Even with all the penalties and missed opportunities, the situation didn't look too bad for the Redskins with five minutes left in the third quarter. Buffalo was leading, 13-7, but punter Greg Carter was kicking from his 31-yard line. With All-Pro return man Mike Nelms awaiting the ball, the Redskins seemed assured of starting from midfield.
But Carter kicked this punt higher than usual. Nelms, who hates to call fair catches, set up for a return. As he reached out for the ball, Buffalo special teamsman Chris Williams hit him, and the ball bounced off his finger tips.
It appeared that the Bills would be penalized for interfering with Nelms. But the officials ruled that Williams had been blocked into Nelms by free agent Greg Williams of the Redskins.
Ervin Parker had fallen on the loose ball, which gave the Bills possession on the Redskins' 33. One minute and three plays later, they had scored what would prove to be the winning touchdown, instead of the Redskins being in good position to take the lead.
The Redskins' players, who disagreed with the officials' call, felt it cost them their third straight exhibition game.
"I was trying to get position because the Buffalo player was getting near Mike Nelms," Washington's Williams explained. "I was real close, but I pulled off. I may have nudged him a little, but I definitely didn't block him like the officials ruled.
"He got up hollering, 'Interference . . . interference,' " Williams said. "I wasn't real pleased about it, but there was nothing I could do. That play hurt us. It was the turning point of the game. It was just a bad break. The coaches said we'll just have to see the play on film to get a closer look."
Buffalo's Williams said he was pushed against Nelms and did call it to the attention of the officials. "I'm glad they saw it," he said.
Nelms, the sure-handed return man, said: "I don't know who hit me. I saw people in front of me, but I couldn't tell who it was. I didn't get any specific number. I knew I got hit before the ball came because I felt my arms reaching out while my body was moving backward.
"That play," said Nelms, "made the next Buffalo touchdown possible. But there were other plays, too. We could have won that game. I didn't feel like we played that badly. We just have to eliminate the little things."
Coach Joe Gibbs seemed more upset than Nelms about the play. Last year, against Buffalo, Nelms wasn't given the necessary room to catch a punt that he fumbled. The Redskins lost that game, too. But the NFL office later apologized to Washington for the blunder.
"That's two years in a row that's happened," Gibbs said. "They (the officials) claim he (Chris Williams) was shoved or something. I don't understand it.
"We just missed a couple of big plays," Gibbs said. "It seemed like whenever we needed to have something go right, it went the other way."