Clint's Corner Archive

Clint's Corner Archive

<< back to clint's corner archive menu

The source for back issues of Clint's Corner. Forget a trade? Were Clint's predictions correct? Here's every edition, verbatim.

For 12/2/1998

What comes around, goes around...

I am sick and tired of hearing about how the referees snatched a sure win from the hands of the Buffalo Bills and gave the "W" to the undeserving New England Patriots. Poor "hard working" Buffalo fought their hearts out and were robbed of their just dessert because the referee incorrectly called Shawn Jefferson in bounds on 4th and 8. If you could see me right now, I’m playing the world’s smallest violin.

Why isn’t there any press being given to the 6 points the Zebra’s awarded the Bills earlier in the 4th quarter? With New England holding a 17-15 lead, Buffalo "marched" 67 yards on 14 (really 22) plays eating up 8:46 of the clock to take a 21-17 lead with 6:14 left in the game. Had Flutie’s 3rd and goal 3 yard TD pass to Andre Reed been the final play of the game, it would be New England and their fans who were robbed, and Wade Phillips and Doug Flutie being applauded for their "dramatic comeback win" in Foxboro.

Buffalo took over at their own 33 yard line down 2 points following a 52 yard Tom Tupa punt to end the 3rd quarter. Following an incomplete pass, a run for -1 yards, and a 5 yard delay of game penalty, Flutie threw an incomplete pass to Moulds on 3rd and 16. 4th down, punt upcoming right? No. Ty Law was called for defensive holding, and Buffalo was awarded 5 yards and a 1st down. Moulds and Law were tangled up on the play, and Moulds admitted to Law following the penalty that he was holding Law. Did the Bills feel sorry for the Patriots at this point? It gets better.

Following two short runs, it was 3rd and 4 from the Buffalo 38, and Flutie threw incomplete to Kevin Williams. 4th down, punt upcoming take II, right? No. Away from the play, Tebucky Jones had made brief and light contact with another Bills receiver on his facemask. This is illegal, but the foul clearly was incidental, very light, very brief, and had no bearing on the outcome of the play whatsoever. To make matters worse, the penalty was a delayed call. The official who threw the flag did not do so until two seconds or so after Flutie’s pass fell incomplete to another receiver. More times than not, you would not see this call made away from the play on a 3rd down late in the 4th quarter. Buffalo was awarded a 1st down at their own 43. I was at the game, 5 rows behind the Bills bench, and at this point I still did not see any evidence of the Bills feeling sorry for the Patriots.

Six plays later, including two Buffalo holding Penalties, it was 3rd and 11 from the Buffalo 42. Flutie was flushed from the pocket and ran to his left toward the sideline 1st down marker. He was tackled, and his knee was down with the ball close to a yard shy of the 1st down. The tackle was right in front of the Bills sideline, and none of the Bills were jumping for joy following the play. The referee, apparently in a generous mood, spotted the ball over the 1st down marker. Following the measurement, Buffalo was awarded a 1st down at the New England 47. Once again, the Buffalo punt unit retreated from the sideline back to the bench, thanks to the Bills best buddy, the ref. I still did not see any Bills weeping for their NFL counterparts on the opposite sideline.

Three plays later, Buffalo managed their first 3rd down conversion of the drive on their own when Flutie hit Williams for 22 yards on 3rd and 10 to the New England 22 yard line. On 2nd and 9 from the New England 24 5 plays later (following two more penalties), Flutie badly underthrew a pass down the right sideline intended for Andre Reed. At the 5 yard line, Reed attempted to come back to the ball through Patriot corner back Steve Israel, and the misguided pass bounced off the back of Israel’s helmet. The flag happy officials once again called a penalty on a Patriot defensive back. This one set the Bills up 1st and goal at the 5. This call was perhaps the worst of all. If Israel was guilty of interference on that play, NFL offenses would be throwing for 400 yards every week.

At this point the crowd was in a frenzy of boos and hisses. The referees had practically walked Buffalo down the field in a tight game, late in the 4th quarter. Flutie hit Reed on 3rd and goal to give Buffalo a 4 point lead, and the little man from Natick pumped his fist as the Buffalo sideline erupted in jubilation. Were any of the Bills or their fans feeling sorry for the Patriots at this point? Did Wade Phillips, Ralph Wilson, Andre Reed, Thurman Thomas, or Bruce Smith have anything bad to say about the officials following this drive? The answer to both questions is a resounding "no."

Fast forward to just seconds left in the game. It’s 4th and 8 and the clock is ticking below 15 seconds. New England cannot stop the clock. Let’s get one thing straight, Shawn Jefferson was out of bounds. That was not a catch, and Buffalo should have taken over on downs. That was a poor call, and instant replay, which Bills owner Ralph Wilson opposes, could have corrected that call. The Patriots were awarded a 1st down when they did not actually convert (ref: Flutie 10 yard run on 3rd and 11 trailing by 2).

The clock was now stopped with :06 on the clock. The Pats sent 3 receivers to the left, and Drew threw the ball into the endzone. Curiously, only one player of the 6 or 7 in that corner of the endzone made a play for the ball. Typically on a "Hail Mary", the ball is thrown with a much greater ark, which elicits an NBA-like jump ball in the endzone. In that scenario, every player, both offense and defense, is making a play for the ball. In that case, pass interference cannot be called. In this instance, Terry Glenn was the ONLY player making a play on the ball. Buffalo’s Henry Jones shoved Glenn from his left to right, and the ball bounced off of Terry’s chest incomplete. The replay clearly showed Jones never even looked up for the ball, let alone make a play for it. Sure it’s tough to have interference called in that situation, but the Bills secondary is coached to knock the BALL down in those situations, not the receiver. If the earlier calls against Law, Jones, and Israel were OK with the Bills when they were driving, why was this call, which was easily more textbook interference than anything I mentioned above, a sham?

The clock now reads :00, and New England has one more play from the 1. The Jefferson and Glenn calls are in the books, and contrary to what the Bills may tell you, they still had not lost the game. The score was still 21-17 in favor of the Bills. Rather than make a defensive stand, the Bills elected to leave Bledsoe’s favorite target over the last 5 years wide open in the corner of the endzone. Buffalo lets Ben Coates roam free from the line of scrimmage, yet the game was lost on 4th and 8 at the 25? This does not make any sense to me. Any defensive coordinator in the league, and that includes the ones watching from their sofa’s back in Buffalo, knows you put two guys on Coates and let someone else beat you in that situation. Buffalo, for some reason, did not think it was necessary to cover big #87.

Game over. Go home to Buffalo and cry all you want. I don’t feel even a little bit sorry for you. No one felt sorry for the Pats following Buffalo’s 67 yard "drive," and I don’t recall the Miami Dolphins offering any apologies when on 3rd and 10 from their own 15 in overtime, an incomplete Marino pass was somehow ruled pass interference on Ty Law. Rather than New England getting the ball around midfield in OT following a punt, Miami was given new life and they drove on the kick the game winning field goal to win 12-9 in sudden death. I don’t remember the Patriots blaming the loss on that call.

This is NFL. Sometimes the calls go your way, and sometimes they don’t. The funny thing is that over the course of a 16 game season, these things have a way of evening themselves out. Perhaps if Doug Flutie had volunteered to wear a hard plastic splint on his right index finger for the entire game, I’d feel a bit more sorry for him.

Thanks for reading.