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PUTTING THE CLAMPS ON
Ralph Wiley
January 09, 1989
Buffalo shut down the Houston Oilers' attack as the Bills advanced to the AFC title game
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January 09, 1989

Putting The Clamps On

Buffalo shut down the Houston Oilers' attack as the Bills advanced to the AFC title game

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Bennett jumped up and down on the sideline like a man trying to stamp out a small fire, and it seemed fitting that Buffalo's special teams should clinch the victory. Throughout the afternoon they dominated Houston's more publicized special units. In addition to Bennett's blocked field goal, the Bills rushed Zendejas into shanking a 31-yard attempt, and a blocked punt by Leonard Smith led to Riddick's touchdown. The Bills even forced a penalty on Houston's lone extra-point attempt, making the simplest task an adventure for Jerry's kids. In all, Houston received four kickoffs and advanced none more than 17 yards. "It used to be, oh hurry up and get that kick thing over so we can get on with the game," said Levy. "It's not that way anymore."

Levy himself deserves much of the credit for the Buffalo victory. Throughout the day, he lined up running back Thurman Thomas as a wide receiver, and Kelly twice had him open for touchdowns. But Thomas dropped one of the passes and couldn't quite reach the second. He did gain 75 yards on seven carries, including the 11-yard third-quarter run that put the Bills in front 14-3 and all but closed the door.

Levy's touch was everywhere in this admirable playoff debut as a head coach. He has been around. He was head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs from 1977 through '82 and before that he was an assistant with three other NFL teams, so he can put the Bills' achievement in historical perspective. "Have I ever seen two pass rushers like Cornelius and Bruce?" said Levy. "Well. I was in Los Angeles when we had Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen and those guys, but, no. I can't say that I have."

After the game, Bruce (Buddha) Davis, the Oilers' 300-pound left tackle, offered this opinion: "If the Bengals' offensive line can push them around. Buffalo doesn't have the kind of offense to come back from behind."

Well, if Bennett. Smith and the Buffalo special teams come up with a repeat performance this Sunday, that won't be a concern.

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