American Football: Cowboys ambushed as Bills recharge: Super Bowl champions feel the heat in Atlanta while fast-moving Thomas reassures Buffalo

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The Independent Online
ALL around America sports fans have been waking up to the same recurring nightmare: the Buffalo Bills are back in the Super Bowl. As the 1993 season progresses it is a bad dream that is becoming increasingly lifelike.

The Bills have been beaten in the Bowl for the past three years, capitulated in the last two, and are disparagingly regarded as the game's nearly men. If they were to reach this season's climax in Atlanta the general expectation would be for more Jim Kelly interceptions, more Thurman Thomas fumbles and a defense buckling under pressure.

Yet they keep on winning. A fan sent in a T-shirt recently which said 'Let's piss 'em off and go for four', and it has become an unofficial uniform. 'It's our motto,' Steve Tasker, a special teams specialist, said.

The Bills were well beaten at Pittsburgh last week, a display which established the Steelers as favourites to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl. However, while the Steelers were deluged in Denver this week, the Bills bounced back convincingly, beating the Indianapolis Colts 23-9 with Thomas rushing for 116 yards, and Kelly throwing for 264 yards and a pair of TDs.

The Steelers, meanwhile, were routed 37-13 in the Mile High Stadium, their feared defense conceding four touchdowns, including two in 19 seconds in the third quarter.

The Atlanta Falcons, who lost their first five games of the season, pulled off one of the surprises of the season, beating the Dallas Cowboys 27-14. Atlanta's Bobby Hebert threw two touchdown passes to Mike Pritchard, cornerback Deion Sanders hauled in another for 70 yards, and the Cowboys tasted defeat for the first time since week two.

The result will have added another layer to the great Bernie Kosar debate. Kosar, making his first start at quarterback for Dallas since his controversial move to the Super Bowl champions from Cleveland 10 days ago, completed 22 out of 39 passes for 186 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. In other words he played reasonably well, but did so in a losing cause, something they don't take well in Dallas. Emmitt Smith, the Cowboy running back who missed his team's first two defeats because of a contract dispute, suffered a bruised muscle in his leg in the second quarter and did not return.

Cleveland suffered their second defeat since Kosar's departure, beaten 27-20 at home by the Houston Oilers. The Oilers, who were in turmoil six weeks ago, have now won five in a row, but appear to have changed their approach in more ways than one: running back Gary Brown rushed for 194 yards.

In the midst of a confusing season there is at least one team we can rely on. The Cincinnati Bengals have played 10 and lost 10, this week's victors being the New York Jets. Last week Harold Green, the team's promising running back, described his head coach, David Shula, as the worst in team history. After a meeting the general manager, Mike Brown, said no action would be taken, and the mattered was considered closed. 'He's got some grounds to be frustrated,' Brown said.

NFL: Atlanta 27 Dallas 14; Buffalo 23 Indianapolis 9; Houston 27 Cleveland 20; Green Bay 26 Detroit 17; Chicago 19 Kansas City 17; Miami 17 New England 13; NY Jets 17 Cincinnati 12; Denver 37 Pittsburgh 13; LA Rams 10 Washington 6; NY Giants 7 Philadelphia 3; LA Raiders 12 San Diego 7; Tampa Bay 23 Minnesota 10. Did not play: Phoenix and Seattle.

----------------------------------------------------------------- AMERICAN CONFERENCE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Eastern Division W L T F A Miami 8 2 0 218 172 Buffalo 8 2 0 195 129 NY Jets 6 4 0 234 170 Indianapolis 3 7 0 154 233 New England 1 9 0 126 217 Central Division W L T F A Houston 6 4 0 233 177 Pittsburgh 6 4 0 228 173 Cleveland 5 5 0 188 208 Cincinnati 0 10 0 112 241 Western Division W L T F A Kansas City 7 3 0 181 163 Denver 6 4 0 266 188 LA Raiders 6 4 0 184 185 Seattle 5 5 0 165 169 San Diego 4 6 0 164 195 ----------------------------------------------------------------- NATIONAL CONFERENCE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Eastern Division W L T F A Dallas 7 3 0 220 153 NY Giants 7 3 0 187 121 Philadelphia 4 6 0 158 198 Phoenix 3 7 0 183 176 Washington 2 8 0 151 239 Central Division W L T F A Detroit 7 3 0 204 166 Green Bay 6 4 0 225 178 Chicago 5 5 0 161 141 Minnesota 5 5 0 165 200 Tampa Bay 3 7 0 143 261 Western Division W L T F A New Orleans 6 3 0 200 173 San Francisco 6 3 0 255 179 Atlanta 4 6 0 211 236 LA Rams 3 7 0 141 211 -----------------------------------------------------------------

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