Share this article

print logo


Efficient. Workmanlike.

Those were the words being tossed around by the Buffalo Bills on Sunday after their 26-0 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

Although the score is more synonymous with terms such as "rout" and "blowout," the Bills were the first to admit they didn't give a tidal-wave performance before a crowd of 70,872 in Ralph Wilson Stadium. What they did was play well enough to beat one of the worst teams in the NFL and as weak an opponent as has crossed their path in many years. What they did was exactly what a team with legitimate postseason aspirations should do against a club that could easily wind up 0-16 and is winless on the road since 1996.

"Team-wise, I thought we played a very efficient game," coach Wade Phillips said. "We played a little conservative . . . You are not going to play games without making mistakes, and certainly we made mistakes."

"Philadelphia is not, right now, a good football team," quarterback Doug Flutie said. "The thing is, we went out with a workmanlike effort and beat them soundly. It's great to go out and put those kind of teams away and move on. But this week is going to be a big challenge for us."

Indeed, the Bills (2-1) have much larger fish to fry, namely the Dolphins, whom they face a week from tonight in Miami. That's when the serious work begins. On Sunday, they faced an opponent so feeble that even when one of its receivers broke wide open deep on a flea-flicker play, he dropped the ball. A week from tonight, they return to the site of last January's wild-card playoff loss against an opponent that is 2-0 and widely viewed as one of the better teams in the league.

But since feel-good outings like Sunday's are so rare in the NFL, the Bills did take a little time to savor it. It was their first shutout since Sept. 20, 1992, when they beat Indianapolis, 38-0. And wide receiver Andre Reed did reach a major milestone, becoming only the third player in league history to catch 900 passes, on the third of his three receptions for 41 yards.

"You're supposed to win the games you're supposed to win," Reed said. "And that's what we did today . . . Believe me, if we would have lost that game, we would have all been sick about it."

"In the NFL, you do not get too many of these where there was a relaxed, confident feeling," Flutie said. "We played a solid, all-around game and consistently pulled away. It just felt like a well-rounded effort."

Flutie's day ended after three quarters when Phillips decided to give Rob Johnson some snaps. Flutie completed 18 of 26 passes for 175 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown to tight end Jay Riemersma, and was intercepted once. Flutie also ran five times for 32 yards. He wasn't spectacular, but he didn't have to be, considering the Bills barreled through the Eagles' super-soft defense for 191 rushing yards on 40 carries, an average of 4.8 yards per attempt.

By the time the QB switch was made, the Bills already had a 26-0 lead and there was no reason to believe the Eagles would stage a miracle rally, even after second-overall draft pick Donovan McNabb replaced mistake-prone starter Doug Pederson at quarterback. The only catch to what otherwise looked like a perfect opportunity for the Bills' Johnson to see action was when he suffered a slight concussion while being sacked. Alex Van Pelt quarterbacked the rest of the way.

The only other negatives to come out of the game for Buffalo were a pulled hamstring suffered by offensive guard Ruben Brown, who might not play against the Dolphins, and the offense's performance in the red zone. The Bills were inside Philadelphia's 20-yard line six times, and came away with four field goals and two touchdowns.

For the most part, though, they maintained command and avoided being lulled to sleep by the Eagles' ineptitude and the fact that a much larger game awaits them.

The Bills drove with relative ease on their first two possessions -- with Antowain Smith running for 37 yards on his first two carries -- although both ended with short Steve Christie field goals.

It looked as if the Bills would break the game open late in the first quarter when linebacker Gabe Northern sacked Pederson and forced a fumble that defensive end Phil Hansen recovered and returned 5 yards to the Eagles' 4. After Smith was twice stuffed, Flutie began to scramble and looked like
he might score, but was blasted at the 1 by strong safety Tim Hauck. Flutie wound up with a sore knee and the Bills settled for Christie's third field goal to make it 9-0.

"We had to guard against ourselves today," Reed said. "I mean, it was only 9-0 going into the second quarter, and anything could have happened."

This is what happened: The Eagles made another in a long series of blunders when Pederson was hit by defensive end Bruce Smith as he tried to release the ball, fumbled and Hansen again recovered, this time returning the ball 19 yards to the Philadelphia 48. Four plays later, Flutie had the Bills to the 15, from where he fired a perfect pass between two defenders to a falling Riemersma in the end zone. That made it 16-0.

The Bills added a 36-yard Christie field goal at the end of the half and 4-yard touchdown run by Smith late in the third quarter.

"We could have gone into this one lackadaisical," nose tackle Ted Washington said. "But we didn't."

The Bills' defense definitely came to play. The Eagles crossed midfield only twice in 12 possessions. They were held to only 22 rushing yards on 12 carries, and half of those were for losses.

"One of the things we wanted to do with that type of offense was not just sit back on them," Bills defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell said. "We wanted to give them some things to react to, and it worked pretty good. We did the same thing with San Francisco last year."

Still, the Bills' defenders continue to fume over their poor showing in the 31-14 season-opening loss at Indianapolis. They have dedicated the rest of the year to redemption.

"We're going to make up for what happened in the first game the rest of the season," Washington said. "We know we're a better team than the Indianapolis Colts ... We know how good we are. We've just got to go out and dominate people and get our respect, because people don't have us nowhere near the top in our division. They want to put us in the middle or below.

"We're just going to show 'em."

There are no comments - be the first to comment