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Bills' Defense Fills the Hole

October 28, 2002|From Associated Press

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — With Drew Bledsoe running the offense, it might be easy to overlook the Buffalo Bills' unheralded defense.

Not Sunday.

Linebacker London Fletcher bailed out the Bills, stopping James Stewart for no gain on fourth and inches at the Buffalo 20 with 1:52 left in the game, securing Buffalo's 24-17 victory over the Detroit Lions.

Travis Henry's fumble set up the Lions' final push.

Fletcher got penetration on the left side, catching Stewart as he got to the line of scrimmage.

"London Fletcher, going mano-a-mano in the hole with Stewart, that was big time," linebacker Keith Neman added.

Bledsoe then sealed the victory on the next possession, hitting Eric Moulds with a 12-yard pass on third down, allowing Buffalo to run out the clock.

Bledsoe, who entered the game as the NFL's leading passer this season, finished 21 for 36 for 302 yards with a touchdown -- a 59-yarder to Peerless Price.

But it was the Bills' once-maligned defense that came up biggest.

"They were taking a lot of heat at the start of the season," said Moulds, who had 123 yards receiving. "I think that they have turned it around, saying, 'We're not just going to rely on our offense to carry us.' "

The unit that gave up an average of 35 points in the first five games has surrendered only 34 points in the last 10 quarters.

The resurgent Bills (5-3) have won three in a row and are in the thick of the AFC East race, behind idle Miami (5-2).

The Lions (2-5) still can't win on the road. They've lost a franchise-record 12 in a row away from home, and their last road victory was against the New York Jets on Dec. 17, 2000.

"This is five weeks where we've been within one drive of winning the game," rookie quarterback Joey Harrington said.

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