Bills Follow Old Script, Defeat Jets to Wrap Up Division Title : AFC: New York has been the opponent in three of Buffalo’s past four title-clinching victories.
Ralph Wilson, the owner of the Buffalo Bills, took off the baseball cap he was wearing, hugged Andre Reed, pointed to the hat and told him: “See what you got for me?”
The hat declared the Bills AFC East champions and a smiling Reed responded by saying: “That’s what I like to see.”
A difficult, 24-13 victory over the Jets on Sunday gave Buffalo its fourth consecutive division title, its 17th consecutive victory at Rich Stadium and the inside track on home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs.
The Jets gained 293 yards but were only one for 11 in third-down conversions and turned the ball over three times, leading to 17 of Buffalo’s 24 points.
“For the last three weeks, we really have been starting to come into our own,” nose tackle Jeff Wright said. “Hopefully, we can keep it going down the stretch.”
The game marked the return of Bruce Smith, the NFL’s defensive player of the year last season, from a knee injury. Smith didn’t look too rusty. He had five tackles and a sack.
“My strength was good,” he said. “I was a tad slow, but I was able to protect myself.”
The Jets, who have been the opponent when the Bills have clinched the division title in three of the last four years, have lost nine in a row against Buffalo, the team they will have to beat to establish their development into a division contender.
Jet Coach Bruce Coslet pointed to the turnovers and said his team made critical mistakes, but added, “Give Buffalo credit; they forced us to make them.”
The Bills (11-2) won for the 32nd time in their last 34 home games. The Jets (7-6) still have wild-card hopes.
Jim Kelly completed 21 of 38 passes for 251 yards and threw touchdown passes to Andre Reed and James Lofton. Ken Davis ran three yards for a score and Scott Norwood kicked a 31-yard field goal as the Bills overcame two fumbles and two interceptions.
Thurman Thomas rushed for 124 yards in 23 carries.
The Jets scored on a three-yard run by Brad Baxter and Pat Leahy’s field goals of 19 and 23 yards.
New York was in the game until late in the fourth quarter when, trailing 17-13 and driving deep in Buffalo territory, Rob Moore fumbled after catching a pass and Mark Kelso recovered at the Bills’ seven.
Kelly then moved the Bills on one of their few successful drives of the game, passing to Lofton on a 27-yard touchdown play that clinched the victory.
After the Jets went three plays and out to start the third quarter, the Bills got the ball at their 43 and drove for Davis’ three-yard touchdown run that broke a 10-10 tie.
The Jets cut the lead to 17-13 going into the fourth quarter after a ricochet interception by Erik McMillan. Al Edwards tried to catch Kelly’s pass with one hand and juggled the ball into the hands of McMillan, who returned the ball from the Buffalo 36 to the six. But the Jets went nowhere in three plays and had to settle for Leahy’s 23-yard field goal.