Vince Young may have earned the AFC Offensive Player of the Week award for his performance at the Ralph – completing 13-of-20 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns, plus a scintillating 36-yard broken-field scramble that found the end zone just before halftime, leaving multiple defenders in his wake – but the real story of the game was Buffalo’s inability to stop Travis Henry. The fourth-leading rusher in Bills history pounded his former teammates for 135 yards on 25 attempts, not including a 60-yard run called back by a penalty. He was at his best on Tennessee’s final drive, carrying the ball eight times for 41 tough yards to move the team into position for Rob Bironas’ game-deciding 30-yard field goal.
The Bills had a last-minute chance to come back, but J.P. Losman’s fourth-down heave from the Tennessee 28 found the hands of cornerback Reynaldo Hill instead of Josh Reed, and a Young kneeldown ran the final seconds off the clock.
Should they have tried a 45-yard field goal instead? Perhaps… but anyone sitting in the scoreboard end zone can tell you how Bironas, the guy who nailed a 60-yard field goal to beat the Colts earlier in the month, just barely snuck a 42-yarder over the crossbar earlier in the game. Rian Lindell had already kicked five field goals on his way to a career-high 17 points; his confidence had to be at its peak… and he still didn’t think he could make the kick.
Maybe a better question to ask is why the Bills have gotten into the habit of taking the wind at the beginning of the game, instead of having it at their back in the deciding moments of the fourth quarter.
Losman finished the day with a touchdown and two interceptions to go with his 266 yards passing, but consistently moved the team – with only two punts, Brian Moorman spent most of the game holding for kicks instead – and put 29 points on the board. (The last time Buffalo lost a game when scoring that many points? It happened twice in 2002, Drew Bledsoe’s first season here.) Tennessee went four for five on third-down chances in the fourth quarter; the only failed conversion was on their final offensive play, when Young dove into the line to set up Bironas’ kick.
LAST TIME IN CANTON: August 5, 1989 – Redskins 31, Bills 6
Marv Levy’s ambivalence about trying to win preseason games is well known, but even he was annoyed by their performance against Washington in the 1989 Hall of Fame Game.
“Our goal was to play everyone and get a good look at a lot of people. We did that. What was disappointing was that no one stood out. That the game was on national television didn’t bother me. That the score was a considerable margin did bother me,” Levy said.
The Bills actually led this game, with Scott Norwood’s 32-yard field goal providing the only points of the first quarter. That changed early in the second, though, when Mark Rypien found Gary Clark for a 27-yard score and running back Willard Reaves added the first of his two rushing touchdowns, tying a Hall of Fame Game record.
Rypien, filling in for the injured Doug Williams, finished his stint 10-of-12 for 133 yards and a touchdown in the win. “Rypien looked good,” Levy said. “He got a lot of plays and made some big ones.”
Charlie Baumann’s 30-yard field goal with 0:26 remaining in the first half put the Bills back on the board, but the Redskins’ two-minute drill was in midseason form, quickly setting up Chip Lohmiller for a 35-yarder as the clock expired. Reaves and Stan Humphries added rushing touchdowns in the second half to complete the scoring for Washington, which dominated the time of possession by a 37:28 – 22:32 margin.
Jim Kelly was 2-of-5 for 32 yards in limited action for the Bills, who finished the game with just 12 first downs and 170 yards of total offense.