Flutie's magic makes deficit vanish

17-yard 4th-down run, winning TD pass fulfill Bills' need for `miracle'

November 01, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

The NFL's version of Houdini slipped out of his handcuffs one more time yesterday.

"We needed a miracle play," Buffalo Bills coach Wade Phillips said after his team took over on the Ravens' 45 with 3: 25 left following a Gabe Northern forced fumble.

Doug Flutie, who had been in a virtual straitjacket the entire game and threw three interceptions, came up with two miracle plays just when most Bills fans were wondering why Phillips didn't yank Flutie for Rob Johnson.

The result was that Buffalo escaped with a 13-10 victory.

Flutie's first miracle play came on fourth-and-15 at the Baltimore 39. The Bills were one play from defeat with a little more than two minutes left.

When Flutie stepped under center, even he didn't like the odds.

"They've got three men rushing and eight guys off in coverage and they're backed up to the 10-, 15-yard area. It's like, `You've got to be kidding. There's no way, there was absolutely no way I was going to stick it in anywhere,' " he said.

Flutie took a deep drop and said he thought, "I figured hang onto the ball for a while and let people work." He looked around and found "nothing."

"Looked down the right sideline, thought I had a shot at Andre [Reed] maybe. Held onto it. Didn't like it. Saw Jonathan Linton. He drifted through. I could dump it to him for about 8 to 10 [yards]. But he wasn't going to get a first down. So I just pointed to Jonathan, told him to turn up and let's go."

Flutie said the key to the 17-yard scramble was the deep drop. "The longer I dropped back, the deeper they [Ravens' defensive players] got," he said. In effect, they opened up enough space for Houdini to work his magic.

That put the Bills on the Ravens' 22. Two passes to Reed gave them a first down on the Baltimore 5 with 1: 44 left.

Time for more Flutie magic on a touchdown pass to Linton.

"[That] was another screwed-up play," Flutie said. He said they had a two-receiver route on the left side but "it got messed up."

"We had the wrong routes. We had people out of position. I had to hold onto the ball and move around and make something happen. I got out to the right and I thought I had a shot at running it in. And then one of their DBs, No. 45 [Corey Harris] came up, and I had to avoid him.

"Then I thought now I have a play now. I can run it in or throw it. I was so hesitant to pull the trigger because I didn't want to throw an interception. Finally, I went ahead and pulled the trigger. I stuck it as low as I could to be safe with the ball, and he made a nice catch," he said.

Linton was supposed to be blocking on the play, but he drifted out and made the catch.

Linton said: "I wasn't supposed to be in the pattern, but I have a little route when my man doesn't come and I just did that and we got the touchdown."

This was schoolyard football at its best.

"We had a lot of missed assignment, a lot of mistakes all over the place. It was just plain ugly," Flutie said. "We've got to tighten that up because we're not going to win a lot of football games playing that way. I made more than my share of mistakes, too. They're an excellent defense, too. That causes a lot of mistakes."

Phillips, who simply said "no" when he was asked if he considered pulling Flutie, said: "Winners do what it takes to win, and today we did what it took to win. It shows what type of heart we have on this team."

Center Jerry Ostroski said: "When you're good, you find ways to win. When you're bad, you find ways to lose."

Despite all of his problems, Flutie reached a milestone with his modest 155-yard passing effort. It gave him 50,119 yards in his career in the NFL, CFL and USFL. Warren Moon (70,325), Dan Marino (60,001), John Elway (51,475) and Ron Lancaster (50,535) are the only quarterbacks to do that in their pro careers.

The numbers don't tell the story of his career, though. His calling card is that he finds a way to win.

"I never lose belief. You've got to keep coming back and believing you're going to make the play the next time," he said.

Pub Date: 11/01/99

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