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SMITH'S KNEES HOLD UP, TEAM DOESN'T

Bruce Smith got a sack and his sore knees made it through Sunday's game without incident. But that was small consolation for the Buffalo Bills' defensive end after Sunday's 33-6 loss to New England.

"It was a bad day at the office for us," Smith said. "At halftime I felt we were somewhat holding our own. But we can't feel good about a performance like this in any of the three areas -- offense, defense or special teams."

The Bills' defense held the Patriots to field goals on possessions that started at the Bills' 20 and 10 in the first half. The Pats' lead was 16-0 at halftime. But the Pats sealed the outcome with 17 third-quarter points.

Smith did not miss any plays due to his sore knees. The Bills spelled the starting defensive line for three plays in the first half and a fair amount in the second half.

"They're sore," Smith said. "But the only time it's going to be breaking news is if I have surgery this season, and right now I don't foresee that."

Smith beat Pats tackle Bruce Armstrong in the second quarter for a sack, giving him 6 1/2 for the season.

"The way he was playing against me I'm not really sure there was anything wrong with his knees," Armstrong said.

Armstrong has gotten to know Smith from their trips to the Pro Bowl, and he said Smith often chats with him before games. Armstrong, however, likes to keep his game face on before the game.

"I told him, 'I don't need to know how your wife's doing. I don't want to hear about your kids. We can talk about that after the season,' " Armstrong said.

The Bills did some more experimenting with their offensive line.

Big rookie Jamie Nails was inserted at right tackle in place of Corey Louchiey for the Bills' third and fourth possessions of the game. Nails was called for a false start on the fourth possession. He went back in the game on the Bills' sixth drive when the Bills faced a third-and-1 play from the Pats' 43. Antowain Smith ran over to the right but was stuffed. The Bills went for it on fourth-and-1, but Nails had a false start, which forced a punt.

The Bills stayed with Louchiey at right tackle most of the rest of the game. Nails went back in the final two series.

"We just decided going into this game we wanted to play Jamie some also," coach Marv Levy said. "We played him a little bit, and it was a tough outing for him."

At right guard, Jerry Ostroski and Corbin Lacina usually alternated every two series.

Chris Spielman played fullback for one play early in the fourth quarter. The linebacker threw a block on the 1-yard TD run by Darick Holmes. Fullback Tim Tindale was out with a knee injury.

"I just go in there and blow up whatever's in there in the hole," Spielman said. "And Darick made a good read, cut it back and got a touchdown. It's something I did with Dan (Henning) in Detroit. While Timmy's out, I'll fill that role here."

Henning was offensive coordinator in Detroit in 1992 and '93.
University at Buffalo product Ed Ellis played about 2 1/2 quarters at right tackle for the Patriots. Starting right tackle Zefross Moss was forced out of the game with a sore lower back.

"I felt pretty comfortable," said Ellis, a 6-foot-7, 340-pounder drafted in the fourth round in April. "I said, 'Hey, I can play with these guys, let's go out and play some ball.' The whole line in general played well, and Curtis (Martin) did the rest."
Inactive for the Bills were: Jim Jeffcoat, Tindale, Jeff Burris, Steve Tasker, Pat Williams, John Holecek and Marcus Spriggs.

Besides Todd Collins' shoulder, the only Bills injuries reported were to Andre Reed (sore ribs) and Quinn Early (sore shoulder).

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