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Bledsoe shines in hostile conditions

12/1/2002

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- Drew Bledsoe overcame the elements and
the Buffalo Bills overcame Ricky Williams' best rushing
performance.

Question on the Dolphins: Can Fiedler get them back on track or are there serious defensive issues that are being overlooked?
When it's crunch time, Miami's much-hyped defense hasn't been able to carry the team to victory. Earlier in the season, at home and against lesser opponents, the D played well. Fiedler's injury provided the Dolphins' defense with an opportunity to make a statement, but even though everyone's healthy, the D really hasn't stepped up. It could cost them a chance to make a push for the Super Bowl.

Question on the Bills: Do they have a good shot at the playoffs or is their schedule (Pats, Packers, Chargers, Bengals) too hard?
As much as I would like to see Drew Bledsoe in the playoffs (from a fan's perspective), making the playoffs will be difficult for the Bills. They're in too deep a hole, and they have too many teams ahead of them. It's tough when you have to depend on so many other teams and so many variables to make the playoffs.

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

Braving a cold wind and a slick field, Bledsoe passed for three
touchdowns and scored one on his own, sparking the Bills to a 38-21
victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

It was enough to deal with the elements and Miami's Williams,
who set a Dolphins record with 228 yards rushing and scored two
touchdowns.

The game began with a temperature of 25 degrees and ended in
near whiteout conditions as a heavy snow fell through most of the
fourth quarter.

While the Dolphins, now 3-7 when the temperature is 27 degrees
or colder, have traditionally had trouble playing in wintry
conditions, the Bills and Bledsoe are much more accustomed.

"I've played in cold weather for a long time now, since high
school,'' said Bledsoe, who grew up and played college football in
eastern Washington, and spent his previous nine seasons in New
England. "It never has been a real factor as far as throwing the
ball. I've got big hands. I can throw the ball.''

Bledsoe finished 15-for-27 for 306 yards, breaking the game open
by leading Buffalo on three consecutive touchdown drives in the
second half.

It was a prolific turnaround for a once-sputtering offense that
produced 36 points in its previous three outings. It was also a
historic performance.

Buffalo's Eric Moulds, with 130 yards receiving, and Peerless
Price, with 93 yards, each surpassed the 1,000 yard receiving mark.
Travis Henry with 151 yards rushing, broke the 1,000-yard plateau.
It marked the first time three players on the same team have done
so in the same game.

The Bills (6-6) ended a three-game losing streak while jumping
back into the AFC East playoff race, inching within a game of the
Dolphins (7-5). Miami fell into a tie with the New England
Patriots.

The New York Jets (6-5) could make it a three-way tie for first
with a win at Oakland on Monday.

The Dolphins, who lost quarterback Ray Lucas to a nerve injury
in his neck, couldn't be carried by Williams alone. Williams scored
on 45- and 55-yard runs and set a single-game franchise record.
Williams also set a single season franchise record with 1,284
yards, beating the mark of 1,258 set by Delvin Williams in 1978.

Ricky Williams almost also set less-glorious NFL record: His
rushing total was the second-most by a player in a loss. O.J.
Simpson set the mark with 273 yards in Buffalo's 27-14 loss to
Detroit on Nov. 25, 1976.

"I've been preparing for it since Monday. I'd check on my phone
to see the forecast and look on the computer every chance I had,''
Williams said of the weather. "I was a little nervous about it. It
was cold and miserable, but we did a good job up front and it made
my job easy.''

Lucas, making his sixth straight start in place of injured Jay Fiedler, finished 6-of-11 for 40 yards passing and a touchdown
before he was hurt early in the third quarter.

Fiedler took over, but appeared rusty, finishing 5-of-9 for 15
yards and an interception. Third-stringer Sage Rosenfels finished
the game.

Wannstedt said Fiedler will be ready when Miami hosts Chicago on
Dec. 9.

The game's complexion changed significantly with 49 seconds left
in the second quarter when Wannstedt gambled on a fourth-and-4 on
the Bills 36. Lucas fumbled and Buffalo's Chidi Ahanotu ran it back
to the Miami 31. Three plays later, Bledsoe hit Price on a 20-yard
pass to put the Bills ahead 17-14.

Wannstedt wouldn't second-guess himself, believing his team
needed to keep scoring, especially when facing Bledsoe.

"You know when you're on the road you're going to have to score
points against Buffalo. You could just feel it out there,''
Wannstedt said. "The momentum of the whole thing obviously swung
into their favor, and that's what you've got to try to prevent.''

Trailing 21-17, Bledsoe put the Bills ahead for good when he hit
Price with a 73-yard touchdown pass with 4:35 remaining in the
third quarter.

Two minutes later, Bledsoe hit Moulds for a 57-yarder, which
Moulds pulled in with one hand after the ball deflected off Miami
defender Sam Madison. Henry capped the surge, scoring on a
1-yard-run, to finish a seven-play 61-yard drive five minutes into
the fourth quarter.

Game notes
Lucas lost two fumbles against the Bills. In two starts
against Buffalo this season, Lucas has gone 19-of-44 for 205 yards,
four interceptions and four lost fumbles. ...Bledsoe enjoyed his
sixth 300-yard passing game of the season, matching a franchise
record. ... Miami TE Jed Weaver scored on a 1-yard reception, while
Buffalo PK Mike Hollis hit a 39-yard field goal.

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