Posted: Sunday December 26, 1999 10:40 PM
FOXBORO, Massachusetts (Ticker) -- The Buffalo Bills did not bring their best game to the field, but once again they were good enough to win.
Steve Christie kicked a 23-yard field goal with 1:48 left in the overtime period to give the Bills a 13-10 victory over the New England Patriots and leave Buffalo on the verge of a playoff berth.
Doug Flutie was not sharp for the balance of what was mostly a dull game, but came alive when it counted most, completing his final 12 passes. He completed 22-of-35 for 212 yards and was not intercepted as the Bills improved to 10-5.
Buffalo can secure a playoff berth if Miami loses to the New York Jets on Monday night.
Flutie, a former Patriot who went to Boston College and is from Natick, is 11-1 as a starter at Foxboro Stadium, including his collegiate days.
"We made some adjustments at halftime and this was a really strange game because it was so hard to pass in," Flutie said. "The wind was real strong, so we had to modify our routes a little bit. ... This game is huge for us, because if we lose it we go into next week needing help and the playoffs are out of our control."
The final drive came after a 24-yard punt by Lee Johnson left the ball at the Bills 42. Flutie threw seven-yard passes to tight end Jay Riemersma and Peerless Price to move the ball to the Patriots 44 and hit Eric Moulds with an 11-yard pass to the New England 27 on 3rd-and-4. He threw a nine-yard pass to Kevin Williams before a nine-yard run by Thurman Thomas put Christie into chip-shot range.
"That was a wild game, back and forth; a game in which I thought we had blown ouor chance to win a couple of times," Buffalo coach Wade Phillips said. "But our defense comes up big and Doug made some great plays down the stretch."
The Bills got two reprieves from defeat. With two seconds left in regulation, Adam Vinatieri was wide right on a 33-yard field goal attempt. Vinatieri also was short on a 44-yard field goal try -- his second miss of the game from that distance -- 3:26 into overtime, a kick that was attempted only after defensive end Marcellus Wiley was offside on the previous play, when New England was going for the first down.
"Elements, what elements? It's his job to hit the field goal and I guess he didn't do it, did he?" said New England defensive end Willie McGinest, who also was seething that wide receiver Terry Glenn sat out with the flu and a 102-degree fever. "We all have the sniffles in this locker room and it's our job to show up sometimes when you're not feeling well. Terry Glenn? I don't want to talk about that (bleeping) situation."
Vinatieri's overtime kick came against the same wind into which he missed the potential regulation winner.
"That kick at the end of the fourth quarter was definitely the worst of the season, it might have been the worst of my career," Vinatieri said. "It got away from me, it never had a chance. The other two are just frustrating, because maybe with a couple of more yards in this wind, it gets there."
"We had two great chances to win the football game -- or at least one great chance and one hope," Patriots coach Pete Carroll said.
New England's Terry Allen, who carried 27 times for a season-high 126 yards, ran 14 yards for the go-ahead touchdown with 12:15 left in the game. The score came on the ensuing play after defensive tackle Chad Eaton returned a fumble by Jonathan Linton 30 yards.
Linton, who fumbled away the ball twice, atoned for his mistakes by bulling in from a yard with 4:23 remaining to forge a tie.
Flutie completed a 24-yard pass to Price, bringing the ball to the 20, and hit Moulds for a 19-yard gain to the 1.
"It felt real good to get that touchdown," Linton said. "It had been real tough for me to that point. Two turnovers could have cost the team big. But the end result is we get a win we needed. That's the most important thing."
Christie hit a 39-yard field goal 11 minutes into the game and Vinatieri converted from 38 yards on the final play of the first half. Christie empathized with his counterpart.
"I feel bad for Vinatieri," Christie said. "I can relate with the elements he was kicking into today. They (winds) were strong and in his face. I was lucky I didn't have to kick into that. I just told myself, 'Just don't miss it.'" Drew Bledsoe was 10-of-21 for 111 yards -- season lows in all categories -- and was not intercepted for the Patriots (7-8).
"We're not gonna quit," Bledsoe said. "I don't think anybody on this team could have imagined this would happen to us. Through this season I don't think there's been a lack of effort. I think it's been concentration and key mistakes at critical times."
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