Before Sunday's game, Buffalo Bills defensive end Bruce Smith saw no evidence on videotape to support claims that Philadelphia Eagles offensive tackle Ron Heller was one of the dirtier players in the National Football League.
After the first quarter, Smith changed his mind.
"Some of the things that he was doing were just ridiculous," Smith
said. "The play's over, I'm down on my knees trying to get up, and the guy comes and hits me under my chin while the referee is looking right at him. And he did that several times.
"I don't know the reason for it, but it was very low-down."
Smith and Heller jawed and shoved after several plays. After the Eagles were forced to punt late in the first quarter, Smith was pulled to the sidelines by several teammates concerned that he might be penalized for retaliation. Head coach Marv Levy and other coaches and players took turns trying to calm Smith as he sat on the bench.
At halftime, Heller was yanked from the lineup and replaced by Daryle Smith for the balance of the game.
Afterward, when someone mentioned Bruce Smith's charges, Heller was quick to defend himself.
"He's wrong," Heller said. "I didn't take any cheap shots at him. I went after him, because he took a cheap shot at Randall (Cunningham, the Eagles' quarterback)."
Heller said Smith dove on Cunningham's legs after a pass attempt.
Bills nose tackle Jeff Wright left the game for good after the first quarter because of a chronic problem with his left shoulder that he aggravated during pregame warmups.
"I locked out on (Bills center) Kent Hull and felt something pop," Wright said. "There was a lot of pain, and I couldn't really raise my arm up or lock out on anybody. So I was playing in the first quarter with just one arm, and really just couldn't do it. I couldn't play anymore.
"My rotator cuff is messed up a little bit. We'll look at it later this week, but it should be all right for next week (when the Bills face Indianapolis)."
Gary Baldinger, Mark Pike and rookie Mike Lodish took turns in Wright's place.
Bills defensive end Leon Seals couldn't understand why he was called for what could have been a killer roughing-the-passer penalty for half-shoving Cunningham in the fourth quarter.
The infraction wiped out John Hagy's breakup of a deep pass on third and 18 from the Philadelphia 46, and gave the Eagles a first down at the Buffalo 40. The Bills wound up forcing a punt anyway, but Seals was still fuming afterward.
"It was a terrible call," he said. "But when I hit him over there (in front of the Philadelphia bench), Buddy Ryan (the Eagles coach) started jumping his fat butt up and down, and the referee just threw the flag."
With 53 rushing yards, Thurman Thomas cracked the 1,000-yard mark for the second consecutive year, becoming only the third rusher in Bills history to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
O.J. Simpson had five in a row from 1972 to 1976, while Joe Cribbs had two straight in 1980 and 1981.
James Lofton's five catches for 174 yards moved him past Hall of Famer Don Maynard into third place on the all-time NFL reception yardage list. He now has 636 career catches for 11,889 yards.
In the first quarter, Bills wide receiver Andre Reed scored the 35th touchdown of his six-year NFL career on a 56-yard grab, tying him with Elbert Dubenion as the club's all-time leader in scoring catches. It also was his longest reception of the season.
With his 11-yard catch in the third quarter, Bills fullback Jamie Mueller extended to five his team-leading streak of games with a reception . . . Bills punter Rick Tuten, a former Eagle, hit a career-long 55-yarder late in the second quarter . . . The Bills' Steve Tasker blocked his second punt of the season and fifth of his six-year career in the fourth quarter. It also was the third blocked punt and sixth blocked kick by the Bills this season.