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PRO FOOTBALL / WEEK 7 | BUFFALO 17, JACKSONVILLE 16

Flutie Starts and Delivers Again at Finish

Pro football: Jaguars lose first game as Bills' quarterback imitates college heroics with touchdown run in closing seconds.

October 19, 1998|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — A former expatriate baby boomer named Doug Flutie started an NFL game for the first time in nine years Sunday.

Oh, he finished it too.

Finished it with flair. Finished it by starting to cry as the crowd of 77,635 at Rich Stadium shouted his name, and shook the ground.

With a last-minute, wind-altered fling, and a fourth-and-goal broken-play dash into the end zone, Flutie hauled the Buffalo Bills to a memorable 17-16 victory over the previously unbeaten Jacksonville Jaguars.

"He's something special, isn't he?" said Bills Coach Wade Phillips, chuckling at his 35-year-old backup quarterback.

Fourteen years ago, Flutie gunned a 48-yard Hail Mary pass to Gerald Phelan to beat Miami (Fla.) to cap a magical Boston College upset. In eight CFL seasons with the Calgary Stampeders and Toronto Argonauts, Flutie won three Grey Cups and six awards as the league's most outstanding player.

Sunday, he started for the first time since his short 1989 stint with the New England Patriots. Of course, it happened to be 'Canada Day' at Rich Stadium, complete with Canadian national anthem and the mounties.

"My first start on 'Canada Day,' " Flutie said, shaking his head. "I mean, I knew the guy who sang the anthem, a bunch of Argos came down for the game. It was fun all the way around."

With Buffalo trailing, 16-10, Flutie scored the winning touchdown from one yard out with 13 seconds left--and lifted the Bills to a 3-3 record after their 0-3 start--on a broken play improvisation.

"I don't think you really want to know what happened," Flutie said. "It was a 'check-with-me' and Thurman [Thomas, the tailback] thought I called the other play. And when I turned to pitch it to Thurman, he was running the other way, so I ran the pitch basically for him. I became the running back."

The touchdown was only the capper to a chaotic final two minutes.

The usually powerful Jaguar offense was banged up (by the third quarter, they were down to their fourth-string tailback) and also struggled in the windy conditions, managing only a first-quarter touchdown and three Mike Hollis field goals.

Flutie, 18 for 39 for 228 yards and one touchdown, got the ball at the Bills' 30 with 1:50 left in the game.

After moving to the Jacksonville 39, Flutie looked-off the free safety and found wide receiver Eric Moulds wandering free deep down the left sideline. Moulds hauled it in and dove for the goal-line with 35 seconds left. One official quickly signalled a touchdown. But the clocked continued to tick, the officials marked the ball, and no points went on the board.

"I was in the stands," left tackle John Fina said. "I'm yelling and screaming and getting beer poured on me and then I look up and it's not a touchdown and I've got to get the hell back on the field."

Buffalo quickly regrouped, and killed the clock. Two more incompletions made it fourth-and-goal, from the one-foot line.

Then Flutie called a pitch for Thomas, and ended up running it himself.

"Maybe we scammed them," Panos said. "Maybe they all thought Thurman was going to get the ball."

So what does Buffalo do with Flutie when starter Rob Johnson--the USC product who signed a $5 million-a-year deal before the season--recovers from his bruised ribs?

"I'm not going to talk about that at all," Phillips said. "I'm not worried about next week yet."

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