Bills find way into win column on 46-yard field goal, Jaguars fall deeper into the hole

Buffalo edges hapless Jacksonville squad

Posted: Friday, October 19, 2001

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Buffalo Bills finally made it into the win column, and sent the Jacksonville Jaguars even deeper into despair.

Rob Johnson moved the Bills 48 yards to set up a 46-yard field goal by Jake Arians with 1:03 remaining and help young, rebuilding Buffalo beat hapless Jacksonville 13-10 Thursday night.

Arians had missed field goals of 41 and 39 yards, but coach Gregg Williams didn't hesitate to put the game on his foot on fourth-and-inches. The kick sailed through and Arians jumped into the arms of Dan O'Leary, who carried him halfway to the sideline.

Three plays later, Travares Tillman intercepted a pass that bounded off Stacey Mack's hands, and the Bills (1-4) found themselves on the winning side for the first time this year.

''Unbelievable,'' Johnson said. ''It's been six weeks and we finally got a win. It was a team win. The first one is always the toughest.''

Mark Brunell threw for 150 yards and was showered with boos by Jaguars fans, who watched Jacksonville (2-3) lose for the third straight time and take part in an inept display nobody could have expected from a team with so much supposed talent.

''How mindboggling is it for me?'' coach Tom Coughlin said. ''I don't know how to describe it. It's a low point for me personally, professionally, and every other way.''

It could get worse. Jacksonville, the team that massaged the salary cap thinking it could make a final run at the Super Bowl this season, plays its next two games at Baltimore and Tennessee.

''As Coach put it, we've got a lot of soul searching to do to see if we can get this thing back on track,'' Brunell said.

The Bills were no juggernaut either, but then again, they never promised much for a season in which they committed to taking their salary cap lumps in hopes of building for the future.

Turned out, Buffalo didn't need to show much against Jacksonville.

Midway through the third quarter, Johnson hit Eric Moulds for a 27-yard touchdown pass and a 10-7 lead.

Johnson, who backed up Brunell in Jacksonville before being traded to the Bills in 1998, finished 23-of-30 for 238 yards. He improved to 9-14 as Buffalo's starter, and got a good boost as the Bills prepare for next Sunday's game against San Diego, and the quarterback the Bills' fans love, Doug Flutie.

''This is the first time I saw the swagger in his eyes,'' Moulds said. ''He was talking a lot more in the game. I don't if it was because he was back here, or what, but he played with lot more confidence in this game.''

It was the first victory for Williams, the former Titans defensive coordinator who last week fielded questions about whether he would bench Johnson in favor of Alex Van Pelt, who played well when Johnson got injured last week.

''Gregg got the game ball,'' Johnson said. ''He wanted to give it to me, but I told him, 'I've won games before, you keep it.'''

Trailing 10-7, Jacksonville kicker Mike Hollis lined up for a 27-yard field goal, but never got a chance to kick it because snapper Joe Zelenka sent the ball flying over holder Chris Hanson's head.

Coughlin defended his decision to go for the field goal, even though it was fourth-and-inches and there were more than 14 minutes remaining.

''There was no advance warning on that,'' Coughlin said of the snap. ''It had never happened in practice. I had not considered that the snap would be a problem.''

A few minutes later, Jacksonville regained the field position edge after a bad Buffalo punt went out at the Bills 29. The Jaguars managed only six yards and had to settle for a 41-yard field goal by Hollis and a 10-10 tie with 3:54 left.

From there, Johnson led the Bills on the methodical, 10-play drive, liberally using fullback Larry Centers to set up the winning score.

Brunell was 16-of-26 with two interceptions, and for the second straight game since his concussion, looked tentative on his throws and shaky in the pocket. Buffalo came into the game with five sacks, but added four more against Brunell. The Bills were allowing an average of 32 points a game, but Jacksonville mustered just a single touchdown for the third time in its last four games.

Brunell made it 7-3 by hitting Kyle Brady for a 20-yard touchdown to open the second half. The pass capped a 76-yard drive -- seven more than the Jaguars gained in the entire first half.

''The first half offensively was very, very poor, very pathetic,'' Coughlin said. ''Any time the defense gives up 13 points, you should win. That's how I feel. I put the blame on the offense.''

After Jacksonville's score, Johnson answered with a 63-yard drive of his own. He hit Moulds for the 27-yard score that sent Jaguars cornerback Fernando Bryant into a rage, as he pointed fingers at teammate Ainsley Battles, who offered no help in the zone defense.

Notes: The Bills avoided their worst start since 1985, when they opened the season 0-6. ... Centers had seven catches for 59 yards and rushed three times for 13 yards. ... Jaguars linebacker T.J. Slaughter left with a sprained right knee and ankle. ... Brunell surpassed 20,000 yards passing for his career.

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