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Frank Reich had done it before.

His teammates and everyone else connected with the Buffalo Bills expected him to do it again.

And after starting quarterback Jim Kelly limped off the field with a knee injury with 5:30 left in the second quarter Saturday, Reich came through, guiding the Bills to a 17-13 victory over the New York Giants.

"I thought the team would rally around Frank," Bills president and owner Ralph Wilson said. "When he (Kelly) went down, they just played that much harder. And Frank is a very, very brilliant quarterback. He has a great feel for the game."

Considering he didn't take a practice snap all week, Reich's performance was well above admirable. He completed 8 of 15 passes for 97 yards -- including a 43-yarder to Don Beebe -- and led the Bills to a Scott Norwood field goal in the fourth quarter.

"I didn't get to run our plays (in practice), but Jim, (third-stringer) Gale Gilbert and I put in so much time every week studying film and talking about our offense and what we want to do against certain teams and certain defenses," Reich said. "So, even though I hadn't gotten the physical repetitions, I didn't feel, from a mental standpoint, that I didn't get any work.

"I felt a little rusty physically with a few passes . . . I completed throws that were not good. But that may have just been from standing around and getting cold (before Kelly's injury)."

Wide receiver James Lofton cited the standing around by Bills players during the several minutes before Kelly left the field as a turning point.

"It was almost nice that it took him so long to get off the field, because you look around and you kind of pull yourself together," Lofton said. "It's like you've lost a family member. And we just regrouped and played decently after that."

As soon as he trotted onto the field, Reich received encouragement from the offensive linemen.

"They just let me know they were behind me and they were going to fight their hearts out for us," he recalled.

Kelly had a few words for him, too.

"Basically, Jim just encouraged me to try to keep the coaches going with the no-huddle offense, because he felt we were moving the ball extremely well with that," Reich said.

He did. Although it is Kelly's specialty, Reich is no less comfortable with a hurry-up attack.

"I love it," he said. "I think any quarterback would love it, because you get to throw the ball a lot. And that's what we're really paid to do."

"I believe Frank was very, very steady out there," Lofton said. "And with a week to prepare and tailor the game plan to fit Frank's skills, I'm sure we'll be fine for next week."

Next week, of course, the Bills face the Miami Dolphins with a chance to clinch the AFC Eastern Division championship and home-field advantage through the playoffs. Reich is likely to be Buffalo's starting quarterback for that game, as well as the regular-season finale at Washington Dec. 30.

He insists the high stakes of the Miami showdown don't create any more pressure for him than they do for the rest of the team.

"The pressure can be divided equally among the 60 players on our squad and our coaching staff and administration," Reich said. "I think if we all take the pressure together, handle it that way and practice that way, it'll help our results on Sunday."

While Kelly was sidelined with a separated shoulder last year, Reich was 3-0 as a starter, including a victory over Miami.

Besides a substantial increase in pay, Reich gained the confidence of his teammates after that stretch, which began with a dramatic Monday night triumph over the Los Angeles Rams.

"Last year, at the beginning of the Rams game, everyone wasn't really sure about me," he said.

Not anymore.

"I think we can win with Frank Reich back there," center Kent Hull said. "We've done it in the past with him. We have all the confidence in the world in Frank Reich."

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