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HEAT IS ON OFFENSIVE LINE TO BUY KELLY SOME TIME

Indianapolis quarterback Jim Harbaugh got a beating and a broken nose from the New England Patriots' pass rushers last week.

Harbaugh is one of the most mobile quarterbacks in the NFL.

So what's in store this Sunday for the Buffalo Bills' Jim Kelly, one of the least mobile quarterbacks in the league?

"It's definitely a challenge for our offensive line," Kelly said. "They've been rushing very good, and any time you get (Willie) McGinest and (Chris) Slade coming from the outside, it puts pressure on you. . . . We just have to take what they give us and not hold onto the ball too long."

Pass protection figures to be a key to success for the Bills.

New England is the fourth-highest scoring team in the NFL. One of these weeks -- and this may be it -- the low-scoring Bills are going to need three touchdowns to win. And the way to move the ball against the Pats appears to be through the air. New England's defense ranks third in the league in rushing yards allowed and 30th in passing yards allowed.

New England had not been having much success pressuring the quarterback (it ranks 25th in sacks) -- until the 27-9 win over the Colts last week.

The Patriots sacked Harbaugh four times and harassed him many others. In the fourth quarter, the Pats' right end, McGinest, struck Harbaugh in the face and broke his nose. (He said the blow was inadvertent.)

The Pats tried a new tactic against the Colts. McGinest and Slade, the team's top linebacker, switched sides in obvious passing situations. Slade moved to the right side and McGinest to the left.

"We made a little change," coach Bill Parcells said. "It seems like Slade is more productive over there. So we're going to try to continue to move them in different places."

It should be noted that despite Harbaugh's elusiveness, the Colts have one of the poorest pass-protection records in the league. The Bills think their pass protection is much better. However, the Bills rank 27th in sacks allowed per pass play, just one spot higher than the Colts.

The Bills' low ranking is due largely to two rotten games, seven-sack outings against the New York Giants and Miami. The Bills' rebounded from the Miami debacle with a pretty good protection effort against the Jets. Kelly had plenty of time to throw, except on three sacks. But the Bills' offensive line needs to start showing more consistency in pass protection. The team's 26 sacks allowed are just six fewer than the total for all last season.

"Pass protection's obviously been inconsistent," tackle Glenn Parker said. "We've just got to get better. . . . We worked on it after having the bad game against Miami. We're slowly getting better every week. It's peaks and valleys, and hopefully we're going to have more peaks from now on."

"It's a challenge we're going to have to rise up to," Bills guard Ruben Brown said. "I don't think I've been doing a very good job as far as pass blocking the past few weeks. It's making me more aware of my pass protection, especially with what New England did last week."

Slade figures to be playing opposite left tackle John Fina in many pass situations. Fina had been playing well but gave up two sacks against the Jets. On one of them, Kelly couldn't find his first receiver and pulled the ball down. But the Jets' rusher still got around the corner too quickly.

"Slade has a little more speed than Willie McGinest," Fina said. "I think he has a little better inside move. But definitely McGinest is stronger and he'll force the issue a little sooner. He probably won't try to use as much finesse."

The Pats managed two sacks in the Bills' 17-10 win in Week Two. New England is not known as a team that blitzes a lot. However, in that game, the Pats rushed a linebacker or defensive back at least 13 pass plays, including on the decisive TD pass to Quinn Early.

"I don't think they're a big blitzing team," Fina said. "But they're going to blitz and try to stop the run. They use some run-stopping blitzes. We have to expect to see some of those, and some line stunts (in which the linemen loop around each other) to stop the run."

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