The Buffalo Bills are December bridesmaids and NFC patsies no more.
The Philadelphia Eagles came into Rich Stadium Sunday riding a five-game winning streak and a confidence-boosting victory last week against the previously unbeaten New York Giants.But the Bills, 2-5 in December and 3-5 against the NFC the last two seasons, were up to the task, rolling to a 24-0 lead and holding on to beat the Eagles 30-23.
"It's just up to us to prove everybody wrong," linebacker Darryl Talley said.
The Bills are 10-2 and, because of Miami's loss to Washington, in sole possession of first place in the AFC East. Still, linebacker Cornelius Bennett said, the skeptics probably are still not convinced.
"Sooner or later, they are going to become Bills fans, one way or another," he said. "Even if we have to win the Super Bowl."
Jim Kelly, who threw for a season-high 334 yards for Buffalo, threw a 63-yard touchdown pass to James Lofton on the second play of the game. Lofton caught four other passes and finished the game with 174 yards, moving him into third place on the NFL's all-time list for receiving yardage with 11,889 yards.
The Eagles punted after failing to make a first down on their first two possessions, and Buffalo came back with Scott Norwood's 43-yard field goal and Kelly throwing a short pass to Andre Reed that he turned into a 56-yard touchdown and a 17-0 margin.
The Eagles got two first downs on their next series, but they punted again. Three plays later, Kelly beat a blitz with a pass to Lofton for a 71-yard gain, setting up a 4-yard scoring strike to Thurman Thomas that made it 24-0 with 1:42 left in the first period.
"We were kind of stunned," said rookie cornerback Ben Smith, who covered Lofton on both of his long receptions.
"The first quarter just killed us," Eagles coach Buddy Ryan said. "We weren't tackling or covering."
But the Eagles didn't panic, and with Randall Cunningham at quarterback, they gave the Bills a battle.
Cunningham's 51-yard scramble set up an 18-yard touchdown pass to Keith Jackson. The extra point was missed, but a 32-yard field goal by Roger Ruzek made it 24-9.
Then Cunningham had an even more remarkable scramble in the end zone late in the second quarter.
Ducking under Bruce Smith and around several other Bills defenders, Cunningham moved toward the sideline and lofted a pass that Philadelphia's Fred Barnett caught at midfield and sprinted to the end zone for a 95-yard touchdown, making the score 24-16 with 1:10 left in the first half.
"I was thinking `Don't take a sack,"' Cunningham said. "Three guys missed me, I think." The momentum carried over into the third quarter, when Cunningham found Keith Byers for a 1-yard touchdown pass that made it 24-23.
But Buffalo didn't fold this time as Norwood kicked two field goals to account for the final score.
Albert Lewis, Chiefs, blocked his fourth punt of the year and the sixth by the Chiefs, a league record, in a 37-7 rout of New England. Nick Lowery kicked his 250th career field goal.
Chuck Noll once more fell short of the 200th regular-season victory of his 22-season Steelers' coaching career. He is 199-146-1. The only coaches with 200 victories are George Halas (325), Don Shula (294), Tom Landry (270) and Curly Lambeau (229).
Sweating it out
Norm Johnson's 42-yard field goal 4:25 into overtime gave Seattle a 13-10 victory over Houston in yet another last-play finish for the Seahawks.