MINNEAPOLIS -- The Buffalo Bills have indelible memories of their first Super Bowl.
For quarterback Jim Kelly, there was the joy of anticipation, followed by the sting of defeat.
For wide receiver Andre Reed, there was the sense of things spinning out of control, beyond his reach.
For center Kent Hull, there was the carnival-like atmosphere that hit like a brick the moment he stepped off the plane in Tampa, Fla.
"Last year [the Super Bowl] was a circus," Hull said. "There are so many variables that go into a Super Bowl, you have no idea until you get there."
The memories are mostly melancholy, because the favored Bills lost Super Bowl XXV, 20-19, to the New York Giants last January. Now, the Bills are in Super Bowl XXVI against the Washington Redskins, looking for redemption and the title they thought should have been theirs a year ago.
"Last year, we were so excited, it was just overbearing, the feeling you have inside," Kelly said. "We've got the chance to go back, and there's not many teams that get a second opportunity."
Since winning the AFC championship game against the DenverBroncos, the Bills (15-3), to a man, said they learned from their experience in Tampa. Some, such as linebacker Cornelius Bennett, talkedabout unfinished business. Others, such as coach Marv Levy, talked about a more businesslike approach.
"[The players] are able to concentrate better on what really is important," Levy said. "George Allen used to have a saying: 'Is what you're doing helping, whatever team it is, win?' I think they have a better perspective on that."
Levy, who went to Super Bowl VII with the Redskins as an assistant under Allen, said it is an advantage to have two weeks between conference championship games and the Super Bowl, unlike the one-week period he experienced a year ago. (Next season, the NFL adopts a 16-games-in-18-weeks schedule, with oneweek between conference championships and the Super Bowl.)
"It works for both teams, but I much prefer, particularly having been there with a one-week break, that there is two weeks in between," Levy said. "It's very difficult to prepare your team during that week, when there is so much distraction, where you don't have the normal game-planning facilities available -- your computer, your video equipment. It should be a better quality game, in my opinion, and better quality planning.
"I do feel that part of the process of succeeding in the game is being able to cope with the changed atmosphere the players experience."
Levy was so focused a year ago that he skipped a mandatory picture-day session with the media on Tuesday before the game. Saying he was short on time, Levy devoted that Tuesday to preparing the game plan.
The Bills say now, though, that they weren't ready for what confronted them in Tampa.
"Last year, I think we were just so excited [about going to the Super Bowl], even though we said we weren't," Bennett said. "But, this time around, we know what it feels like. The hoopla leading up to the game . . . you know what to expect. So we do have some unfinished business."
Reed, the Bills' leading receiver, remembers the emotion of the week. Although he had eight catches in the game, he also had two costly dropped passes. The Giants' defensive backs hit Reed every time he ran a crossing pattern.
"That experience, your first time at the game, you're all hyped up," Reed said, "and you do some things you don't usually do."
What were the lessons learned?
"We know how to manage time now," Hull said. "Last year, we flew down, got off the plane and did interviews. Then our families came in,and they were mad that we didn't spend time with them. It was hard to stay focused.
"We're more mature now. The heart of this team was at the Super Bowl. We know what to expect."
"Last year, we were just talking about going to the Super Bowl and trying to win it," said safety Leonard Smith. "Now, our whole purpose is to win the Super Bowl."