Bills overcome Jets to claim AFC East title Smith, defense stake tough 24-13 victory

December 02, 1991

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y — ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Ralph Wilson took off the baseball cap he was wearing, hugged Andre Reed, pointed to the hat and told him: "See what you got for me?"

The hat declared the Bills AFC East champions and a smiling Reed told the Bills owner, "That's what I like to see."

A difficult, 24-13 victory over the Jets yesterday gave Buffalo its fourth straight division title, its 17th straight victory at Rich Stadium and the inside track on home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.

"This one feels a little better than the others because we played with a lot of adversity," Wilson said amid the celebrations in the locker room.

Adversity came in the form of a rash of injuries on defense that chipped away at the unit that was the main reason the Bills won their first title in the current string in 1988.

With the return yesterday of one of those injured players -- last year's NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Bruce Smith -- Buffalo's defenders think they can reclaim some of the glory that has shifted toward the Bills' no-huddle offense.

"When we start talking the Bills, you talk offense for an hour [and] defense for 30 minutes," strong safety Leonard Smith said, adding the defense doesn't want to dominate talk about the Bills.

"It's not so much we want a full hour's time," he said. "We want respect."

Respect will come if the Bills can build on their solid defensive effort against the Jets. New York gained 293 yards but was only 1-for-11 in third down situations and turned the ball over three times, leading to 17 of Buffalo's 24 points.

"For the last three weeks, we really have been starting to come into our own," nose tackle Jeff Wright said. "Hopefully, we can keep it going down the stretch."

Smith, who declared himself 80 percent healthy, didn't look too rusty. He was credited with five tackles and a sack.

"My strength was good," he said. "I was a tad slow, but I was able to protect myself."

The Jets, who have been the opponent when the Bills have clinched the division title in three of the last four years, have lost nine in a row against Buffalo, the team they will have to beat to establish their development into a division contender.

"It makes it so frustrating to know that, yeah, we can play with them," defensive lineman Scott Mersereau said. "The last three times, we really played them pretty well."

Jets coach Bruce Coslet pointed to the turnovers and said his team made critical mistakes, but added, "Give Buffalo credit; they forced us to make them."

Jim Kelly was 21-for-38 for 251 yards and threw touchdown passes to Andre Reed and James Lofton. Ken Davis ran for a 3-yard score and Scott Norwood connected on a 31-yard field goal as the Bills overcame two fumbles and two interceptions. Thurman Thomas finished with 124 yards on 23 carries.

The Jets scored on a 3-yard run by Brad Baxter and Pat Leahy's field goals of 19 and 23 yards.

New York was in the game until late in the fourth quarter when, trailing 17-13 and driving deep in Buffalo territory, Rob Moore fumbled and Mark Kelso recovered at the Bills' 7.

Kelly then moved the Bills on one of their few successful drives of the game, finding Lofton for a 27-yard score that clinched the victory.

NY Jets... 7... 3... 3... 0... 13

Buffalo... 7... 3... 7... 7... 24

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