ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Bills watched Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway perform his last-second wizardry Saturday with part awe and part amazement.
Elway engineered a late fourth-quarter drive that lifted the Broncos over the Houston Oilers, 26-24, in an AFC divisional playoff game.
"I'll tell you, this guy is amazing," said defensive end Bruce Smith after the Bills beat the Kansas City Chiefs, 37-14, yesterday to earn a spot opposite Elway in the AFC championship game.
"I have a lot of respect for him. He does whatever is necessary to win."
Said Buffalo wide receiver Andre Reed: "When you've got No. 7 back there, you're never out of a game. He's like [Philadelphia's] Randall Cunningham."
The Broncos have the AFC's top defense statistically. More significant, though, is that they seem to match up well against the Bills.
Last season, the Bills needed a 21-point, fourth-quarter rally to outlast the Broncos at Rich Stadium, 29-28. And, two seasons ago, Denver took a convincing, 28-14 victory over the Bills in Buffalo.
"We're going to have our work cut out for us," said Bills quarterback Jim Kelly.
* The Bills' offensive line was reeling by the end of yesterday's game. Guards Jim Ritcher (ankle) and Glenn Parker (knee) had to come out of the game in the second half with injuries. Tackle Will Wolford (knee) and center Kent Hull also were hurting.
Bills coach Marv Levy said Parker's status was the most questionable of the injured linemen.
On defense, Smith limped off the field halfway through the third quarter after aggravating his left knee injury. The defensive end had fluid drained from the knee Friday and didn't practice last week. But he said he will play against Denver next week. "I'm 80 percent [healthy]," he said. "That's close enough."
* Chiefs running back Barry Word didn't come out and criticize his team's quarterbacking, but he came close.
"Everyone in the world knew we were going to run the ball," he said. "So when someone shuts down your running game, you have to be able to do something else. We weren't able to do something else to open it up. We got away from our game plan, and they capitalized on it."
Steve DeBerg was 5-for-9 for 22 yards before suffering ligament damage in his right thumb in the second quarter. His backup, Mark Vlasic, threw four interceptions in the second half and was 9-for-20 for 124 yards.
The Chiefs crossed midfield twice in the game -- on two touchdown drives.
* MISCELLANEOUS: Bills RB Thurman Thomas rushed for 100 yards on 22 carries, his fourth straight 100-yard postseason game. The league record is 6, by the Redskins' John Riggins in 1982-83. . . . Reed had 4 catches for 100 yards and 2 TDs, the fifth and sixth postseason TDs of his career. . . . James Lofton's 10-yard TD catch in the third quarter was his seventh career postseason score, and fifth as a Bill.