Steve Christie hit a 33-yard field goal with 35 seconds left and the Buffalo Bills hung on for a 16-13 victory over Tennessee on Sunday night, avenging their stunning loss to the Titans in last season's AFC wild card playoff.
Curiously, Sunday's game came close to being a carbon copy of "Music City Miracle" in which Kevin Dyson courtesy of Frank Wycheck's home-run throwback ran back a last-second kickoff 75 yards for the winning touchdown.
This time, however, there was no Tennessee throwback, and the Bills managed to tackle kick returner Derrick Mason at midfield. The game ended when punter Craig Hentrich's 60-yard field-goal attempt fell short and left.
It was still enough to put a familiar scare into the Bills.
Added Bills safety Keion Carpenter: "As long as (Mason) didn't get to the end zone, we got the defense out there and did our job."
The Bills won despite losing starting quarterback Rob Johnson, who said he injured a nerve in his lower left leg, limping off te field with nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.
Backup Alex Van Pelt took over with the game tied at 13.
On the Bills' final possession, Van Pelt sparked the winning drive when he hit Eric Moulds for a 36-yard gain with 50 seconds left, to set up Christie's field goal.
The Titans didn't know what to make of the loss.
It didn't help that the Titans dropped two sure catches, with Wycheck letting the ball slip through his hands in the end zone in the first half.
"That's a play a professional has to make. There's no excuse for a dropped ball like that," Wycheck said. "It's a tough loss. It's going sting. And it should sting. We haven't been in this position for a long, long time. But you have to look at the overall picture. It's the first game, and there are 15 more."
Added coach Jeff Fisher: "When you play a team like Buffalo, you've got to catch balls."
The usually sure-handed Eddie George also dropped an easy pass in the third quarter, when Steve McNair found him wide open at the Titans' 45. The pass hit George in the hands.
The Bills defense did the rest, limiting the Titans to 172 net yards, and a mere 55 passing yards.
McNair finished 17-for-31 for 152 yards, while George carried the ball 17 times for only 37 yards.
The Bills offense didn't' play much better, accounting for 266 yards, but it was enough.
Van Pelt played down his performance, instead crediting Johnson.
"Me being up here is kind of silly the way Rob played," Van Pelt said during the postgame news conference. "He earned it. I made a 3-yard pass to Eric and he did the rest."
Johnson, who expects to play next week, put in a remarkable performance. He threw for 107 yards and one touchdown. He also showed his poise and courage as he ran for 60 yards on six carries, directly helping set up two of Christie's field goals.
"I would've liked to have come back in," said Johnson, who was sacked five times and took numerous licks from defensive end Jevon Kearse. "Obviously, after three-and-a-half quarters of getting kicked, you'd like to be there in the end."
As for Van Pelt's performance: "I knew he would do well."
Peerless Price had a 15-yard touchdown reception and Christie hit two other field goals.
Keith Newman had two sack for the Bills, and Carpenter had an interception.
George scored on a 2-yard plunge, and Al Del Greco hit two field goals.
The Bills led the entire way until George tied it on a drive set up by a 41-yard pass-interference call against Ken Irvin. He got his hands on Carl Pickens to break up what appeared to be a sure touchdown.
Titans tight end Michael Roan, carted off the field five minutes into the third quarter, broke his left fibula.
Before the game, Doug Flutie was activated as the Bills' third quarterback, returning earlier than expected from a torn groin muscle. Flutie, who did not play, suited up for practice Wednesday for the first time since he was injured during the first week of training camp on July 27.
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