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Flutie can't save the day in relief of Brees

12/16/2002

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- The Buffalo Bills were prepared for
anything -- even Doug Flutie.

Question on the Chargers: Is this the game that seals their playoff hopes or do you still give them a shot?

You can't count them out yet. They still could finish 10-6 -- and they could win the division. What was more surprising to me than the loss was Schottenheimer's decision to lift starting QB Drew Brees for Doug Flutie late in the game. Brees has been the starter all year, and I wonder about the effect this will have on him. Will it motivate him or will it get under his skin?

Question on the Bills: Should they retain WR Peerless Price or should they spend that money on defensive players?
The Bills have to find a way to sign Price. Price, WR Eric Moulds and QB Drew Bledsoe have defined the Bills' offense this season. The organization needs to keep them together. Defensively, you can get better with an effective scheme, but it just takes time.

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

Travis Henry ran for 144 yards and scored two touchdowns,
including a 26-yard game-winning run with 52 seconds remaining,
sparking the Bills to a 20-13 win over the San Diego Chargers on
Sunday.

The Bills also got a poised effort from their defense, thwarting
any emotional boost the Chargers hoped to get from Flutie's first
appearance of the season.

Flutie, who spent three years in Buffalo before being released
in February 2001, received a mixed reaction of boos and cheers when
he entered the game in place of starter Drew Brees with eight
minutes remaining. Even though he set up Steve Christie's 53-yard
field goal that tied the game at 13 on his first possession, Flutie
was unable to complete the comeback.

"When Flutie came in, I knew we had to stay in our lanes
because he can make things happen,'' Bills linebacker London
Fletcher said. "He's been a terrific player in this league for a
number of years. ... It forced us to be disciplined on the back
end.''

Flutie, who finished 3-of-11 for 64 yards, managed just one
scoring drive on three possessions. The game ended on Buffalo's 37
when Flutie failing to complete two desperation passes into the end
zone in the final 11 seconds, the last one tipped away by Buffalo
cornerback Antoine Winfield.

It was a big turnaround from the last time Flutie faced his
former team a year ago. He scored the winning touchdown with 70
seconds remaining in San Diego's 27-24 victory.

Sunday's win kept the Bills (7-7) barely alive in the playoff
hunt. San Diego (8-6) has lost five of its last seven and faces a
critical test when it plays at AFC West rival Kansas City next
weekend.

Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer, who hinted days earlier
that Flutie might get a chance to play, doused any potential
quarterback controversy.

"We will address one issue right at the outset,''
Schottenheimer said. "Drew Brees is our starting quarterback.''

Schottenheimer explained that it was a gut instinct that led him
to go with Flutie.

Initially, Schottenheimer thought it was the right move when
Flutie hit Curtis Conway over the middle for a 47-yard reception on
his first play from scrimmage.

"To be honest, I thought, 'Gee, maybe there is magic in this
guy.' I did have that sense,'' Schottenheimer said. "At the outset
of this season, we talked about that scenario unfolding at some
point in time, and today was that day. Unfortunately, we didn't get
the results.''

Flutie is no stranger to quarterback disputes. His three seasons
in Buffalo were mired by a divisive dispute with Rob Johnson, who's
now a third-stringer in Tampa Bay.

Flutie insisted Sunday he does not want Brees' job.

"Let's set the record straight. Drew's the starter on this
team,'' Flutie said. "I'm just thankful to have an opportunity to
be a part of this. ... I felt good. I wish I had gotten it out
there.''

Brees went 13-of-24 for 148 yards and appeared to have
difficulty passing into a sturdy wind blowing in off Lake Erie.
LaDainian Tomlinson scored on a 2-yard plunge and finished with 110
yards rushing, the sixth time this season he's broken 100 yards.

Buffalo's Drew Bledsoe went 11-of-33 for a season-low 107 yards
but got help from four pass interference penalties totaling 86
yards against the Chargers.

Mike Hollis hit field goals from 36 and 42 yards for Buffalo.

Henry, who's been overshadowed by Bledsoe's passing attack for
most of this season, bailed out the Bills with his sixth 100-yard
rushing game of season.

"I've been waiting for an opportunity like that all year,''
said Henry, who's 1,312 yards on the season rank sixth in franchise
history. "I was able to get a chance to carry the team. The
offensive line blocked well and I stepped up to the plate.''

Game notes
Game-time temperature was 36 degrees, making it the 11th
coldest game in Chargers history. San Diego, which hadn't played a
game in conditions 57 degrees or colder this season, is 3-8 when
the temperature is 40 degrees or colder. ... With 3,949 yards
passing, Bledsoe broke Jim Kelly's franchise record for most in a
season set in 1991.