ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- It was an obvious question. Unlike previous years, can the Buffalo Bills, an American Football Conference team, win the Super Bowl?
"If they did like they did today, there's nobody who is going to beat them," said Raiders defensive lineman Howie Long. "Plain and simple."
Raiders quarterback Jay Schroeder said: "It's hard to say. They are a very good football team. I think they can play with anybody in the league."
"I don't know about that, but I think they are going to represent the AFC quite well," said Raiders coach Art Shell.
* With his team winning, 41-3, at the half, Buffalo coach Marv Levy had to throw away one of his halftime speeches.
"I already had one," Levy said. "Then when we got the lead, I knew I had to come up with another one. But once I came in and saw the look on their faces, that they didn't have any giddiness, I didn't say anything."
* Penn State coach Joe Paterno recruited both New York Giants quarterback Jeff Hostetler and Bills quarterback Jim Kelly. He xTC wanted them both to play linebacker.
Kelly got the hint during a recruiting visit and headed, instead, for the University of Miami. Hostetler was backing up Todd Blackledge in Happy Valley when Paterno urged him to move to defense.
Hostetler transferred to West Virginia, where he starred and married coach Don Nehlen's daughter.
* Referee Jim Tunney retired yesterday, ending a 31-year NFL officiating career. Tunney has refereed 29 postseason games, including three Super Bowls.
"I feel good mentally and physically," said Tunney, 61. "It's just time to move on and do other things. How many years can you work? I want to stay involved in football, perhaps broadcasting."
Tunney said if a poll were taken today, a majority of officials would favor the league's instant-replay system.
"They understand it," Tunney said. "When it first came in, I think it intimidated the officials. We agree the delays are the worst part of it."
* Before one feels sorry for yesterday's playoff losers, consider that they made $18,000 in addition to the $10,000 earned by winning in the divisional playoff round last weekend.
* It would have been the perfect time for Bills wide receiver James Lofton to take a shot at the Raiders, who cut him on his comeback trail. Lofton had five receptions for 113 yards and two touchdowns yesterday.
"I don't know if the game meant a lot more beating the Raiders," Lofton said. "The fact that they did release me left them with three very good receivers -- Willie Gault, Mervyn Fernandez and Tim Brown. I really cannot knock the decision they made."
* The Raiders' Long on playing for former coach Mike Shanahan, whom Shell replaced last year: "I was raised in an organization from age 20 that did things a certain way, and I got used to that, and I wasn't quite ready for the communist regime that came in and had everybody wearing the same outfit and saying the same things. . . . Robot society was not in the Raiders' plan.
AFC championship records
AFC championship game records set or tied in the Buffalo Bills' 51-3 victory over the Los Angeles Raiders:
First downs: 30, Buffalo (previous record, 28, Miami vs. Pittsburgh 1984).
First downs, both teams: 51, Buffalo (30), Los Angeles (21) (previous record, 50, Miami , Pittsburgh , 1984).
Margin of victory: 48 (previous record, 41 [San Diego 51, Boston 10], 1963).
Points: 51, Buffalo (San Diego vs. Boston, 1963).
Points, quarter: 21, Buffalo, first quarter (5 other teams, last by Cleveland vs. Denver, 1989).
Passing efficiency, game: Jim Kelly, Buffalo, 73.9 (previous record, 70.9, Jim Plunkett, Los Angeles vs. Seattle, 1983).
Points: 18, Kenneth Davis, Buffalo (Larry Csonka, Miami vs. Oakland, 1973).
Touchdowns: 3, Kenneth Davis, Buffalo (Larry Csonka, Miami vs. Oakland, 1973).
Touchdown receptions: 2, James Lofton, Buffalo (ties seven others).
Interceptions thrown: 5, Jay Schroeder, Los Angeles (ties three others).
Extra points: 6, Scott Norwood (George Blair, San Diego vs. Boston, 1963; Uwe von Schamann, Miami vs. Pittsburgh, 1984).