, which includes four Super Bowl appearances.
Moulds caught six passes for 73 yards and Jonathan Linton rushed for 81 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
Mario Bates ran for a pair of scores for Arizona (6-8), which has lost two straight following a four-game winning streak and saw its playoff chances severely damaged. Plummer did not have a happy 25th birthday, completing just 11-of-29 passes for 119 yards with an interception.
"I think we kind of abandoned the run a little bit and tried to throw a little too much," Plummer said. "Who cares what the other teams do. I know we have to win both of our games starting with next week (against Atlanta). I know were still in it until we lose nine games."
Arizona lost all four of its contests against the AFC East and failed to reach 200 yards of total offense for the second straight week and fourth time this season.
Buffalo built a 14-0 lead when Linton scored on a six-yard run with 63 seconds left in the opening quarter. That only added to Arizona's first-quarter woes in which it has been outscord 104-19 this season with no offensive touchdowns.
The Bills outgained the Cardinals 151-26 in the opening 15 minutes, including 129-12 in passing yards.
Buffalo also gained a decided advantage with 39 minutes, 20 seconds in time of possession. A 15-play, 9:16 drive in third quarter was punctuated when Steve Christie booted a 33-yard field goal for a 17-14 lead.
Bills wide reciever Andre Reed left the game in the first half with bruised ribs and did not return. He is listed as day-to-day.
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