Baltimore Colt Coach Ted Marchibrods called it bad luck.Colt cornerback Greg Nettles called it snake bit. Buffalo wide receiver Frank Lewis called it the breaks.
What "it" amounted to was another banner day by Bill quarterback Joe Ferguson, who riddled a porous Colt defense for 317 yards and three touchdowns to lead Buffalo to an easy 31-13 triumph in an AFC East matchup today before 31,904 disgusted fans at Memorial Stadium.
In dropping their fifth game, the winless Colts were listless, lethargic and, above all, unable to stop the long bombs of Ferguson.
"It's the same old story again," said a disappointed Marchibroda. "We can't get the ball in. We just couldn't come up with the big plays. They did. We can't do anymore than we did, especially in the first quarter."
The loud fans felt different. After watching the home club totally dominate the first 25 minutes and score a mere six points, they saw the Bills storm ahead, 14-6, at intermission and 31-6 after three periods. The fans let out a cascade of boos directed at both the Colts and team owner Robert Irsay.
Irsay, who is usually quite talkative after his team's games, refused to speak to reporters when asked for his comment about this one.
When asked now he felt when the fans began chanting, "ORIOLES," and Goodbye Ted," the soft-spoken Marchibroda replied "Maybe they're right. We can't seem to get the first one."
One frustrated fan let out his anger by tossing a beer on Irsay, as he was leaving his box.
Ferguson, meanwhile, enjoyed a 14-for-23 tossing afternoon at the expense of the beleaguered Colt secondary.
After Steve Mike-Meyer's second field goal had given Baltimore a 6-0 lead, with 13:16 left in the second period, Ferguson abandoned an unsuccessful running game. The seven-year veteran from Arkansas completed his first attempt to Lewis, who beat Larry Braziel for an apparent 74-yard score. But the play was nullified when tackle Joe Devlin was called for holding.
"You try not to even think about those things," said Lewis, who finished the day with three receptions for 120 yards and one TD. "You figure you can come back and get it later. Wait for the breaks.
That first break came when the Colts' Nesby Glasgow fumbled away a punt at the Bills' 43. Ferguson wasted no time taking advantage of his best field position of the day.
On first down, he fired a bomb that Lewis caught over Braziel. Lewis went out of bounds at the two and then Roland Hooks bulled over the defense for the touchdown.
Nick Mike-Mayer's kick gave Buffalo a 7-6 lead with 6:53 to play.
Baltimore's offense had all but disappeared now. Quarterback Greg Landry, still starting in place of Bert Jones, rarely had time to throw. And when he did, he could find no one open but his backs circling out of the backfield.
Ferguson was having no trouble finding Lewis or rookie sensation Jerry Butler, who caught a club-record 10 passes for 255 yards and four touchdowns in Buffalo's 46-31 scalping of the New York Jets last week. Butler was covered on a third-and-11 situation from the Colt 24 so Ferguson hit Lewis, who grabbed a deflection off Nettles and stepped over for a touchdown. Mike-Mayer's boot made it 14-6 with 15 seconds left.
The big play in the four-play, 80-yard drive was a 52-yard completion to running back Terry Miller, who had gotten behind the coverage.
Ferguson came out throwing in the third period. He capped a 73-yard, eight-play drive with a 47-yard strike to receiver Lou Piccone for a touchdown.
Piccone, running a deep down-and-out pattern, was content to take the needed 17 yards for the first down. However, he was the most surprised person in the park when defender Bruce Laird went for the ball and missed, leaving Piccone with nothing but open space in front of him.
"Snake bit," said Nettles. "Bruce broke over and missed the ball. There was no one else to cover for him so he (Piccone) scores. I gave them one. I had the ball and it bounced off my shoulder. When I fell, Lewis caught it."
After Mike-Mayer's third conversion increased Buffalo's lead to 21-6, the fans turned their wrath on the Colts. They booed every Colt running play and cheered every Bill pass.
Ferguson got his third scoring pass of the day when he hit tight end Reuben Gant with a perfect pass from nine yards with 6:04 left in the period.
Seconds later, Landry was intercepted by Bill safety Steve Freeman at the Buffalo 47. Four plays later Mike-Mayer, having the best of his kicking contest against his younger brother, made a 41-yard field goal to complete a 17-point third period and send the fans streaming for the exits.
The biggest complaint Marchibroda had was his team using nearly 10 minutes on the clock in the first period and getting only a field goal.
The Colts drove to the Buffalo 23 early in the game but came away with nothing as Mike-Mayer missed a 47-yard attempt. The Colts also gambled on a fourth and a foot at the Bills' nine and failed to make the first down. Right after that, Ferguson got serious and the Bills were on their way to their third win in five games.