Final

Lions 17

(2-5, 0-4 away)

Bills 24

(5-3, 2-2 home)

Coverage: FOX

1:00 PM ET, October 27, 2002

Ralph Wilson Stadium, Buffalo, NY 

1 2 3 4 T
DET 0 14 0 317
BUF 7 7 10 024

Bills' D holds off Lions down stretch

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- With Drew Bledsoe running the offense, it might be easy to overlook the Buffalo Bills' unheralded defense.

Allen's Analysis
Eric Allen
Question on the Lions: Should they try to find more ways to get Az-Zahir Hakim involved?
They should continue to focus on establishing the run to give rookie QB Joey Harrington the opportunity to throw play-action passes and get everyone involved. I know Harrington likes TE Mikhael Ricks down the middle, but that can't work every week. They're close -- I give them a lot of credit for not giving up, because the Lions easily could have thrown in the towel. Defensively, LB Chris Claiborne is playing well, so the Lions have two young players to start to build their team around. Now they just need some wins and some confidence.

Question on the Bills: Is there anything the coaches can do about Henry's fumbling problem?
Go back to the stickum ... or something. He's an exceptional back who runs hard, but you just can't count on him in the fourth quarter if he continues to fumble. It's going to be a problem. Playoff games are a microcosm of the whole season. If the Bills make the playoffs and they're trying to drive and score, you can figure it's going to happen -- he's going to fumble unless he can do something in the next five or six weeks to get that under control.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

Not Sunday.

Linebacker London Fletcher bailed out the Bills, stuffing James Stewart for no gain on fourth-and-inches at the Buffalo 20 with 1:52 left in the game, securing Buffalo's 24-17 victory over the Detroit Lions.

Travis Henry's fumble set up the Lions' final push.

"Things happen,'' Fletcher said. "From a defensive standpoint, we didn't think they were going to score. That was our mentality going out on the field. ... We went out there saying they weren't going to get anything.

"We wanted to close the game out.''

Fletcher got penetration on the left side, catching Stewart just as he got to the line of scrimmage.

"London Fletcher, going mano-a-mano in the hole with Stewart, that was big time,'' linebacker Keith Neman added.

Bledsoe then sealed the victory on the next possession, hitting Eric Moulds with a 12-yard pass on third down, allowing Buffalo to run out the clock.

Bledsoe, who entered the game as the NFL's leading passer this season, finished 21-of-36 for 302 yards and a touchdown -- a 59-yarder to Peerless Price.

But it was the Bills' once-maligned defense that came up the biggest.

"They were taking a lot of heat at the start of the season,'' said Moulds, who had 123 yards receiving. "I think that they have turned it around, saying, 'We're not just going to rely on our offense to carry us.'''

What a turnaround it has been for a unit that has allowed just 34 points in the last 10 quarters after allowing an average 35 points a game in its first five games.

The resurgent Bills (5-3) have won three straight and are in the thick of the AFC East race, just behind the idle Miami Dolphins (5-2).

The Lions (2-5) still can't win on the road. They've lost a franchise-record 12 in a row away from home, and their last road victory was against the New York Jets on Dec. 17, 2000.

Sunday's loss was also familiar because it was so close. After being blown out the first two games this season, Detroit's last three losses are by a combined 20 points.

"This is five weeks where we've been within one drive of winning the game,'' rookie quarterback Joey Harrington said. "It's not fun, but you learn we have to be more consistent.''

Harrington had an inconsistent day, finishing 20-of-42 for 199 yards.

While he kept the Lions in the game, marching Detroit 46 yards to set up Jason Hanson's 35-yard field goal that cut Buffalo's lead to 24-17, Harrington couldn't finish the job.

Harrington was limited to just 9 of 21 passing for 79 yards in the second half, and the Lions' fourth-down gamble came after Harrington managed just a 1-yard completion to Germane Crowell.

Stewart, coming off a career-high 172 yards rushing, had 83 yards and a touchdown. Az-Zahir Hakim also scored for Detroit on a 23-yard touchdown reception.

"I was disappointed offensively in our execution,'' Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg said. "We had our opportunities. We didn't make it happen.''

Henry also was not happy. He has fumbled six times this season, including two that led to opponent touchdowns.

"I got hit pretty hard,'' Henry said, referring to Bracy Walker's fumble-jarring hit that caught Henry under the chin. "But there are no excuses. I take all the responsibility. I just have to hold onto it.''

Henry finished with 64 yards rushing and two touchdowns, both coming on 5-yard runs. His second put the Bills up 24-14 with 2:02 remaining in the third quarter.

It almost wasn't enough.

"I think we need to learn how to close games out,'' Moulds said. ``That has been a problem for us. We need to finish what we start.''

Game notes


Henry has now scored nine rushing touchdowns this season, becoming the first Bills player to do that since Thurman Thomas in 1992. ... Bills FB Larry Centers failed to catch a pass, ending his consecutive games streak with a reception at 143. Centers had the league's third-longest active streak entering this weekend, behind Jerry Rice (247) and Tim Brown (146). ... Injuries -- Lions: OT Stockar McDougle (groin) and WR/PR Desmond Howard (rib).

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Scoring Summary

FIRST QUARTERDETBUF
bufTD3:45Travis Henry, 5 yd run
Drive info: 2 plays, 47 yds, 0:40
06
buf3:40
Drive info: 2 plays, 47 yds, 0:40
07
THIRD QUARTERDETBUF
bufFG11:14Mike Hollis 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 6 plays, 32 yds, 1:59
1417
FOURTH QUARTERDETBUF
detFG3:12Jason Hanson 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 7 plays, 46 yds, 2:19
1724
SECOND QUARTERDETBUF
bufTD1:15Touchdown
Drive info: 5 plays, 73 yds, 0:59
1413
buf1:04
Drive info: 5 plays, 73 yds, 0:59
1414
detTD5:10Touchdown
Drive info: 1 plays, 80 yds, 5:20
67
det5:03
Drive info: 1 plays, 80 yds, 5:20
77
THIRD QUARTERDETBUF
bufTD2:10Travis Henry, 5 yd run
Drive info: 11 plays, 60 yds, 3:50
1423
buf2:02
Drive info: 11 plays, 60 yds, 3:50
1424
SECOND QUARTERDETBUF
detTD3:05James Stewart, 2 yd run
Drive info: 1 plays, 80 yds, 5:20
137
det3:00
Drive info: 1 plays, 80 yds, 5:20
147