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NFL / WEEK 1 | BUFFALO 16, TENNESSEE 13

Bills Barely Keep Titans From Repeating Miracle

September 04, 2000|From Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Miracles, like lightning, apparently can't strike twice. But it was close.

Steve Christie kicked a 33-yard field goal with 35 seconds left and the Buffalo Bills hung on for a 16-13 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday night, avenging their stunning loss to the Titans in last season's AFC wild-card playoff game.

The game came close to being a copy of "Music City Miracle" in which Kevin Dyson--courtesy of Frank Wycheck's throwback--ran back a last-second kickoff 75 yards for the winning touchdown.

This time, however, there was no Tennessee throwback, and the Bills managed to tackle kick returner Derrick Mason at midfield. The game ended when Craig Hentrich's 60-yard field-goal attempt fell short.

It was still enough to put a familiar scare into the Bills.

"It felt like that game all over again, but we didn't want to live that out," Buffalo defensive end Marcellus Wiley said. "It was, 'Here we go again,' especially when he kept running. Everybody was like, 'You've got to be kidding me.' But lightning doesn't strike twice and I don't think they deserved two miracles."

The Bills won despite losing starting quarterback Rob Johnson, who limped off the field with nine minutes left. Johnson said he injured a nerve in his lower left leg.

Before the game, Doug Flutie was activated as the Bills' third quarterback, returning earlier than expected from a torn groin muscle.

But Alex Van Pelt got the call, taking over for the Bills with the score tied, 13-13.

On the Bills' final possession, Van Pelt connected with Eric Moulds on a 36-yard pass play with 50 seconds left to set up Christie's field goal.

Tennessee did not help itself.

Titan receivers dropped two sure catches, with Wycheck letting the ball slip through his hands in the end zone in the first half.

"That's a play a professional has to make. There's no excuse for a dropped ball like that," Wycheck said. "It's a tough loss. It's going to sting. And it should sting. We haven't been in this position for a long, long time. But you have to look at the overall picture. It's the first game, and there are 15 more."

The usually sure-handed Eddie George also dropped an easy pass in the third quarter, when Steve McNair found him wide open at the Titan 45.

The Bills' defense did the rest, limiting the Titans to 172 net yards, and only 55 passing yards.

McNair completed 17 of 31 passes for 152 yards. George gained 37 yards in 17 carries.

The Bills' offense didn't play much better, accounting for 266 yards.

Johnson, who expects to play next week, passed for 107 yards and one touchdown. He also gained 60 yards in six carries, helping set up two of Christie's field goals.

"I would've liked to have come back in," said Johnson, who was sacked five times and took numerous hits from defensive end Jevon Kearse. "Obviously, after three-and-a-half quarters of getting kicked, you'd like to be there in the end."

Peerless Price had a 15-yard touchdown reception and Christie kicked two other field goals.

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