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The Giants must have used every cliche in the book.

They beat themselves. They simply didn't take advantage of their opportunities. Not to take anything away from the Bills, mind you, but it was a game they should have won.

Enough already. When you sift through the customary post-game rhetoric, you are left with one cold, indisputable fact: The Bills proved what they set out to prove Saturday, that they can play with anyone, and that they have the talent, poise and character to beat a top team -- yes, even a top NFC team -- on the road.

The Giants, meanwhile, have now lost three of four games against quality opposition after rolling to a 10-0 start. As their resident superstar, Lawrence Taylor, suggested afterward, it might be time for them to take a long, critical look at themselves.

"We didn't make a lot of different plays," Taylor said after Buffalo's 17-13 triumph. "And it's not something that just all of a sudden happened this week. It's been going on for a while and we're going to have to find a way to correct it -- if there is a way to correct it.

"We shouldn't have lost to Buffalo," said Taylor. "They're a fine team, but when Kelly went out, it took the air out of their balloons. You could see that."

As LT said, the Giants caught a huge break when Kelly went down with a knee injury in the second quarter, and they failed to capitalize on it. Then again, this game was essentially decided when Kelly was in there, when the Bills shoved the ball down the Giants' throats on their first two possessions.

That just wasn't supposed to happen against the vaunted Giant defense. The Giants, after all, had allowed the fewest points in the NFL. They'd allowed 10 points or fewer in a game six times. They'd given up a total of 21 points all season in the first quarter.

But after falling behind quickly, 7-0, the Bills answered with a surgical, six-play drive of their own to tie it. Then, just in case the Giants had missed the point, they put together another drive of 11 plays for a TD out of the no-huddle offense.

Two possessions. Two TDs. It had to stun the Giants' proud 'D' just a little.

"Yeah, somewhat," said nose tackle Erik Howard. "It really did. It's not what I expected. That no-huddle wasn't any big surprise. We knew it was coming. We just made mistakes, and that's what cost us the ballgame."

True, the Giants made some bonehead plays. They also lost the battle of the trenches, where AFC teams supposedly fear to tread. At those moments when sheer physical ability wins out, the Bills usually prevailed.

Six times the Giants failed to convert on third-down plays of 2 yards or less. They also didn't force a single turnover. They couldn't stop Thurman Thomas on a critical third-and-5 late in the game.

"We had about 10 opportunities to win the game, and something happened on every one of them," said Giants coach Bill Parcells.

"We'll have to come in Tuesday and re-evaluate where we should be," Taylor said. "Some things are going to have to change. Right now, we're going to have to find a different way to get there."

Presumably, the 'there' he referred to is that big football game in Tampa next month. Giants linebacker Steve DeOssie was asked if he could see the Bills in the Super Bowl.

"I'd like to see them in the Super Bowl," DeOssie said. "I'd like to see them from across the field."

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