Noisy fans help Bills silence Chiefs

January 06, 1992|By Tim Cowlishaw | Tim Cowlishaw,Dallas Morning News

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Buffalo's no-huddle attack met Kansas City's no-clue offense. No surprise in Rich Stadium. It was no contest.

The Bills earned a home date with Denver in Sunday's AFC championship game by dismantling the Chiefs, 37-14, before a joyous capacity crowd of 80,182. Fifteen-year veteran Steve DeBerg said he had never heard a louder crowd, and certainly the Chiefs quarterback never has had less success against a defense.

DeBerg left the game in the second quarter with a sprained right thumb that could require surgery. But by then, the issue wasn't whether the Bills would defeat Kansas City. It was whether the Bills would score 50 before the Chiefs crossed the 50.

The answer came in the third quarter when the Chiefs, trailing 24-0, got an interception from linebacker Lonnie Marts, who returned it 12 yards to the Bills' 43.

For the Chiefs, there were virtually no highlights in being crushed by a team they defeated, 33-6, at Arrowhead Stadium in October.

"It wasn't revenge," said Bills wide receiver Andre Reed, who beat cornerback Jayice Pearson twice for touchdowns in the first half. "You can't think of it that way. It seemed like everything worked out like it should today. They tried to play some man-to-man [coverage], and Jim [Kelly] made the right audibles."

Kelly completed 23 of 35 passes for 273 yards, throwing three touchdowns to go with three interceptions. The one interception he didn't throw mattered more than the three he did.

With Buffalo on top 14-0 late in the second quarter, Kelly threw a long cross-field pass to his left that cornerback Kevin Ross timed perfectly. The ball hit him in the chest, and he had nothing to do but run 70 yards for a touchdown. But the Chiefs' two-time Pro Bowl cornerback dropped the ball.

"I had the opportunity to make the play that could have swung the game. A player of my caliber has to make that play," Ross said.

Instead, the Bills drove down the field and all but put the game away with Scott Norwood's 33-yard field goal. That made the score 17-0 at halftime, and the Chiefs' lack of offense, combined with their inability to cope with the Bills' receivers, made a comeback of that magnitude highly unlikely.

The Chiefs had rushed for 247 yards against Buffalo in the first meeting, but were held to 77 yards on 24 carries yesterday.

At the half, they had just 81 total yards and three first downs to Buffalo's 298 yards and 17 first downs.

"They had decided they were going to stop the run," said Kansas City's Barry Word, who ran 15 times for 50 yards. "They decided to take the running backs out of the game and put pressure on the quarterbacks."

And DeBerg and Mark Vlasic were not up to the task. DeBerg completed five of nine passes for 22 yards before jamming his thumb on nose tackle Jeff Wright's helmet.

"I couldn't use audibles today because of the crowd noise," DeBerg said. "It was the loudest I've ever seen. Our line wasn't able to get off on the snap count today, and that was the difference."

Vlasic was seriously overmatched against the Bills' defense. He hit nine of 20 passes for 124 yards and was intercepted four times.

"I just made some bad decisions on some balls, tried to force things," he said. "I feel like I didn't do my part to get the job done today."

The Bills' defense, often maligned in comparisons with the offense, had something to do with Vlasic's 9-for-20, four-interception effort. The ends pinched in the Chiefs' tackles, making the running game difficult. And the defensive backs contributed the four interceptions, two by Kirby Jackson.

"Our defense did a magnificent job stopping the run and the play-action pass," coach Marv Levy said. "The magic is not how you line up; it's playing what you play correctly. And I think one of the things that was overlooked is how good our running game is.

"People talked about their rushing game, but we only rushed one fewer time [per game] than they did this year."

Yesterday, the Bills ran it 22 more times than the Chiefs and more effectively, too.

Led by Thurman Thomas' fourth straight 100-yard playoff game, the Bills ran for 180 yards.

The only thing the Chiefs did better than Buffalo yesterday was huddle. Their mistake was coming out of it.

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