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On what would be his final play of the game -- before the Buffalo Bills would show mercy on the Indianapolis Colts and remove him -- Bruce Smith had yet another clear path to Jeff George.

"He saw me coming," the Bills' defensive end recalled of his fourth-quarter pass rush in Sunday's 31-7 victory.

Then, widening his eyes to recapture the look on the face of the Colts' quarterback, Smith said, "I just heard him say, 'Ohhh, (expletive)!' "

There was no sack that time. But considering the four plays Smith tackled him for losses through the game's first 20 minutes, George's concern was understandable.

The four sacks marked a single-game best for Smith's six-year NFL career. It also gave him 19 for the season, three shy of the league record set by Mark Gastineau with the New York Jets in 1984.

"I think he (George) was a little rattled," said Smith, who was credited with seven initial hits and batted down a pass. "If you get constant pressure on any quarterback, he's going to start wondering where it's going to come from next.

"And I think that's what happened today."

The other thing that happened was the Colts, for a while at least, blocked Smith one on one with their second-year left offensive tackle, Zefross Moss. Moss has great size (6-foot-6, 338 pounds) and strength, but is no match for Smith's quickness and savvy.

He needed help.

"From what (Colts center) Ray Donaldson told me after the game, they were supposed to double me on every play," Smith said. "But apparently they were screwed up on their blocking schemes. They got kind of confused sometimes, and the way I've been taking off and getting off the ball, by the time that second man came over to help, it was too late. I was back there."

Never was that more evident than on sack No. 4, when Smith zoomed in untouched and dived on George for a 7-yard loss.

"That was the cleanest sack I've ever had in my life," Smith said. "In fact, at first I hesitated, because it shocked me (that no one blocked him) for a split second. Then I just went ahead and made that burst forward.

"They just don't come that easy, especially when you reach the level that I've reached right now."

Ah, the level. For several weeks, Smith has been campaigning to be recognized as the best defensive player in the NFL. Not just the best defensive end; he maintains he already has surpassed Philadelphia's Reggie White for that honor.

But best defensive player.

Talking about it is one thing. Proving it is another.

Sunday, Smith knew, even against an inferior offensive line, he had made a strong case for himself.

"I think I've been playing well, but this year I've just taken it a step up further," he said. "I want to contribute to the team as much as possible and, at the same time, I want to be MVP."

But Smith did go out of his way to acknowledge the performances of other members of the Bills' defense.

"I have to give credit to our DBs and especially Cornelius Bennett, Jeff Wright and Leon Seals, because they applied tremendous pressure as well," he said.

"After I got the first two sacks, I kind of figured the Colts were going to find some kind of way to stop me. But when you have somebody like a Cornelius on the other side and two inside guys (Wright and Seals) who are very good, it makes it a whole lot easier."

Bennett was quick to return the favor.

"To me, Bruce is the MVP of the league, period -- and that includes offense," he said. "He was going against a very young kid, and the kid learned a valuable lesson. So did the coaches. They couldn't leave that kid out there on an island by himself, trying to block Bruce.

"Nobody in the league can."

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