? Joe DeLamielleure. He is the right guard and he pronounces it dah-lom-a-leer. Undoubtedly, DeLamielleure has one of the most frequently misspelled names in professional football, but there may be no better guard in the business. He is 6'3" and 248 pounds, he played for Michigan State and he is strong, tenacious and tough. He also is the best offensive lineman the Bills have ever had. In Buffalo's season opener DeLamielleure outplayed the Jets' Carl Barzilauskas, who has been compared to Dracula. The next week he outplayed the Steelers' Mean Joe Greene, who is Dracula. And last Sunday he knocked over so many Broncos in the Bills' 38-14 victory that Fullback Jim Braxton got to pick up 102 of Simpson's yards.
?Dave Foley. If you hang around a bar in Buffalo, somebody will tell you that Dave Foley has "slow feet" and that he was considered "the weak spot" in the Bills' line until this year. Foley is the left tackle, he comes from Ohio State where he used to get hollered at by Woody Hayes, and he is 6'3" and 247. That is a few pounds lighter than he used to be, and the loss has speeded up his feet. Saban says Foley is "playing the best football of his career."
?Donnie Green. Green distinguished himself by putting a whole bunch of good fire-out blocks on Pittsburgh Defensive End L.C. Greenwood a couple of weeks ago. At 6'7" and 252 pounds, Green is almost big enough to be the right tackle for two teams. He played his college ball for Purdue.
? Paul Seymour. Seymour is the tight end, and at 6'5", 243 he is one of the largest of his species. In fact, he is so big that the same guy in the Buffalo bar will tell you Seymour, who went to Michigan, gives the Bills a "third tackle." Few people would care to argue whether Seymour is the best run-blocking tight end in the game. He is.
These are the guys who have been clearing the way for Simpson. Their alma maters—Colorado, Michigan, Ohio State, Purdue and Michigan State—give them what the scouts call "good breeding." And they played like thoroughbreds as Buffalo destroyed its first three opponents and, in the process, took on the aura of a serious Super Bowl contender, if such a thing exists this early in the season.
Calmer minds might be tempted to suggest that Buffalo met the Jets before Joe Namath had unlimbered his passing arm, that the Bills caught the defending champion Steelers dozing and that Denver last week was without the services of Otis Armstrong, the mile-high version of O.J. who was last season's NFL rushing leader. Such notions can only be measured against the laughable ease with which Buffalo won its first three games. With Simpson tearing up so much ground and the Bills looking better balanced and more mature than ever, Buffalo still would have won those games had their victims been at their peaks.
Why? That's easy. Two years ago when Simpson raced for his record 2,003 yards, Buffalo was simply not a good team. Last season, when Buffalo made the playoffs and was a moderately good team, Simpson was never really healthy. He gained more than 1,000 yards, but he did it almost as if he were in a wheelchair.
"I sprained my ankle in the opener against Oakland and I tried to come back too soon," O.J. says. "We had the Dolphins the second game. I hurt both knees against them. After that, to keep from getting hit from the side—which would have been really bad on my ankle and knees—I would come through the line and try to turn around and face most tacklers head on."
For a runner who combines the power, speed and cutting ability of Simpson (and he combines them better than anyone ever has), this was the equivalent of a concert pianist being forced to play while wearing ski mittens.
"Eighty percent of our running plays don't end up going through the hole they're designed for because of things the defense does," O.J. says. "Last year I really couldn't take it wherever it looked good like I can now."