By JOHN WAWROW, AP Sports Writer
December 16, 2002
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) -- Maybe now, Travis Henry will get his due.
On a day Drew Bledsoe struggled and Doug Flutie made his first trip back to Buffalo, Henry merited the most attention in keeping the Bills' slim playoff hopes alive.
Henry capped a 144-yard rushing performance by scoring on a 26-yard run with 52 seconds remaining to secure Buffalo's 20-13 victory Sunday over the San Diego Chargers. It was Henry's sixth 100-yard rushing performance of the season and it increased his season total to 1,312 yards -- sixth best in franchise history.
``I have been waiting for an opportunity like this all season,'' said Henry, who also scored on a 4-yard run. ``And today I had a chance to carry the football team and I'm happy that I stepped up to the plate.''
The Bills (7-7) needed it because Bledsoe finished 11-of-33 for 107 yards passing, enduring the third-worst performance -- with 20 or more attempts -- of his career.
``Sometimes you have to win ugly, and that's what happened today,'' Bledsoe said. ``Travis is such a unique player. And I have a great seat to watch him, and he has just done an outstanding job for us this year.''
Henry was the key in capping the Bills' game-winning drive, in which he accounted for 53 of the 64 yards. A great individual effort, cutting around the right corner and outrunning two Chargers defenders, won it.
It was enough to offset whatever inspirational boost the Chargers got from Flutie, who spent three seasons with the Bills before being released in February 2001.
Making his first appearance of the season, taking over for struggling starter Drew Brees with about eight minutes remaining, Flutie set up Steve Christie's 53-yard field goal that tied the game at 13. But he was unable to complete the comeback.
As if the loss, San Diego's fifth in seven games, wasn't enough, coach Marty Schottenheimer was forced to go on the defensive to prevent any hint of a potential quarterback dispute.
``We will address one issue right at the outset,'' Schottenheimer said in opening his post-game press conference. ``Drew Brees is our starting quarterback.''
Flutie, who finished 3-of-11 for 64 yards, agreed.
But the benching didn't sit well with Brees, who finished 13-of-24 for 148 yards and struggling against a stiff wind blowing off Lake Erie.
``I was upset. I don't want to get pulled from any game,'' said Brees, who had not missed a snap prior to Sunday in his first season as the San Diego starter. ``I'm not second-guessing myself or Coach or anybody. I'm still very confident and obviously upset about the loss. It would have been a lot better had we won.''
The Chargers (8-6), who remain a game behind AFC West-leading Oakland and fell into a tie with Denver, now face a critical test when they play at Kansas City (7-7) next Sunday.
The Bills, who play at Green Bay, staved off playoff elimination, and aren't counting themselves out yet.
``Until somebody tells us we are out of the playoff race, we are going to go out there and battle each and every ballgame,'' linebacker London Fletcher said.
Mike Hollis rounded out the Bills' scoring with 36- and 42-yard field goals.
LaDainian Tomlinson led the Chargers with 110 yards rushing and a touchdown.Christie also hit a 39-yard field goal and was short on a 44-yard attempt.
The Chargers continue to struggle down the stretch. Since 1996, San Diego is 6-22 in games played after November, including 1-2 this season. ... The Chargers had four pass-interference penalties called against them totaling 86 yards. ... With 3,949 yards passing, Bledsoe broke Jim Kelly's franchise record, set in 1991. Bledsoe also completed his 2,878th pass, moving into 12th place on the NFL list, four ahead of Kelly and 20 short of former Dallas starTroy Aikman.
Updated on Monday, Dec 16, 2002 2:04 am, EST
Email to a Friend | View Popular