The Detroit Lions' offense had the most style points, but that had little to do with the final outcome.
Despite a good day by their biggest threats, the Lions found themselves on the short end of a 22-13 score against the Buffalo Bills Sunday at Rich Stadium.
"It's frustrating to lose a game like this, especially when you played well enough to win," running back Barry Sanders said. "We have to find a way to execute better and put the ball in the end zone."
It wasn't that the Lions couldn't move the ball. They outgained the Bills 309-266 and held a 7:02 edge in time of possession.
Sanders, widely considered the game's best running back, recorded his fourth consecutive 100-yard day (107 on 25 carries). Wide receiver Herman Moore, who may be the premier player at his position now that Jerry Rice is sidelined, was also productive with 116 yards on eight catches.
However, the Lions' only touchdown came on an 8-yard scramble by quarterback Scott Mitchell. Sanders has not scored a touchdown in six straight games, dating to last season.
"Statistics don't win football games. Performing in key situations does," said Mitchell, who completed 20 of 38 passes for 221 yards. "We didn't score enough points and that's the bottom line in this game."
Detroit's average drive start was its 23-yard line. Five of the 12 possessions ended in Bills' territory, but the Lions never put together a consistent string of plays that would have put them in position to score.
"It seems like we couldn't maintain drives and convert on third down when we needed to," Mitchell said. "That comes from a lot of different things, but I think they (the Bills) just made the plays that they needed to in critical situations."
Indeed, the Bills' defense had a lot to do with the Lions' problems. Buffalo kept them from making too many big plays. A large chunk of Sanders' yardage came on a dazzling third-quarter run of 40 yards that resulted only in kicker Jason Hanson's second field goal of the day.
Detroit was also affected by the loss of starting left tackle Ray Roberts, who left the game with a strained left knee after he was tackled while returning a recovered fumble in the third quarter.
"It was difficult not having Ray in there because he's a steady player and very strong at the point of attack," Sanders said. "We really could have used him when the game was on the line."
When Roberts went down, Lions coach Bobby Ross moved right tackle Larry Tharpe to the left side and installed rookie Juan Roque at right tackle.
"Roque went in there as a rookie and got his baptism," Ross said. And a fiery one at that.
With the ball at Detroit's 1-yard line, Phil Hansen -- the Bills' 6-foot-5, 278-pound defensive end -- pushed the 6-8, 333-pound Roque into the end zone and teamed with Bruce Smith to tackle Sanders for a safety that gave Buffalo a 15-13 lead with 2:12 left in the game.
"We tried to get a good push to get Barry some room to run, but the hole wasn't there," Roque said. "It's tough to swallow for me. You want to go in there and be impressive. I have to bounce back because I know that I'm better than what I showed today."