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SEALS PROVIDES BILLS A BIG SCARE 2ND-QUARTER KNEE INJURY HAS TEAM HOLDING BREATH

The Buffalo Bills received a scare during Sunday's game against the Washington Redskins when defensive end Leon Seals limped off the field with a knee injury.

Seals suffered a pinched cartilage in his left knee late in the second quarter but, although he didn't return to action, he is expected to play in the Jan. 12 or 13 playoff game.

"He should be all right (for the playoff game)," Bills physician Dr. Richard Weiss said.

"I'll be back practicing next week," Seals said. "I don't even think of it as an injury. It's just sore."

The injury apparently occurred when Seals, with his left foot planted, was struck in the front of his left knee, causing it to hyperextend.

"I don't have the slightest idea how it happened," he said. "All I know is, after the play, it was just sore."

That the Bills already had captured the AFC Eastern Division championship and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs made the thought of losing any player to an injury particularly upsetting.

"It's a risk you take every time you go out there," head coach Marv Levy said.

"But when you know what the playoff picture is, maybe you walk on eggs a little bit more and hope someone doesn't get hurt," said the Bills coach.

Weiss said he didn't treat any other significant injuries.

Mark Pike finished the game in Seals' place at left end. He was credited with three tackles, all first hits.

"When I started out, I was a little rusty and had a lot of cobwebs," said Pike, a special teams standout who rarely sees action on the defensive line. "But I guess I felt better as the game went on. I just did the best I could and played hard."

Free safety Mark Kelso played Sunday for the first time since suffering a fractured and dislocated ankle Oct. 7. He relieved John Hagy with about six minutes left in the third quarter, and played the rest of the game.

"It was nice to get some action," said Kelso, who finished with a tackle and an assist. "The first few plays, it felt like I was in slow motion and they (the Redskins) were in fast-forward. It was kind of like the first game of the preseason. But then I settled down.

"I felt I played well. I got some good hits. I had some good reads. And they didn't go deep."

The only precaution taken by the Bills' medical staff was taping the ankle heavily.

Despite playing most of the game, Bills defensive end Bruce Smith came up empty in a final crack at the NFL's all-time single-season sack record. Smith, who didn't have a sack in any of his last three games, finished the year with 19.

He said he was "just slightly disappointed" about coming up short.

"But I'm not going to dwell on that matter for the rest of the season," Smith said. "I mean, it's pretty hard to get sacks when you're getting double- and triple-teamed. I think there were only three, maybe four occasions when they left me by myself (with Redskins left tackle Jim Lachey).

"They (the coaches) wanted to give me an opportunity to go out there and reach some personal goals that I had set earlier in the year. And I was having fun out there, so, really, there wasn't a need to take me out of the ballgame.

"When it was evident we were going to lose (in the final minutes), they took me out."

Thurman Thomas' fumble late in the first quarter was the only second fumble by a Bills' running back since the Sept. 30 victory over Denver. That day, Thomas and fullback Jamie Mueller each had one fumble. The only other running back to fumble since was Don Smith's fumble in the Dec. 9 victory over Indianapolis.

The five field goals by Chip Lohmiller marked the first time in 19 years an opposing kicker kicked as many against the Bills. The previous five-field goal performance against Buffalo was by Jan Stenerud Dec. 19, 1971 at Kansas City.

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