Bills 30, Panthers 14
Oct. 26, 1998
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Doug Flutie has been hearing for years about all of his alleged limitations. Winning doesn't appear to be one of them.
``I can't throw deep. I'm too old. I'm too short. I can't play in the cold. I've heard it all,'' Flutie said after he led the surging Buffalo Bills to another victory, 30-14 over winless Carolina on Sunday night.
One week after his last-minute touchdown run on a busted play helped Buffalo knock off undefeated Jacksonville, Flutie used some early brilliance to send the Bills to their fourth consecutive victory. He was 9-of-12 for 184 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, giving the Bills (4-3) a 10-point lead.
The Bills' longest winning streak in two years has moved them within one game of AFC East-leading Miami. Three of Buffalo's victories have come with the 36-year-old Flutie leading the way at quarterback while Rob Johnson rests his injured ribs, creating questions about who the starter will be when Johnson is healthy.
For now, coach Wade Phillips is sidestepping the question. Team owner Ralph Wilson, who signed both Flutie and Johnson in the offseason, said the fact that Johnson has a bigger contract doesn't necessarily mean the Bills should play him.
``It has nothing to do with money,'' a smiling Wilson said in the Bills' locker room after the game.
Flutie said he's not interested in starting a controversy.
``When Rob is healthy and he comes back, I'm going to be his biggest cheerleader and his biggest fan,'' he said, ``because the bottom line is getting this team into the playoffs and going toward the Super Bowl.''
Flutie wound up 18-of-22 for 282 yards and both scoring passes went to Eric Moulds, who had five receptions for 145 yards.
The Panthers (0-7) lost their ninth consecutive game and their sixth straight at Ericsson Stadium. Carolina won its first nine games in the facility in 1996 but has lost nine of 11 since, hurting itself with turnovers, untimely penalties and poor execution.
It was more of the same Sunday night, when Carolina turned it over three times, including twice in the Bills' end zone. The Panthers also were called for 10 penalties, including two personal fouls, and were generally inept at containing the elusive Flutie.
``I can't give you one thing positive in terms of our execution,'' coach Dom Capers said. ``You find out a lot about yourself when you're in these situations, because it brings out either the best or the worst. We're going to find out what we're made of right now.''
Proof of Carolina's inability to handle Flutie came in the form of Kevin Greene, who was trying to add to his NFL-leading total of 11 sacks and was seeking to tie the league record of 10 consecutive games with a sack. He never came close to adding to either of those totals, although he did have an interception in the second quarter.
True to form, however, the Panthers were unable to convert Flutie's lone miscue.
``You get what you earn in this league,'' cornerback Eric Davis said, ``and we've gone out on the field and earned seven losses.''
Five of Carolina's first six losses were by a touchdown or less, but Flutie helped make sure that the Panthers would not have a chance this time.
He did most of his damage on third downs, a continuing source of trouble for Carolina. The Panthers came in allowing opponents to convert 46.4 percent of their third downs, the third-worst figure in the NFL.
In the first half alone, Flutie completed all four of his third-down passes for 120 yards, four first downs and one touchdown. His performance helped the Bills to a 17-7 lead.
Buffalo was especially successful going against cornerback Doug Evans, who has struggled in recent weeks while playing with a bulky cast on his left forearm, the result of surgery for torn thumb ligaments.
Moulds' first score came when Flutie underthrew a ball into the end zone directly into the hands of Evans. He was unable to wrap it up, however, and bobbled it into the air, where Moulds snatched it away from him for a 20-yard touchdown.
The Bills' second touchdown came when Moulds got behind Evans and Flutie hit him with a 35-yard strike. Moulds outraced Evans and everyone else for an 85-yard touchdown, the longest play in the NFL careers of both Flutie and Moulds.
Notes: Buffalo's Antowain Smith rushed for 44 yards on 11 carries before leaving in the third quarter with a sprained right ankle. The Bills said the injury was not serious. ... Carolina tight end Wesley Walls also left in the third quarter with a left foot sprain. He was scheduled for additional tests Monday. ... It was the first time this season the Bills had a game decided by more than one touchdown. ... The Panthers have been outscored 110-60 in the second half this season.