Bills adjust record to 5-0 Bears' mistakes costly in 35-20 loss

September 30, 1991|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Staff Correspondent

ORCHARD PARK,N.Y. — ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The explosive no-huddle offense of the Buffalo Bills had become all muddled. Quarterback Jim Kelly was overthrowing his receivers. Tailback Thurman Thomas was being used as a high-priced decoy. Under the home team's score yesterday at Rich Stadium was a big, fat zero.

There were 1 minute, 59 seconds left in the first half, and the unbeaten Bills, trailing 6-0, had the ball at their 15. It could have been worse, considering the two touchdowns the Bears had nullified by penalties. It could have been worse, considering how little time Buffalo had spent on offense in the first 28 minutes.

"We just needed to make some adjustments," said Thomas, who had gained only 27 yards on eight carries for Buffalo, which had 57 yards total at that point.

First, the Bills adjusted the scoreboard, which read 7-6 in their favor after a 33-yard touchdown pass from Kelly to reserve wide-out Al Edwards on third-and-13 with 12 seconds remaining in the half. Then Buffalo adjusted its offense, getting Thomas the ball and the yards to soften things up for Kelly, who threw two more touchdown passes in a 35-20 victory.

The victory gave the defending AFC champions their first 5-0 start since 1980 and left the previously unbeaten Bears (4-1) looking for powder burns around their ankles and toes as they go home to prepare for Sunday's game at Soldier Field against the Washington Redskins. That's what happens when you shoot yourself so many times in the feet, as Chicago coach Mike Ditka was quick to suggest.

"I'm going to make this about as short and sweet as I can; we got our butts beat, and that's about all you can say about it," said Ditka, who was surprisingly calm considering the numerous mistakes his team made. "We had a number of chances in the game, and we seemed to find a way to self-destruct every chance we had."

Of the 10 penalties called against the Bears in the first half, two were quite costly. One, an offsides infraction against defensive tackle Tim Ryan, negated an interception return for a touchdown by safety Mark Carrier with a little less than six minutes left in the first quarter.

The other came after Neal Anderson apparently had scored on 17-yard pass from Jim Harbaugh, but rookie tailback Darren Lewis was called for interference near the goal line. Chicago settled for Kevin Butler's second field goal. It seemed as if the Bears' six-point lead would hold until halftime. It seemed that way until Edwards caught the first touchdown pass of his career.

"I think that really turned the game around for us," said Thomas. "When we scored right before the half, and at the start of the second half, that set the tone for the rest of the game."

The second half, or more precisely the third quarter, was merely a continuation for the Bills and a demolition of the Bears. Buffalo marched 91 yards on the opening series, got a bit of luck when fullback Carwell Gardner fell on his fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, and never looked back.

Thomas (117 yards on 25 attempts rushing, one touchdown) found room. Kelly (19 of 29 for 303 yards, three touchdowns) found his targets. After a touchdown by Anderson brought the Bears back to within 21-13, Kelly hit James Lofton (four catches for 122 yards) for a game-breaking, 77-yard touchdown. Buffalo's defense, rejuvenated by the return of All-Pro defensive end Bruce Smith, took over.

"I just though that I could be a positive influence to the team," said Smith, who came back after missing the first month following arthroscopic knee surgery during the off-season. "I thought there were certain things that I could accomplish out there such as drawing double and triple coverage and opening things for other people."

Though Smith wasn't credited with either a tackle or a sack, he created havoc for the Bears' offensive line. Rookie tackle Stan Thomas, who has similar problems last week against the Jets, jumped prematurely twice on one series. Linebacker Carlton Bailey, a former Woodlawn and North Carolina standout, led the Bills with eight tackles.

If the Bills were not stuffing Anderson and the Bears on three straight plays at the goal line, then they were harassing Harbaugh into a blur of a second half. "We had the ball and the wind in the third quarter, but I don't know what happened," said Harbaugh, who wasn't sacked, yet was hurried several times.

"We made mistakes all year, and still won," said Carrier, referring to the Bears' first four games, won by a total of 14 points. "I guess they did catch up with us today. Mistakes like that will kill you."

So will Buffalo's no-huddle offense.

Especially when guys named Kelly and Thomas get rolling.

NOTES: Buffalo is the only unbeaten team remaining in the AFC. . . . Bills tight end Butch Rolle caught a 10th straight pass for a touchdown, his second this season, in a streak that dates back to 1987. . . . Lofton passed Ozzie Newsome for fourth place among all NFL receivers. He now has 655 catches.

NFL Week 5

Bills.. .. .. .. ..35.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Bears.. .. .. 20

Lions.. .. .. .. ..31.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Buccaneers.. .. 3

Saints.. .. .. .. .27.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Falcons.. .. .. 6

Cowboys.. .. .. .. 21.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Giants.. .. .. 16

Raiders.. .. .. .. 12 .. .. .. .. .. .. .49ers.. .. .. . 6

Rams.. .. .. .. .. 23 .. .. .. .. .. .. .Packers.. .. ..21

Seahawks.. .. .. . 31 .. .. .. .. .. .. .Colts.. .. .. . 3

Chiefs.. .. .. .. 14 .. .. .. .. .. .. .Chargers.. .. 13

Jets.. .. .. .. .. 41.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Dolphins.. .. 23

Cardinals.. .. .. 24.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Patriots.. .. 10

Broncos.. .. .. .. 13.. .. .. .. .. .. ..Vikings.. .. .. 6

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