Turnovers take toll on Bills once again

January 31, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- Lightning struck the Buffalo Bills in the same place last night. The Super Bowl.

For the fourth straight year, the Bills came up short in the NFL's big game. For the second straight year, they succumbed to the Dallas Cowboys with self-inflicted wounds.

That turnover monster reared its ugly head, and the Bills couldn't get out of the way. This time they had three costly turnovers in a 30-13 loss, which was an improvement, at least, on 52-17 with nine turnovers a year ago.

"In the second half, we gave them a couple of gifts," quarterback Jim Kelly said after the Bills tied the Minnesota Vikings and Denver Broncos as the losingest teams in Super Bowl history, all 0-4.

"Then they put us in long-yardage situations and they capitalized."

The Cowboys converted those three turnovers -- two fumbles, one Kelly interception -- into 17 points, which was neatly the difference in last night's game.

"Today, the Dallas Cowboys were the better team," Kelly said. "We can accept that. . . . I think we proved that the Bills are a good team."

It was a loss with honor, apparently. The Bills (14-5) actually held a 13-6 lead in the first half when Kelly's rhythmic passing clicked.

Buffalo could have had a bigger lead at halftime, but took a field goal at the end of the half instead of pressing for a touchdown after an interception by cornerback Nate Odomes.

Odomes' interceptions put the Bills in Dallas' territory with 1:03 left in the second quarter. Kelly threw a 12-yard completion to Thurman Thomas and a 23-yarder to Andre Reed for a first down on the 12.

Then the Bills got conservative. Kelly slipped a short pass to Thomas in the flat for 3 yards, threw incomplete to Keith McKeller on second down and watched Thomas run for no gain on third down.

Steve Christie followed with a 28-yard field goal to go with his Super Bowl-record 54-yard kick in the first quarter. Instead of 17-6, the Bills led, 13-6.

"One thing you have to do is get points," Kelly said of the play calling near the goal line. "You always like to have seven, but you have to put points on the board. That's what counts."

Kelly was 18-for-25 for 176 yards in the first half, spraying the ball around the field. Dallas' pass rush couldn't get close to him before halftime.

"Jim was very sharp in the first half," coach Marv Levy said. "We were moving and had a narrow lead at 13-6. Jim was doing well. When we fell behind, maybe we pressed."

In the second half, Kelly was 13-for-25 for 84 yards and was sacked three times. For the game, he was 31-for-50 for 260

yards.

The Cowboys (15-4) stole momentum early in the second half, when Thomas coughed up his second fumble of the game and nickel back James Washington of the Cowboys returned it 46 yards for a Dallas touchdown.

On the Bills' next series, Dallas began to exert defensive pressure. A big third-down sack by Jim Jeffcoat forced a Buffalo punt, after which the Cowboys got the go-ahead touchdown, a 15-yard run by Super Bowl MVP Emmitt Smith.

"Obviously, the [second-half] fumble was huge," Bills center Kent Hull said.

"After that, we didn't execute as well. Getting behind by 14 points [27-13], we were playing into a great defense's hands."

Hull said it was unfair to blame the loss on Thomas' miscues.

"They gained a lot of emotion [after the fumble]. It's our job to get it back, and we didn't do it," Hull said. "But we had other opportunities to do things."

Levy said: "They're a very good team. When we did fall behind, you come out of your game plan a bit, and you have to go to a pass-oriented approach. You try to get a quick strike and get back in it. They were just too good for us to be able to succeed."

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