Thomas, Kelly Help Bills Blow by Bengals

From Associated Press

On a day that 40 m.p.h. wind gusts made passing an adventure, the Buffalo Bills chose the rushing route to take the AFC East lead.

With Thurman Thomas carrying 26 times for 100 yards, the Bills avenged a 21-10 loss in last year's AFC title game with a 24-7 win over Cincinnati, dropping the Bengals back to the .500 mark.

The Bills had 228 yards rushing, although their three biggest plays were passes.

Jim Kelly threw touchdown passes of 19 yards to Andre Reed in the second quarter, 42 yards to Ronnie Harmon in the third, and one yard to Butch Rolle in the fourth.

But it was also a day for running--both Thomas and Cincinnati's James Brooks, who had 105 yards in 20 carries, went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season.

"We're pretty aggressive about making the run go," said Buffalo Coach Marv Levy, whose team improved to 8-4 and moved a game ahead of Miami in the AFC East.

In fact, the running they did against the wind in the first quarter was the key to the game --along with three Cincinnati turnovers and a series of mental mistakes at the end of the first half. The Bengals dropped to 6-6, 1 1/2 games behind Cleveland in the AFC Central.

Buffalo held the ball for all but 4:21 of the first quarter, most of which was an eight-minute drive that ended with Scott Norwood's 26-yard field goal, giving the Bills a 3-0 lead.

Kelly threw just 15 times, completing 10 for 123 yards. "It wasn't the passing," he said, "it was the offensive line. They were coming off the ball all day."

The Bengals committed three turnovers. The most damaging was a fumble by Brooks on the third play of the third quarter. It was recovered by Mark Kelso at the Bengal 44-yard line. Two plays later, Kelly threw to Harmon on a 42-yard touchdown pass play to give the Bills a 17-0 lead and put the game away.

Just as critical was a sequence at the end of the first half, when the Bengals, trailing 10-0, drove to the Buffalo nine, then failed to score despite having two time outs left when the half ended. "Clock mismanagement" was how Boomer Esiason described it.

After Brooks lost four yards on first down, the Bengals failed to call a time out, and the clock ticked below 20 seconds. Then, Esiason was intercepted by Nate Odomes in the end zone, but Bruce Smith was called for a face-mask penalty. Even though time had expired, Jim Breech lined up for a 26-yard field goal.

It was good, but there was a flag. As the Bengals trotted off, thinking they had scored, the officials huddled and ruled it was instead illegal procedure on the Cincinnati offensive line, negating the field goal.

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